Monday, September 10, 2012

Review: Masque of the Red Death

Masque of the Red Death (Masque of the Red Death, book 1)
By Bethany Griffin
Published 2012 by Greenwillow

Araby passes her days in the Debauchery Club, engaging in behaviors that couldn't have been imagined before the plague. But Araby needs them to escape the torment of her life, the guilt she feels about being a survivor. Little does she know that she's about to find something worth living for...

This was a much buzzed-about book at Midwinter and I was disappointed that I didn't manage to get my hands on an ARC. However, one magically appeared at work one day and I took it home to read. I must first admit that I don't remember ever reading the Edgar Allen Poe story on which this novel is based (or maybe it just shares a name). I did make sure to read the short story after I finished the novel and the connection is, to me, tenuous. But I digress. This book initially appealed to me because it was described as steampunky, with brothels, and a deadly plague. It's hard for me to resist such an awkwardly awesome-sounding combination. After finishing the book, I think it might be a bit misrepresented. This book is not really steampunk. Yes, some of the costume/dress is described in a way that might evoke a steampunk aesthetic, but that's about it. Well, I suppose there is the flying balloon at the end. I don't know; I just didn't get the steampunkiness of it. The premise of the book is quite interesting and I liked reading about how the world came to be so devastated. Additionally, I liked that our narrator is the daughter of a scientist - it makes for an interesting perspective on the plague. However, aside from that, I found it very difficult to connect with Araby. First, I can't get past her name - I'm not even sure how to pronounce it and that is a problem. Second, I found her moroseness and guilt-ridden personality incredibly off-putting and difficult to sympathize with. But, surprisingly enough, I found the romantic elements of this to be well-done - I was intrigued enough by the options to want to see what path Araby would choose. I like that the Red Death doesn't actually appear in the book for quite some time - this is clearly to help set up the sequel. Though I may have mixed-feelings about the book overall, I can see myself picking up the second to find out what's in store for this world.

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