Release Date: US: Already out | UK & AUS: 2nd August 2012
Publisher: US: HarperCollins | UK & AUS: Orion/Indigo
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Buy it: Amazon | Book Depository
A devastating plague has decimated the population. And those who are left live in fear of catching it as the city crumbles to pieces around them.
So what does Araby Worth have to live for?
Nights in the Debauchery Club, beautiful dresses, glittery make-up . . . and tantalizing ways to forget it all.
But in the depths of the club—in the depths of her own despair—Araby will find more than oblivion. She will find Will, the terribly handsome proprietor of the club. And Elliott, the wickedly smart aristocrat. Neither boy is what he seems. Both have secrets. Everyone does.
And Araby may find something not just to live for, but to fight for—no matter what it costs her.
After hearing a serious amount of praise from Kathy at A Glass of Wine, I knew I desperately needed to get my hands on The Masque of the Red Death. I'm glad I listened to her, because when the amazing Hachette surprised me with a copy sporting a creepy (but fitting!) cover, I eagerly dove into this and discovered a haunting, yet fascinating tale that I could not put down.
Bethany Griffin's world building is fantastic. The air clogged thick with despair and suffering, this crumbled society is not a place one dreams of living in. But certainly one that you morbidly want to uncover every layer of. The only offering of hope comes in the form of a face mask, used to reduce the risk of contagion so you don't become another nameless corpse. Araby's world is in a bleak, dangerous and volatile state. And it's about to get worse. As if people hadn't suffered long enough living in fear of contracting the deadly virus that decimated their population, another is rearing it's scary tentacles, more awful than the last. Rebellions are forming and some who are seeking leadership may not be any better than the cruel Prince already in power. So when the mysterious nephew of aforementioned Prince seeks Araby's help in his plans to overthrow his Uncle, can they succeed before more sinister players catch hold of her? Or before they're just another count to the death tally?
I actually didn't feel 100% connected with Araby, which is usually a huge issue and detracts me from the story, but surprisingly it didn't this time. I absolutely understand her character, the pain of losing her twin brother at such a young age has had a profoundly damaging effect on her. She shuts herself off from emotion with the use of drugs and alcohol. The highlight of her days is the promise of visiting the Debauchery Club again and losing herself in a numbing oblivion. Her only passion is in her refusal to truly live - why should she when such a gift was stolen from her brother? It's a sad belief that she has carried with her since his death. But she slowly begins to find herself again, ignited with a purpose and aided by two equally fascinating boys. I think both Will and Elliot helped in coaxing Araby to shed her mask, figuratively and literally. Will, especially. Despite all this, I never really felt an intense emotional connection to her. She's a character whose motivations and heartache I can acknowledge, but I wasn't invested in her enough to share her pain. I would like to see her become stronger in the sequel and show some inner fire to truly make the reader jump up and cheer for her. I think she has potential to do that. A minor flaw though, for it didn't affect my overall enjoyment of the novel.
Yes, a love triangle has sketched itself within Masque's pages. No, it's not insufferable, nor is there really a clearly defined winner, which I liked. I think both boys have an equal chance of rising as victor to Araby's heart. Will and Elliot are very different in comparison, but each has their own tragic story. Elliot is more the... bad boy with surprisingly hidden heart. The one who's endured a sad and cruel childhood, and is a little hardened, a little twisted and a whole lot more mysterious because of it. I can't deny he was endearing (though if I were Araby, any guy who did that to me while in the middle of the ocean would be crawling off the boat with his hands between his legs), but it's Will who demanded my loyalty. With his tortured soul and beautifully soft heart heart. And did I mention he sports some sexy body art? I found his love and devotion to his two younger siblings really touching and his sweet personality is near impossible to resist. Each boy has his own faults and do things that are not always admirable, but both can offer Araby something unique and exciting.
I flew through Masque's easy and addictive pages, wanting to taste more and more of Bethany's haunting creation. Her beautiful writing is a compliment to the horrific world it paints. Admittedly, I wasn't blown away, but as you can clearly see, I definitely enjoyed this! The Masque of the Red Death is a solid debut, captivating in it's rich atmosphere and complex male leads, whose motives you are never truly sure of, which only fuels your need to turn those pages faster and faster.
4/5 Golden Apples