April 22, 2012

Early Review: Masque of Red Death by Bethany Griffin

Series: Masque of Red Death 1
Format: ARC
Release Date: April 24, 2012
Puchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Set in a decaying city surrounded by swamps, a place somewhat like a cross between present-day New Orleans and turn-of-the-last-century Paris, this is an eerie and strangely beautiful novel. 

Welcome to a world where the corpse collectors are the first ones on the streets in the morning, a place where bats and crocodiles are poised to attack, where the wealthy ride steam carriages and design zeppelins, where the terrifying tunnels under the city may or may not offer a way to escape, where the fashionable dust their masks with glitter but bare their arms and legs in order to prove they don't carry The Contagion.

- Virginia Duncan
VP & Publisher

A night of merriment, mayhem and Debauchery.

This is how I'd probably describe my reading experience with Bethany Griffin's MASQUE OF RED DEATH, an extended version of Edgar Allan Poe's short story. Her wonderful liberal updates resulted to a sweeping adventure and interesting characters that I'm sure a lot of us will definitely follow. 

One of my favorite period movies, Sophia Coppola's Marie Antoinette. 
Debauchery District's masked citizens reminded me of the movie's Masquerade Ball 
which is also the backdrop of Poe's classic short.
This Dystopian Steampunk is indeed more French than English with it's opulent fashion, let-them-eat-cake attitude, Prince Prospero's tyrannical ways and blatant disregard for his citizens and their needs felt very Marie Antoinette to me. I can't help but be seduced by Debauchery District; the fashion, social life and the extreme ways the privileged do to fool themselves that everything is fine and dandy in their wonderful town. Constant clubbing in Debauchery and Morgue, shooting themselves with Oblivion to a dead stupor to make them forget their personal tragedies. And although debauchery is defined as living in excess, the citizens are more scared and obviously in denial of their current state of affairs than living a decadent life. Side by side this wasteful lifestyle is the constant threat of the airborne disease the contagion/Weeping Sickness which is a cross between The Consumption and the Black Plague, the under privileged and their unmasked faces, the throbbing hunger and pains of poverty, dead bodies carted and dumped, Death is a permanent resident in this town. With this combination we are very much aware that a rebellion of epic proportions a la The Storming of Bastille is waiting to happen.

They want to change their lives. The poverty, their desperation, the state in which they are forced to live. Desperation and apathy are all we have left --

The character developments are appealing to me despite the fact that the center of the story are a bunch of teenagers who have different motives with the commonality of wanting change. Their oppressed and drugged up District is forcing their hands to do something about their current situation and fight Prince Prospero's artificial power. I find Elliot and his maniacal tendencies enigmatic, he's a freedom fighter which gives him a sense of volatility and an air of danger which makes the love triangle part even more interesting. William is another tragic hero in the making and his connection to Araby Worth is shaking up the unobtrusive life he's made for himself and his two younger siblings. April is Elliot's sister and Araby's bestfriend, her carefree attitude is merely a front to hide a traumatic past thanks to Prince Prospero.

Maybe it doesn't matter. She's made herself so artificial; it's okay to wear next to nothing because we aren't real people any longer.

And then we have Araby Worth, BGriffin's naive, loyal to a fault heroine, the one who will tip the Prince's power scale in the end. However I must admit I did not feel Araby's character very endearing, see she's a druggie with Mommy issues and a little boy crazy, which I tolerated because BGriffin is presenting us her shallowness so she can contrast Araby's growth later on in the series. But what ticked me was when she went home to an empty house after being poisoned and threatened by Prince Prosepero and instead of panicking and finding out what happened to her parents, she went up and risked her life to see William in the shady part of the District. At this point in the story, Araby was already part of Elliot's planned rebellion and Prince Prospero cannot be more crystal with his nefarious intentions towards Araby Worth's parents. I felt that Araby's apathy towards her parent's disappearance off putting.

No one can save the world. Not when it doesn't want to be saved.

In any case I absolutely love, Love, LOVE this brilliantly written allegory! BGriffin's charming metaphors were successful in making me stop and think of the story's parallelism to historical events and present day matters. And even if I am not a big Araby fan now I know that I will be later on, her character is going through some interesting things that is the perfect catalyst for a metamorphosis that I want to witness. The risk BGriffin took and basing her novel to a well loved story worked to her advantage because MASQUE OF RED DEATH will appeal to a spread of readers with varying tastes from the classical junkies to lovers of fantasy fiction.

So the city is in ruins and the prince is holding a party?

Now with the Red Plague ravaging Debauchery, book two can't come soon enough.


  1. I've had my eye on this one for a while - the cover is just beautiful. I was a little wary of it though since it's a sort of retelling, which I'm not usually a fan of. So I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it so much! I'll have to check it out. Thanks for the review!

    P.S. I'm a new follower here! *waves* Nice to meet you :)

  2. Hi Braine :)

    Im glad you loved this one because I did too!! The only thing I wish is that it was adult so we could get the Debauchery club in ALL it's naughty debauchery!! ;) hehe

    1. Also fabulous review and thank you for sharing the video!! XOXO

  3. I am so happy you loved this as it is my next week reads. I love the way you girls are being creative and find a snippet of a vid to give us a feel for the book:D:D


  4. I would love to see this turned into a movie just to see the costumes and their masques.


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