Masque of the Red Death
It’s possible that Bethany Griffin is TOO good at what she does. I came into Masque of the Red Death expecting a dark, twisted novel about a girl whose emotions were worn down to nothing...emotionally incapacitated. And that is exactly what I got.
Araby Worth is living a rich life, literally. Her father is a scientist who invented the life-saving masks society wears to protect them from the plague that swept the world and killed many. This has provided Araby’s family, previously poor, with wealth and plenty of food in a city where the lower echelons of society kill for even less. But her life is still empty of heart and warmth because she feels alone, though she has her parents, her friend, April, and two men who may be interested in her (although for the life of me, I can’t think of why).
I wanted to love Masque of the Red Death. It sounded like such an emotionally raw and intriguing book. But it just...wasn’t. Based on the synopsis, I expected the lack of emotion from Araby, but as the main character, she was too apathetic for me. I couldn’t abide by her decisions; she made a lot of stupid ones and I often found myself questioning her judgement - and not in the good way that makes a book interesting. She also wasn’t a very strong character; it seemed as though anyone could manipulate her to do as they wanted. It’s as though she existed in this fog of disregard for everything around her, and while I know a lot of that has to do with the drugs and her past, I just can’t imagine caring that little. While Araby drove me crazy, I did like Griffin’s other characters, April, Elliot and Will. All three were very interesting people, each with their own agendas and surprises. So it’s not that Griffin didn’t write Araby well; I think she wrote her too well.
The world-building in Masque of the Red Death is elaborate and great: it’s Dystopian-meets-Steampunk and I had a good time getting to know the streets, nightclubs and the people who lived there. It’s supposedly a cross between Louisiana and Paris, however, I couldn’t get Baltimore out of my head, probably because of the reference to Edgar Allen Poe. Plus, Baltimore is kind of crummy. It seemed to fit into my imagination well. Griffin’s writing is fluid and engaging, as well, and the pace is steady throughout the story, so it was very easy to read without putting down.
In summary, this isn’t a terrible book, and I think a lot of people will like it. I fought with myself over a rating; it’s really hard to rate a book you did enjoy reading. The apathy is really what did me in with this book, though. I just can’t get past that. I want to connect to the characters and especially, the main character. I didn’t connect at all in Masque of the Red Death and without that, the author has lost me. So it gets a 2 ½: it’s not a “Meh” book, but I didn’t exactly like it.