Google+ YA Romantics: Just Finished Reading ... Masque of the Red Death

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Just Finished Reading ... Masque of the Red Death

Review of

Masque of the Red Death

by Bethany Griffin

Greenwillow Books

April 24, 2012

Tagline: Desire is contagious.

My summary: in a world ravaged by disease, Araby Worth lives cloistered in a high rise, her face covered by a mask whenever she ventures outside. One night, Araby, still mourning the death of her twin, sneaks out with her friend April to the Debauchery District. They put on make-up and bare their limbs to prove that they're unscathed by disease. At a club, Araby meets a young man who makes her believe that life might actually be worth living. But April's brother Elliott also beckons, suggesting that, with her help, he can make their bleak world a better place.

My take: I've recently read a lot of YA books that blend different sub-genres, and I'm loving this trend. I'd call Masque of the Red Death a post-apocalyptic steampunk retelling. It's a cool combo!

The book is based on a short story of the same name by Edgar Allan Poe. Poe's short tale describes a prince who, despite the fact that a gruesome disease is decimating his kingdom, decorates his palace and throws a masquerade ball. One of his guests comes dressed as a disease victim, alarming the crowd, enraging the prince, and finally, infecting everyone in the palace with the Red Death.

You can read the Edgar Allan Poe version of Masque of the Red Death here. It's pretty short.

I wouldn't call this Masque of the Red Death a strict retelling. While Prince Prospero is a character in Bethany Griffin's book, she uses the short story as more of a jumping-off point. The result is an inventive and original story. Griffin's lyrical writing and vivid imagination make this story both macabre and moving.

Though many elements of this book (a deadly disease, a set of fraternal twins, a scientist parent) bring to mind Lauren DeStefano's Chemical Garden Series,  Masque of the Red Death also reminded of When the Sea is Rising Red. The setting of Masque -- an unnamed city -- has a sinister and mysterious feel, as do many of the characters. Both books draw on alternate history and feature a rich heroine slumming it among the masses. Both books shy away from the simplistic good vs. evil battles so often found in YA, complicating their heroines' choices by injecting a hefty dose of moral ambiguity.  Both books have a sort-of love triangle in which the heroine struggles to decide between passion and practicality. Araby is drawn to one man, yet sees how another can be useful to her, which adds a nice sense of complexity and depth to the "here we go again" YA love triangle.

The cover is great -- I have both the ARC and the finished copy. The latter has shiny silver lettering and the edges of the pages are uneven -- gorgeous!

The cover does remind me a little of the cover of Dearly Departed by Lia Habel. I collect images of YA cover themes on Pinterest, and I'm calling these two the Sad Parasol Girls.


pic name pic name

I like dark, creepy books and really enjoyed Masque of the Red Death. Definitely give it a read if you liked:

Wither by Lauren DeStefano When the Sea is Rising Red by Cat Hellisen Fever by Lauren DeStefano

26 comments:

  1. I love moral ambiguity in books. This sounds really good. I am on the waiting list at my library and I'm excited to read it!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I've been dying to read this book. I love the idea of a masque party and post-apocalyptic diseased town. I've never read much of Poe's stuff so it was nice of you to explain the story the book is based off of. I would have had no clue. lol I just found the idea and mixing of genres intriguing. Plus the cover is awesome!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The setting is really fantastic. I read the short story a long time ago and had to refresh my memory. But it's not at all necessary to know the Poe version to enjoy the book.

      Delete
  3. oh, fantastic review!! I am really excited about this book and can't WAIT to read it! and ha, sad parasol girls! Masque's cover reminds me of Dearly Departed's, too, and they kinda have the same genre: steampunk/science fiction, etc. but Dearly Departed has zombies.

    I love the idea of a unnamed city and how it's sinister and mysterious.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ooh. I have not read DD, but am not such a fan of zombies.
      But I do love the hybrid sub-genres. Awesome!

      Delete
  4. SO glad that you loved it. I thought it was fantastic!! I need a finished copy! Awesome review!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was surprised at how much I liked it. I put off reading it for a long time, and now I have no idea why!?!

      Delete
  5. What an informative review! I had no idea that this book had steampunk elements in it, LOVE steampunk:) I remember reading Poe's version in elementary school. I think it was actually a Scholastic book order, which is kinda amazing that a story that dark was made available to young kids! Anyway, I loved it. Big fan of all things dark and gothic! And I like how you said it's similar to When the Sea is Rising Red because that's my next read! Gotta go check out your sad parasol girls board on Pinterest next:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Curious to hear your thoughts on WTSIRR!

      Masque has just a touch of steampunk/Victorian, but it really works, I think.

      OMG -- I remember filling out those Scholastic book orders. Getting my books was the highlight of my month!

      Delete
  6. I adore Edgar Allan Poe!! And this one is one of my favorites! I can't wait to read Bethany's take on it! Great review!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Then I'm sure you'll love this! Very atmospheric -- just like Poe!

      Delete
  7. I just added this one recently to the TBR. It's different from my normal reads, but I need to branch out! haha! Glad to see you really liked it! The cover is really cool too :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have to confess that I'm not the hugest steampunk fan out there. I like it okay, but I don't go crazy over it. But I'm a sucker for a book with a really strong sense of place and an eerie vibe...

      Let me know what you think after you read it-- I'm curious.

      Delete
  8. SOUNDS interesting and the cover is hot. I just finished Wither. I liked it, definitely reading fever

    ReplyDelete
  9. Oooh, "post-apocalyptic steampunk retelling"??? Sounds awesome! I really want to read this one! You're right, it does bring to mind The Chemical Garden series, but I'd say it also brings to mind Cinder (plague, retelling, etc.). And Cinder is so freaking awesome so this one can't get into my hands soon enough! I need to read When the Sea is Rising Red, too. Great review, Jen!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a lot more creepy and macabre than Cinder. But I liked all those books!

      Delete
  10. I so want MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH to be good. It would be a waste of a spectacular cover otherwise.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I wanna read this book!!! e-e-ehem!! lol. I'm gonna add this to my wishlist right now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL! I am trading my ARC with another blogger so I can have new and different ARCs but I do have a finished copy which I ....e-e-ehem.. could certainly use as a giveaway!!

      Delete
  12. I just want this book. I love the hype, the cover, the back story, all of it! Thanks for the great review!

    ReplyDelete
  13. I really liked this book at the start but the overwhelming sadness proved too much for me. I was so unhappy at the end because the setting is so bleak :( It's just not my kind of book.

    ReplyDelete
  14. MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH is an enthralling, fascinating take on life in the face of death and every manner of steampunk, post-apocalyptic excitement you could think of. With the exception of the love interests and some pacing issues, seeing as how the story is a slow burn that starts off exceptionally slow (oh, I didn't mention that - the first fifty pages almost lost me with a plodding narrative, but Griffin stole me back by page 100 and the story refused to let me go), this book will appeal to fans of literary YA with a definite speculative slant. Don't be discouraged by the early pacing issues - this one gets better as it goes along.

    ReplyDelete
  15. This sounds really good, think I'm going to have to add it to my to-read list.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks so much for stopping by today. I hope you'll leave me a comment. I read and appreciate each and every one and try my best to reply. Leave me a link to your blog or website!

 
Blog design by Imagination Designs