Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Review: Masque of the Red Death
Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin
My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
I know...I know. I'm hating writing this review just as much as some fans of Masque of the Red Death may hate seeing my rating of it...and believe me, I'm WAY outnumbered on this one! I went into this with high hopes, not only because so many Goodreads friends and fellow blogger had given it glowing reviews, but because the synopsis really piqued my interest. I really like reading dystopians but they do tend to feature similar worlds and settings. The idea of a future world destroyed by a mysterious plague felt fresh & full of promise. The steampunk/revolutionary vibe convinced me even more that I was going to love this book. Unfortunately it just wasn't the case - I kept waiting to become invested and then blow away, until I realized I was nearing the end of the book and it still hadn't clicked for me...but more on that in a bit.
Let's start out with the positive, and despite my low-ish rating there are a lot of pretty incredible elements in play here. The world building is every bit as impressive as everyone says it is. I was instantly taken aback by how effectively Bethany Griffin awoke in me a sense of discomfort and dread. The world in Masque of the Red Death is one ravaged by death and disease. A plague has decimated most of the world's population and people are still dropping like flies all around. Since the disease is air-born, the rich have been endowed with masques while the poor must hope for the best..and expect death to come for them sooner rather then later. The masque themselves serve as a constant reminder to the reader of the fear in which these characters have to deal with every second of their lives. Every character has lost someone and has felt the stiffing effect of being at the mercy of a horrible disease. The author is especially skilled at setting the appropriate tone for the scene at hand and skillfully vacillates from making the reader feel some dread...to outright terror in a matter of seconds.
So almost every single element brought to the table in MotRD worked for me: the steampunk feel, the dark oppressive tone, the mysterious, almost gothic city the story takes place in, the believable dystopian world....everything except the characters. I just didn't feel much of anything for them except the obvious empathy at the heartbreaking effect the plague has had on them. And I mean, I understand that they would how such traumatic events might bring out the worst in people but I really just couldn't relate to any of these characters. Most of this is likely due to my feelings for Araby. I honestly couldn't understand her actions or thought process most of the time. She had poor judgement, at best and outright stupidity at her worst. Her guilt and grief have obviously damaged her and if anything I'm one to sympathize and love those kinds of characters but every time she displayed poor judgement I felt myself further alienated from her and the life she lead. The same can be said for her friend April and the proposed 'love triangle' candidates Will & Elliott. Each and every character displayed some behavior or decision that I just could not wrap my head around. I mean I felt sad when bad things happened to them or when the author highlighted their grief and torment...but it never went any further than that. And since I thrive in character driven stories, I found my desire to connect overshadowing my enjoyment of every other positive element of this tale.
My review may seem a bit low, considering that I did bring out quite a few positive attributes in this story but I feel that those attributes ought to be, for the most part are thanks to Edward Allen Poe and his short story by the same name. I read somewhere that Bethany Griffin wanted to know more about Poe's famous short story & the characters that inhabited this horrifying world. Since my greatest complaint was indeed the characters, I can't really bring myself to award a higher rating than this...even though it really is bumming me out.
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