3 out of 5 deathly stars
I don’t know if I’m entering a slump** or just wasn’t feeling it or what but this was very meh. It was atmospheric and oppressive – not badly done for a read at this time of year (which was October), or for something inspired by Poe. I haven’t read the original story Masque of the Red Death, and won’t before finishing reading this, as my Poe book is at work. However, I think Griffin’s other Poe inspired novel, The Fall, which I also read this month, is far superior.
Araby lives and moves among the upper echelon of whatever dystopian hell this is set in. It seems like Victorian times, but a time changed and altered by the plague that nearly decimated the human population. And it’s not over. People are still catching this disease, a horrible sickness that causes weeping sores and kills you pretty quickly. It’s also terribly contagious. The only thing holding it at bay is the mask created by Araby’s father. They are expensive, so the poor can’t afford them, and once you’ve breathed through a mask, it no longer works for anyone else. This means the poor won’t be robbing the rich for masks, and masks of dead people are thrown out with the bodies.
You’d think this would be fixed for the good of the populace, but again, we have a dystopian leader who doesn’t give crap one for what is good for the populace, which is probably why the marsh at the edge of the city with all the mosquitoes hasn’t been drained, and the crumbling ruins of the city aren’t being fixed and repaired. Basically, the city is a shit hole. Araby and her friend April go out into it, carefully guarded and in a steam carriage, to the Debauchery District, seeking oblivion. Araby has some heavy stuff from her past that she wants release from, and drugs are the only way she knows how to get it.
There were a few twists and turns that drove the story on, which is a good tick. And a pretty well handled love triangle. Yeah, I know, that’s usually a tick on the con side, but despite Elliot being her best friend’s brother and very handsome, he’s kind of a jerk. Araby doesn’t even like him. Despite this, she’s inspired by what appear to be his idealistic principles. He wants to over throw his uncle, the brutal self-styled Prince who runs the city. He holds them all in a cruel grip – brutally murdering anyone who doesn’t agree with him. He holds most of the scientists prisoner in his castle. The only reason Araby’s father is exempt is because of his discovery of the mask. Even so, they need to stay in the Prince’s good graces to avoid becoming “guests” in the castle. However, I’m not convinced of Elliot’s idealism. And I’m so frustrated by her trusting him right away. He puts her in danger, and she doesn’t question it. She just does what he asks.
The other leg of the love interest triangle is Will. He works at the Debauchery Club, quietly judging Araby and the people like her who come seeking what the club provides. Despite that, Araby is drawn to him. Will is distant and quiet, an unbreechable wall until a run in with a poisoned drink lands her in his private space. He has two small siblings that he has to take care of, and neither of them have a mask. Araby is still haunted by the death of her brother, and seeing the vulnerable children just brings it back.
I feel like I’m really letting the side down. I’ve read lots of scary stuff this October, and it’s almost all been mayonnaise sandwiches. Very little diversity. This is the same, with all white heterosexuals doing white heterosexual things. And this was a fantasy, alternative universe setting. There’s no reason there couldn’t have been some diversity, even if you are going to use the untrue, but sadly established excuse that “people of color hadn’t been invented in the 1800’s”. This is because white people wrote the books and chose not to put those of other cultures/skin tones in their work. So. Yeah. I am going to read the 2nd book in this series, but then I am going to make a point of reading something with more than just white folk in the cast of characters.
So in that same vein -as for the 2nd book in the duology, Dance of the Red Death… I wasn’t feelin’ it, either. I tried but I was bored, and there were other books I’d rather have been reading, so I quit at about page 200. I just loathe Elliot so much in the 2nd book. He was such a megalomaniac. I’m wondering if I should even keep these books now or sell them. 😦
Nope – not a slump. This book just wasn’t very good, because I went on to love the next 5 things in a row after I gave up on Dance of the Red Death. So now, I am more committed than ever to not read bad books. I have so many. There are so many wonderful books out there, and I’ve read enough to know if I want to waste my time reading it or not.