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Review: Masque of the Red Death

Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin was released in the U.S. on April 24, 2012 in hardcover and eBook formats. It is currently available to order online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble in both formats.

Published by Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins, the print edition is 336 pages.

Masque of the Red Death is the first book in a new series by author Bethany Griffin. The second book in the series, currently untitled, is scheduled for release in 2013.

Goodreads description:

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 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.

***

A plague has fallen over the land. A deadly disease that has made the very air we breathe toxic. A contagious illness that has those who can afford it hiding behind masks, locked behind closed doors and seeking escape in all the luxuries that money can buy.

And in this nightmarish world a prince hides away in his fortress, ruling with cruelty instead of compassion, denying access to the only thing that separates a chance at life from a sure death. At least from those who cannot afford his price.

But with oppression comes rebellion. And with suffering comes hatred. And when a leader rises who brings hope to those who thought all hope was lost, and a fighting spirit to those with almost no fight left in them, they rally behind him.

Even though his methods are madness. Even though his fight is built on revenge. Even though there won’t be many who survive. Because there is nothing more powerful to those who have nothing left to lose than hope.

***

Darkly alluring and beautifully written, with a disturbing and chilling yet enticing setting, intriguing characters and a captivating storyline, Masque of the Red Death will transport readers into a future beleaguered by illness, violence, fear and despair.

To a world where breathing the air unmasked could mean death. Where an escape from the horrors and sorrow of everyday life can be found only by the wealthy in their exclusive nightclubs. And where a madman calls for revolt against the Prince’s oppressive rule.

Author Bethany Griffin paints a haunting and sorrowful picture with her eloquent and wonderfully descriptive writing style and through her character Araby Worth. Seen through Araby’s eyes, at first glance the world seems hazy, detached and distant. And it is only when she is with her friend April, who is brimming with life and energy, does she come to life herself and the world comes to life around her.

As this spellbinding story unfolds, so does the mystery, and it brings with it excitement, intrigue and suspense. It also introduces a love triangle, a villain, secrets, betrayal and heartbreak. It will take readers on a journey through a post-apocalyptic society ravaged by plague, to opulent nightclubs where the well-to-do can forget about the world around them, to towering apartments where they can hide above it all, to the palace where Prince Prospero insulates himself, and to the streets where a rebellion is brewing.

With a fascinating and diverse group of characters, from Araby who is riddled with guilt about her past to April whose energy and positive outlook are a bright spot in this dark tale, from the mysterious and debonair Elliott to the devastatingly handsome and caring Will, and from the cruel and cold-hearted Prince Prospero to the passionate and crazed Reverend Malcontent, Masque of the Red Death will ensnare readers and keep them riveted as they explore this disturbing future and grim landscape.

Full of surprises, twists and turns and hidden motivations, Masque of the Red Death is an incredibly addictive and refreshingly original re-imagining of Poe’s macabre classic and an absolute must read first book in this new series.

Reviewer gives this book….

On a personal note:

So unbelievably amazing. The cover doesn’t do this story justice and I absolutely love the stunningly beautiful cover.

Masque of the Red Death is post-apocalyptic meets historical, steampunk. It’s rich and sensuous yet dark and macabre. It’s heartrending and tragic yet cautiously optimistic. It’s hopeful and hopeless and beautiful and gruesome, all wrapped up in this one completely and totally awesome story.

The writing is gorgeous. Absolutely, breathtakingly gorgeous. Practically poetic. The eerie, disconnected feeling it brought to the story at the beginning gave me a case of insta-love. And that was even before I met Will.

Like Araby, I was absolutely captivated by that boy. He was charming and sexy but he was kind and caring. Toward his siblings, but also toward Araby. I immediately thought Will was it for me. I mean he seemed absolutely perfect for poor, confused, broken Araby. But then I got to know Elliott.

I never imagined thinking of Elliott as also being perfect for Araby. I never thought I would connect to a character like him. But I did. Just as much as I did to Will by the end of the book. I loved his honesty. He made me fall for him even when I didn’t want to. He was aloof, he was cryptic, he was mysterious but there was just something so undeniably appealing about him that wouldn’t let me shake him loose.

I also loved Araby. She was haunted by guilt. She was self-destructive. She was lost in her despair. But she was such a sympathetic character that I couldn’t help but want just a few good things to happen to her. Especially if a couple of those “good things” were Will and Elliott.

The world was so dark, horrific and totally heartbreaking. The callousness of Prince Prospero toward those dying around him made me hate him with a passion. The Weeping Sickness was a horrible and gruesome disease and it made this story so very sad. Imagining life in the nearly empty Akkadian Towers gave me a feeling of desolation that stuck with me for the entire read.

Oh and those masks gave me the creeps. The idea of the majority of people living their lives hiding behind masks painted a terrifying picture of this future. Just envisioning a world of masked people is the stuff of nightmares.

But while I loved everything about this book, and I mean everything – I would not change a thing – it was the achingly beautiful writing that was my very favorite part of this story. It tied me in knots. It haunted me. It enveloped me. It connected me to this story that was dark, delectable and full of despair.

I cannot wait for the next book. I really and truly can’t wait. I’m dying to know what happens next. Maybe not the Weeping Sickness kind of dying, but there’s no less suffering or torment involved in just how much I want to continue the story.

The shocking twist at the end devastated me. The new and deadly threat to this world has me terrified about what is to come. The “up in the air” situation with Araby, Will and Elliott makes me curious to see just how things will play out. And the less than optimistic situation certain characters are in has me very worried for their futures. With even more darkness on the horizon, I am desperate to find out just what will happen.

***

The writing in this book is absolutely gorgeous so it was tough to choose just one passage. But I do have a favorite. Which would be a bit too revealing if I didn’t keep the speaker’s identity a secret.

“And I’m falling in love with you,” he whispers. “But I would throw you in the water and watch crocodiles tear you to bits, if I thought that doing so would accomplish my goals. Do. Not. Trust. Anyone. Especially me.”

***

To get a long look inside courtesy of the publisher, HarperCollins, CLICK HERE.

To check out the author’s awesome website, CLICK HERE.

This review is based on an ARC I received from the publisher, Greenwillow Books, in exchange for my honest review.

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