Friday, June 29, 2012

Masque of the Red Death

From Goodreads:
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.

My rating: ***

Confession: I sort of love Poe. I don't know why, but his creepy and atmospheric writing fascinates me. He's so genuine too. He doesn't write fake horror; he writes from his heart (not a happy place). I think that's what makes it so scary. Anyway, so when I first heard about this YA book, a retelling of his short story "Masque of the Red Death" I knew I'd want to read it. You can read the short story online here. It's brilliant. So symbolic, so much tension.

The best part about this retelling? The setting. Bethany Griffin really captures the essence of Poe's terrifying world and fleshes it out with so much vivid detail. It's a fascinating world, part dystopian (thanks to the plague), part steampunk (with technologies that are way beyond the Victorian world), and part gothic romance. It's the little details that stand out too, the descriptions of velvet dresses, porcelain face masks (to protect against the plague), disease-infested bats, and man-eating crocodiles.

It's all a little weird and scary and definitely not my usual. But I really liked Araby. What a tormented character. Daughter of an important scientist, living with guilt for surviving her twin brother, she's searching for something to help her forget it all, but instead finds meaning and purpose. She shows incredible bravery.

This story has action, betrayal, romance (in the form of a love triangle - which I didn't hate too much), some sweet children, science, politics, rebellion, and little bit of classic Poe morbidity. Content-wise, I was worried about the Debauchery Club, but we don't actually see any debauchery (thank heavens). There are a couple instances of recreational drug use at the beginning, though. Aside from that this is surprisingly clean.

This book didn't actually get very far in the Masque of the Red Death story, so I believe there will definitely be a sequel. Maybe two. I'll be checking them out.

Recommended for fans of Poe (and maybe Tim Burton - don't you think they would have been friends? Maybe? Maybe not), and dystopian fiction.

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