Monday, June 15, 2015

Review: Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin

Title: Masque of the Red Death
Author: Bethany Griffin
Series: Masque of the Red Death, Book One
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Published Date: 28 March 2013
Buy: Amazon | The Book Depository | Dymocks Australia

Everything is in ruins.

A devastating plague has decimated the population, and those who are left live in fear of catching it as the city crumbles around them.

So what does Araby Worth have to live for?

Nights in the Debauchery Club, beautiful dresses, glittery makeup . . . 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 is what he seems. Both have secrets. Everyone does.

And Araby may find not just something to live for, but something to fight for—no matter what it costs her.
(summary from Goodreads)

Masque of the Red Death may have a darkly compelling premise and atmospheric prose, but its story and characters are uninspiring.

I so wanted to love this book. I don't even know why. I had high hopes at the beginning, immediately sucked in by Griffin's world building. A ruined city, rich girls, a broken protagonist, a deadly plague, porcelain masks, dead people in the streets, a debauchery club! I was like a kid in a candy store. Oh, oh, oh! Yes, yes, yes! More, more, more! But as I read on the more disappointed I became. Araby isn't so much broken as dreadfully shallow and, honestly, dumb. She is thoughtless in her actions to the point that even when truths are revealed meant to cause you to feel for her, I found myself only indifferent. I couldn't like Elliot, because psychopath's don't do it for me; April is a shallow as Araby; and while I liked Will for the most part, Griffin certainly cured me of that by the end. I think the only characters to stand the test of Masque of the Red Death were Will's cute younger siblings.

The thing is, Griffin has some truly sumptuous prose, and that's what kept me reading. Her writing is darkly atmospheric and her descriptions evocative. If her story and characters were as equally enthralling, Masque of the Red Death would have been amazing. But unfortunately, it just seems to lose the plot. No questions are answered, no true history elaborated on. Lots happens, but there's no end game. Yes, there's a sequel, but that doesn't explain it. It felt like Griffin kept upping the ante to keep readers amused, but there was no substance to it. Masque of the Red Death starts with a certain plot, a certain villain, but by the end, in a whirlwind few chapters, new plots and a new villain are introduced. Even the romance aspect was completely turned on its head. I understand the point of a shocking cliffhanger, meant to keep readers on the edge of their seat, desperate to know more, but this is messy. I just found myself slightly baffled and mostly uncaring. I ended this book incredibly disappointed.

Masque of the Red Death could have been astounding but instead it's lackluster. I have yet to decide if I care enough to read its sequel. 



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