Book Review: Glitter & Doom: A Masque of the Red Death Story, Bethany Griffin (2013)

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

Beauty and the Nerd

four out of four stars

Set in the same world as Masque of the Red Death and its sequel, Dance of The Red Death, Glitter & Doom is a short story (about 50 pages, give or take) that focuses on two of the series protagonists, April and Kent. The blurb for Glitter & Doom promises that it will show us what happened to April when she mysteriously disappeared for much of Masque of the Red Death – and while some of the story does indeed take place between the two novels, it also functions as a prequel of sorts, giving us an idea of what life was like for April and Elliott during their imprisonment in Price Propsero’s castle.

There are two main parts to Glitter & Doom: “Glitter,” which is told from April’s perspective, and “Doom,” in which the narrative switches to Kent.

“Glitter” opens with a spectacle in Prince Prospero’s throne room. An eleven-year-old April and her mother are forced to look on as Prospero commands Elliott to torture a young boy in front of the court. He refuses and suffers terribly for his defiance. Fast forward five years, and we meet April as she waits in line for the opening of a new nightclub, The Morgue. Here she’s approached by a mysterious robed woman who attempts to lure her into the Debauchery Club instead. The women are attacked en route and April barely escapes with her life. It’s a year after this incident that April and her new-ish friend Araby are stood up (seemingly) by brother Elliot at the Debauchery Club. She and Araby are drugged – by one of Reverend Malcontent’s men, it turns out – and April is kidnapped…only to find herself imprisoned underground with Kent, her brother’s nerdy friend.

“Doom” shifts the focus to Kent, who’s been kidnapped by Malcontent and forced to build a bomb – the very bomb that will be used to destroy Elliott’s ship Discovery in Masque of the Red Death. We learn a little bit of Kent’s back story (which is both adorable and heartbreaking), and see how the characters’ story arcs intersect at various points throughout the duology. He and April manage to escape, but not before Prospero burns Kent’s childhood home to the ground – and the “frivolous” rich girl and the nerdy, nearly-blind inventor start to fall for one another. The story ends with the explosion of Discovery – and Elliott and Kent’s plans for revolution.

I actually really enjoyed Glitter & Doom, even if it’s a bit overpriced at $2.99. (The story goes by very quickly.) I came to loathe the love triangle between Araby, Elliott, and Will, especially as it takes center stage in Dance of the Red Death; personally, I find this blossoming romance between April and Kent much more compelling. This one’s worth a read for fans of the series, especially if you’re curious about these supporting characters.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

Book Review: Dance of the Red Death, Bethany Griffin (2013)

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

In which Poe is Eclipsed by a Love Triangle

three out of five stars

Araby Worth’s world is on fire.

Set immediately after the events of Masque of the Red Death, Dance of the Red Death sees Araby and her allies – April, Elliott, Will, Henry, Elise, Kent, and Thom – fleeing from the city to regroup before trying to regain control of the city from the opposing armies of Prince Prospero and Reverend Malcontent. In a world already decimated by the Weeping Sickness, a new plague – the Red Death – threatens to wipe humanity off the map. Faced with this new danger, and fueled by Malcontent’s bombs, violence sweeps through the city – even as many citizens attempt to flee to the relative safety (emphasis on “relative”) of Prince Prospero’s castle.

Inspired by the Edgar Allen Poe short story of the same name, Masque of the Red Death imagines a society crumbling under the weight of poverty, class warfare, and disease. In the first book, we saw as protagonist Araby Worth slowly transformed from a depressed – if privileged – teenager, wracked with grief over her brother’s death, into a budding revolutionary. In Dance of the Red Death this promise is fulfilled as Araby, Elliott, and Will travel back into the city in order to save it.

The story culminates with the masked ball first given life by Poe. Temporarily separated from her friends, Araby – now considered a hero among the people in light of her rescue of dozens of young orphans slated to be sacrificed by Prospero in the name of “entertainment” – is kidnapped by the Prince and imprisoned in his castle. The night of the ball, she’s to embark on a treasure hunt through the seven interconnected chambers, where the Prince has hidden objects (and people) important to her. The Red Death makes his appearance just as Araby reaches the black room with its imposing ebony clock. I hesitate to say anything more because spoilers.

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Book Review: Masque of the Red Death, Bethany Griffin (2012)

Monday, April 14th, 2014

“In the meantime it was folly to grieve, or to think.”

five out of five stars

Inspired by Edgar Allen Poe’s short story of the same name, Bethany Griffin imagines a world decimated by the plague in Masque of the Red Death. Seventeen-year-old Araby Worth knows too well the horrors of the Weeping Sickness; she lost her twin brother Finn to the disease several years ago, and still blames herself for his death. Their father, the scientist Dr. Worth, designed a mask that filters out the disease; but Araby accidentally claimed the prototype, which was meant for the frail Finn. The masks acclimate to their owners, so that sharing or trading is impossible. Before his father could make a second mask, Finn contracted the plague and died. Dr. Worth saved humanity, but was unable to keep his own family safe.

Araby now spends her days sleeping and her nights getting high in the Debauchery District. She considered suicide, once, but was rescued by her neighbor April. Now best friends, the two belong to the privileged class. High up in the penthouses of the Akkadian Towers, the two are sheltered from much of the poverty and violence below. And while they’re lucky enough to afford masks – a whole collection of them, actually – no one in this world remains untouched by the Weeping Sickness.

While she has resigned herself to life, Araby has taken a vow to eschew those things her brother will never experience: a first kiss. Learning to swordfight. Traveling the world. As romance and political intrigue seep through the walls she’s built around herself, Araby finds her resolve tested: first by Will, the dark and mysterious tester at the Debauchery Club, and then by April’s brother Elliott, who has rebellion on the brain.

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