Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Masque of the Red Death

Araby Worth lives in a world run rampant with disease and misery. The Weeping Sickness is airborne, causing the inhabitants that can afford it to wear masks to keep from contracting it. She happens to be the daughter of the inventor of these life saving masks and is therefore very rich and privileged. Despite this, her favorite activity is to go the Debauchery District and its clubs to drink and shoot up drugs to forget her miserable existence. At these dubious club, she meets two very different young men with secrets: Elliot, the owner of the club and a rich dandy with revolution on his mind, and Will, the mysterious and tattooed young man who works at the club and has an unexpected home life. Together, they will give her something to truly live for and put her on a path to actually help people.

I didn't have too many expectation going in to Masque of the Red Death. Mostly I expected it to be a retelling of Poe's story of the same name and it's a very, very loose adaptation. The only things in common are disease, parties, large buildings, and the name of the prince (Prospero). Everything else was unique to her book. I really liked the world. It was a great mix turn of the century society with a dash of the black plague, steampunk, alternative history, and modernity. I liked that pre-disease, this society was pretty much Victorian with the same fashion and sensibilities. After the disease, it's more important for people to show that they are healthy and have no sores than it is for people to be modest and proper. Women's fashions are much more risque as a result and expectations of young people are much different. I loved the atmosphere of this world where death is an unremarkable, every day occurrence and people try to live as much as possible because death is so close. This setting made the main characters and the motivations behind their actions make sense. Who wouldn't want to enjoy oblivion once in a while to escape that horrible reality? or change the world you live in for the better? or do whatever it takes to keep your family safe?

Although there were many things I liked about this novel, it seemed to fall in some typical pitfalls of YA books. First is the love triangle. It's just overdone at this point and annoying. Choose one already and having two guys fight over you does not make you in any way special. Second, Elliot (one third of this love triangle) literally threatens Araby's life. This is not sexy or desirable at all. I don't understand this normalizing and sexualizing abuse especially in novels that are intended for a young audience. It would be nice for these heroines to have a normal reaction and separate themselves from this type of person.

Overall, I liked Masque of the Red Death, but it fell a little short of my expectations. I would read the next book and hope the issues I had with the first installment improved somewhat. I would recommend it to fans of dark romances and gothic literature.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

1 comment:

M.A.D. said...

I just finished this one several days ago and also came away with mixed feelings. But like you said, the world building WAS superb!!

Actually, I was completely shocked by Will's behavior towards the end, although it was understandable under the circumstances - I don't see how she could ever trust him again.

And I didn't know what to think of Elliot half the time. He came across as kinda *unstable* after the crocodile thing :O

I still look forward to reading the next book lol :)