The Masque of the Red Death was a book I eagerly anticipated for months after hearing about from US bloggers so when I heard Indigo had picked it up in the UK I was very excited and ready to harass the lovely people there for it! Inspired by the Edgar Allen Poe story of the same name, one I am now definitely putting on my to-read list, Griffin tells a seductive and thrilling tale in a epidemic hit world.
I found it hard to exactly place a time the novel was set in, but I think this was intentional. Part Victorian Gothic influenced, part dystopian, Griffin’s world is highly original. When a plague rules the population and only the rich can afford the breathing masks and live seemingly risk-free, Araby and her friends spend time at the Debauchery Club, where the name should give it away. There she meets two very different men; enigmatic Will who works at the club and aristocrat Elliot and a cause she may have to fight for.
Araby is a really interesting narrator; she’s emotionally damaged from the death of her brother to the plague and seeks Oblivion and escape through the club and drugs. Her carelessness at the start was slightly difficult to sympathise with but Griffin slowly revealed why she behaved as she did and I found myself feeling more sympathetic towards her. Araby’s depression was beautifully evoked as was her need to self-destruct. The backstory as to why she acted as she did really tugged at my heart-strings and it was a truly tragic image that Griffin reinforced and evoked through the plot, forcing Araby to confront the circumstances of her brother’s death.
The political intrigue and scheming in the novel really interested me and were very well-written. The desire for change and way people go around it was very well explored and made this a lot more than a ‘steampunk libertine’ (as my goodreads friend, Wendy Darling, described it in her review) love-triangle and a more deep and satisfying read. The final quarter of the novel was extremely fast-paced, action packed and left me desperate for book two. I will admit, I wish it had ended more satisfactorily but this is something endemic in most YA novel series generally.
One of my favourite characters was Will; I loved that he cared for his family and was trying to provide them with the best skills to survive. His difficulty in only being able to afford one mask for them was poignant and reflected Araby’s own life too. There was a point where I wanted to scream at Griffin because of Will, but that was definitely the intention I believe! I have to admit, probably because of my preference for Will, Elliot slightly annoyed me as a character but his development from mere drug user and fun-seeker to someone with a more serious agenda was well done. I also found the development and backstory to Araby’s mother very intriguing and chilling in places.
The Masque of the Red Death is a highly different YA ‘dystopian’ or ‘steampunk’ novel and one I highly recommend. It was slightly more slowly paced at the beginning, particularly as I tried to place a time the novel was set in, however within twenty pages I was hooked by Griffin’s writing and world-building. With its literary influences, intelligent prose, historical atmosphere and exciting plot, as well as some swoon worthy characters, this is an elegant YA not to miss, particularly those who love Gothic influences or dystopia!
I received a free proof from Indigo and this is my honest review. The Masque of the Red Death is available to buy now!