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MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH by Bethany Griffin

MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH

By Bethany Griffin

Age Range: 14 & up

Pub Date: May 1st, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-06-210779-4
Publisher: Greenwillow/HarperCollins

Griffin (Handcuffs, 2008) forsakes realism for sultry dystopia.

Araby Worth lives in a tower soaring above a swampy, disease-ridden city. While her scientist father searches for a cure, Araby loses herself in a drugged haze and then finds purpose again joining a rebellion. But nothing is as Araby believes. Multiple factions work at cross-purposes, everyone has a secret agenda and the complex plot only thickens in this riff on Poe’s short story. Griffin has taken several hot tropes—dystopic setting, pretty dresses, steampunk, love triangle—and created something that, if not new, at least feels different. The underlying questions about science and religion, which may save or destroy, and Araby’s strangely dispassionate understanding of her own depression (despite a remarkable blindness to anything else) give the tale an unexpected psychological tension. Araby’s precise, self-absorbed narration overwhelms some details of setting and nuances of character but elicits sympathy nonetheless. The complicated plotting fails to resolve in this volume (it is the first of two), but the inexorable movement towards the party in the prince’s palace, where the wealthiest will dance to his sadistic whims while the world crumbles (per the source tale), makes for satisfying reading despite the lack of answers.

Formulaic but fantastic, from the eye-catching cover to the growth of a heroine who might save the world. Tailor-made for popular consumption. (Dystopic steampunk. 14 & up)