Author: Bethany Griffin
Publish Date: April 24, 2012
Pages: 314 pages, hard cover
Reviewed by: Isalys
Reason for Reading: Book purchased
Everything is in ruins.To be honest, I have been stewing over how to write this review for a while now. Masque of the Red Death didn't turn out as I expected and it left me feeling like I had an open wound somewhere. It was a very dark, gritty, and to be frank, sad story!
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.
Araby is not the kind of character you can really like, but you do come to understand her. Her world has been ravaged by death, contagion, destruction, and fear. She is very fortunate but she can't accept her good fortune because she can't share it with her brother, who fell victim to the plague. She feels a bone-deep guilt over his death and so she denies herself anything that he will never get to experience. Her father, the scientist, developed a mask that allows people to protect themselves from catching the plague virus which led to her family becoming very wealthy but other than owning her own protective mask, the only thing her family's wealth has been good for is gaining access to The Debauchery Club, a place where she can medicate and lose herself! Araby lives a very zombie-like existence...at least in the beginning.
I didn't feel that the secondary characters were very well developed, but they were interesting! April, her best friend seemed oblivious to what's happening around them. She liked to dress up, cover herself with glitter and flirt with boys. She pretends to be unaffected when she sees a body being tossed into a cart, but there were moments when you see her own "mask" falter. Then there's Will, the boy you want to love and trust. He's handsome in a rugged sort of way, devoted to what's left of his family and he's hardworking. He seems caring but is mysterious enough to leave you uncertain. Finally, there's Elliott. He's actually the most complex character by far. He comes off as arrogant, self-involved and even a bit crazy but as you get to know him, he begins to reveal a more vulnerable side. You realize that he's not quite so selfish as he seems. He incites the opposite feelings you get from Will. You DO NOT WANT to trust Elliott, but then you can't help it.
The world-building felt a bit...imbalanced. That's not to say that it was badly done. What I mean is that at times, it was quite brilliant but then there were elements that I felt could have been done without. I feel like with Steampunk, you need to go big or go home! The book had elements of it, but it wasn't enough to make it feel like a Steampunk. What Griffin did really well was describe the bleakness and despair of a plague ravaged society.
In my opinion, where this story really wins you over is not with the characters or world-building, but with the language. The real beauty of this book is when Griffin takes a seemingly inconsequential moment and makes you feel so much even when Araby does not.
There is an intensity, a heaviness, a sadness to this book that I've never experienced with any other. Overall, the pacing is well done. The story starts off slow as you begin to absorb the devastation of Araby's world and it ends with a rather powerful climax. While the ending is not a cliffhanger, it certainly leaves enough unresolved issues to make you want more! I have high hopes for this series and look forward to seeing how the characters grow and how their world evolves in the coming books!“Hours trickle by, and I wilt. The magic isn't here for me tonight. I can't get away from the heavy feeling of being me. I want to blend in, to be someone besides myself, someone who is part of something secret and subversive and exciting.”