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Book Review: Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin

Calling all germaphobes: Bethany Griffin’s Masque of the Red Death will horrify you, but it’s worth the fear. This book is intense and lovely.

Book Review: Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin

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masque of the red death bethany griffin

Title & Author: Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy – Dystopia

Release Date: April 24, 2012

Series: 1st in a planned series

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

How I Got the Book: Bought


“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 to pieces around them.

So what does Araby Worth have to live for?

Nights in the Debauchery Club, beautiful dresses, glittery make-up . . . 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 boy is what he seems. Both have secrets. Everyone does.

And Araby may find something not just to live for, but to fight for—no matter what it costs her.”

Gritty & Gorgeous

What sets apart Masque of the Red Death – to me – is the intensity and bleakness of the story. Araby lives in a gilded cage; it’s in the shape of a fancy high-rise, but it’s a cage regardless.

In her world, disease has taken down the world, and only the wealthy (like her family) can survive because high-tech masks are very expensive. Even though her father was the inventor of the masks, her family wasn’t immune to death – her brother died from the plague.

It was interesting to read about a world that was smack dab in the middle of disintegrating, whereas many dystopias show the world right before it plunges in a downward spiral or right after the world has blown itself up and rebuilding has begun.

There’s a raw desperation in this novel, and it makes everything more exciting and dangerous. People will do anything to save their families and prevent the disease from claiming another life. That kind of will to survive kicks up the anxiety and urgency of the book several notches.

Rinse, Repeat

I love troubled characters, and Araby definitely fits the bill. She’s blames herself for her brother’s death, she rebels against her family and the king and she denies herself anything that her brother wouldn’t experience past the age that he died. Troubled indeed.

There is a sort of a love triangle in the book, but I think Griffin works it expertly. The classic elements of jealousy and confusion are absent and mystery and intrigue replace them. I really enjoyed the complete unexpectedness of Masque of the Red Death.


This book is thrilling with it’s twists and surprises and diseased, mad world. The prose is simple but engaging, and I think it would appeal to anyone who loves a good “the world is burning but let’s party” tale. Masque of the Red Death is a killer YA debut.

About Lisa Parkin

I'm a hardcore lover of young adult fiction and have been reviewing books since 2011. Other interests include Downton Abbey, heat lightning storms, Harry Potter land and (begrudingly) one orange tabby.