Book Review: Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin

Deeply seductive, Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin is a dark romance in a haunting world wrought with temptation, disease, class warfare, and a mysterious prince. Drawing on elements of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic short story, Griffin’s novel is wholly unique and entirely addictive from the very first page.

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.

Masque of the Red Death sits apart from any other genre on the YA shelves today. It borrows from both historical and dystopian fiction at the same time, creating a world that is at times reminiscent of the past, familiar as if set in the present, and entirely distant from what we know today. The undefined universe in which this book takes place is both mysterious and familiar, and yet Griffin writes it in a way that is easy to follow. The complexities that often color (and sometimes complicate) fantasy worlds within novels never arise here. Griffin’s world simply is and her writing makes it simple for the reader to dive right into.

Griffin also masterfully creates a set of characters who are well-rounded and fleshed out. Araby, Will, Elliott, and the others all have depth. No one is a caricature or a stereotype. Adding to the novel’s mastery is how these layers are revealed throughout the entire novel as the plot progresses and new twists are brought in. In Masque of the Red Death, Griffin has woven a tale so staggeringly complex, it simply sweeps you off your feet.

And while elements of the novel are clearly inspired by Poe’s work, Griffin is not retelling a familiar story. She has taken Poe’s original short story and crafted something unbelievably rich and complex. The way she has woven elements of Poe’s story into her novel is stunning to behold, and the final product is simply breathtaking and addictive.

Masque of the Red Death is the first in a two-book series. It is in stores April 24th, and will be featured as Novel Novice’s May Book of the Month!

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