The Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin

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The Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin

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Buy The Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Teens
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Robert James
Reviewed by Robert James
Summary: This Poe-inspired tale has wonderful world building and is beautifully written, but a cliffhanger ending and a couple of weak main characters make it just a mild recommendation.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 336 Date: August 2012
Publisher: Indigo
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1780621197

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In a society devastated by an illness which is killing off the poor as the rich are kept safe by wearing special porcelain masks, Araby is seeking oblivion. She is trying to get over the death of her brother, Finn, who even her scientist father - the inventor of the masks - wasn't able to save. Feeling she has nothing left to live for, she's resigned herself to drug-fuelled nights in the Debauchery Club along with April, niece of the city's ruler Prince Prospero. When she meets two different, but enchanting, boys there, and becomes involved in events which will shape the destiny of the city, will she find something worth fighting for?

I'm rather split on this one, to be honest. I'm incredibly impressed by the way that Griffin has taken on one of Edgar Allan Poe's most famous short stories and developed it into a two-book series here. I think Poe himself would have approved of the incredible atmosphere she creates, and her setting is brought to life vividly without actually giving that many details. I'm not sure whether this is best classed as dystopian, steampunk, or sci-fi, but I know that I wouldn't want to visit the city Araby lives in - and believe me, you'll almost feel you are there with Griffin's evocative prose. In fact, if you have a vivid imagination, I'd recommend avoiding this like the plague (sorry, couldn't resist) if you're feeling ill...

As atmospheric and well-developed as the setting was, though, I didn't feel we got the characters to match that. I'll admit that I'm not the biggest fan of love triangles - but even if I had been, I'd still have been annoyed by April's brother Elliot, who seems to be too domineering and obnoxious for anyone to tolerate him for long. Having said that, Araby isn't that much better herself. She's tragic without being particularly interesting and her vow not to experience anything her brother didn't didn't really hold water that well. Will, on the other hand, who's trying to protect his younger siblings is a far more well-rounded character, and some of the supporting cast are really strong - I especially liked April, while Prospero was a chilling dictator. It also has one of the biggest cliffhanger endings in recent memory - I don't mind some things being left open but I like there to be some resolution and didn't feel there was anywhere near enough here.

Mild recommendation on the strength of the prose and setting, which are good enough to have me anticipating book two despite my issues with Elliot and Araby.

One of the most chilling worlds created recently features in the hugely thought-provoking The Declaration by Gemma Malley. I think readers of this book would love that one.

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Buy The Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin at Amazon.com.

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