Masque of the Red Death (Book 1)
This is another book that started a little slow for me. The players took a few chapters to transform from cardboard cutouts to fully fledged people. I found the main character, Araby, to be overly fatalistic at times, but on another level, it’s not hard to see how one would have difficulty living in a plague ridden world having lost their twin. She starts out very bland and one dimensional, existing more as a ghostly reflection of a human than one that has blood circulating through her veins, but I was pleased to see that she was allowed room to expand out of that single role. Towards the end, her fatalism transforms to a more palatable selflessness, although I’m still not sure if I’d want to meet her in real life, nevertheless know her in any meaningful way.
Everything is in ruins.
A devastating plague has decimated the population, and those who are left live in fear of catching it as the city crumbles around them.
So what does Araby Worth have to live for?
Nights in the Debauchery Club, beautiful dresses, glittery makeup . . . and tantalizing ways to forget it all.
But in the depths of the club—in the depths of her own despair—Araby will find more than oblivion. She will find Will, the terribly handsome proprietor of the club, and Elliott, the wickedly smart aristocrat. Neither is what he seems. Both have secrets. Everyone does.
And Araby may find not just something to live for, but something to fight for—no matter what it costs her.
This story falls victim to something that I’ve seen a lot of recently. Having a main character/narrator who is so very world weary/bland/trusting/disconnected that they create a story that lacks resonance with the reader. If the main character spends most of her time wishing that she was dead, then it follows that at least some of your readers will grow to agree with said opinion. Here’s the thing, I didn’t want Araby to die and I truly can’t imagine the amount of pain and grief comes from losing a twin, but there comes a time when you crave some other emotion from the character. Some tiny spark of life over the ambivalence of mourning and I’ll tell you that this didn’t hold true throughout the entire book, but for the first third-ish, it most certainly does.
There was also a fair bit of ambiguity built into the story and not necessarily to the story’s benefit. I’m all for a good caped menace, but there are certain shadows that are never fully explained in the story. There’s a fair bit of political intrigue in the various rebellious factions, but they didn’t really do anything for me. While I understand that it’s impossible to understand what’s going on in someone else’s head when using first person, it would have been nice to gain a little bit more insight into Araby’s parents. Their motivations are never really even hinted at and I find that I’m curious about them, even now. Admittedly, all of the ambiguity could be dispelled in the subsequent books since this is a series.
I’m not even going to get into the love triangle, except to say that I’m kind of over them.
In the end, once the momentum gets going this story chugs along nicely. For a book that’s inspired by a Poe short story, it does well to differentiate itself from its source material. It’s entertaining and it’s a pretty quick read, but I wouldn’t exactly call it riveting.
I will say this: I intend to pick up the sequel. I’m curious to see what happens next and I find the person that Araby was becoming to be compelling, much more so than that person she was. I’m also hoping that all the hints of how she wasn’t always rich will come to fruition in some form of interesting exposition.
3.5 ink bottles.
Character Believability: 3 Buffys
Character Investibility: 3 Doctors
Pacing/Tension/Urgency: 4 Dresdens
Worldbuilding: 4 Snyders
Language: 4 Feegles
Mystery: 3.5 Sherlocks
Bubonic Factor: 4 Ebolas