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Josef Škvorecký, Paul Wilson
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Masque of the Red Death - Bethany Griffin NOTE: I have read the original Masque of the Red Death by Poe. I suggest others do as well, before continuing with this story. It should be available online for free. Because of the amount of books I have, I figured it would be somewhere in my stash, and sure enough I found a compendium of Poe's stories and poetry.

Also, there are spoilers. Only spoilers.

Sentence: I sentence Bethany Griffin to a life free of masks, disease, and choppy settings/scene flow.

Review: I read this book in less than two hours. I devoured this book faster than the Red Death devours a human body. There was no time for pus or bruising, I was on top of this one second and ripping it apart the next.

Yes, I adore this book, even if I only gave it four stars (it did not WOW me, but it made me relatively happy I still bother to read teen).

The Debauchery district/club that Araby frequents is a reminder, to those who have read Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allen Poe, of the atmosphere and aesthetics of the seven rooms at Prince Prospero's masquerade. Unlike Poe's work, Griffin introduces several dark characters in this already dark setting.

Araby, the reader's heroine, is addicted to the release of Oblivion (a drug that reminds me of a combo of opium and heroin) and freedom from nightmares or reminders of her twin brother's demise.


Enter April, Araby's hilarious, superficial but life-saving best friend. When April goes missing (briefly), Elliot scoops up Araby on his dark horse and convinces her to help bring some hope and light to such a bleak, downtrodden world (through rebellion). This is where I found myself at a crossroads of love and distaste. On the one hand, Araby gives the blueprints of the masks to Elliot without a frakking fuss. How could she trust him? How is she not freaking out about having little time to make a copy? How can she betray her father? But then I realized she trusts April and April trusts Elliot. And then I realized she blames herself for pretty much everything that goes wrong, so it's her twisted way of doing something right. And then I realized, goddamn it, I'd probably do the same thing, with the same coasting and emotionless attitude as her. Even her father, later, acknowledges that he is not sure whether what she did was right or wrong. Afterall, how can there be right and wrong in a world so warped that morals are reversed and being bad is pretty much good?

And then she trusts Will (the one very light thing in this shadowy and dank city), who I immediately fell for after reading about him and the kids. It's pretty much a girl trap right there. How could you not love an older sibling raising these two young kids; risking his life to give them the best?

But even trusting him is a mistake and I'm frustrated with myself more than with Will; mostly because Elliot was right the entire time about trusting no one, not even him.

The reason I had to describe all of that above is because this is what it was like, reading this novel. All these surprises and traps that I wasn't prepared for and ended up loving, despite the frustrations and mistakes.

But, as hard as it is to believe, my favourite part of Griffin's story was not the hint of steampunk; or the death and despair; or the nod to Poe; or even the atmospheric familiarity to that of the French Revolution. It was Araby's odd connection to April. April, the funny, not-as-superficial-as-I-thought, infected best friend. I may not love April, but goddamn it I love that Araby and April put each other's lives above that of the men they are connected to. Maybe it's just me, but it's hard to find teen fiction where the friend does not betray the protagonist or, worse, become a bench warmer and basically watch their friend get screwed over. It's fucking refreshing. It's not all about Araby's love interests and how she will possibly be confused later that she clearly likes both Elliot and Will, but about saving the person she loves most. And she loves April.

But seriously, she is lacking major emotions throughout the entire book, especially for being a first person perspective. I would be freaking the fuck out.


Finally, the settings and flow from scene to scene were very choppy. It's basically the only reason I was confused during this entire ordeal of a story. Sometimes I wasn't even sure who was saying what since Araby never seemed to reveal much of her mind to the reader to begin with; I couldn't gauge what she knew about her father's work, the Red Death or even what she absorbed about pther people. But I'd like to associate this lack of flow in scenes to her brain being addled by drugs or even the confused fast pace of it all being so because of the presence of a contagion that could wipe out the entire human race. There is bound to be some crazy flow, right?

But still, that shit be fucking whack. She was coasting through it all like shit wasn't going down.


Can't wait for the fucking masquerade of death.