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.
Let me just say, I didn't really expect much from this book when I first picked it up.* I didn't even think I was going to get it. I broke the cardinal rule when I saw this book- I judged it by it's cover. It does, of course, have a beautiful cover. Very intriguing. I do have to admit the cover was also what drew me to it. I was primarily concerned that the plot might have a lot to do with vampires. I'm not really a fan of vampires. I am more than ready for us to take a break from that craze.
I was curious because of the title, however, so I had to read more. The title is from Edgar Allen Poe, who wrote a short story by the same name (except I believe he has a "the" at the beginning that Griffin's title does not have). Griffin says in her author's biography, "I've always loved the amazing atmosphere Poe creates. But 'The Masque of the Red Death' is one of his shortest stories. I wanted to know more. I wanted characters and their stories within the context of this devastating plague. And that's where this story originated."
Poe's short story is, indeed, brief. You can read it in its full form here. Griffin's first book in what promises to be an intriguing series goes into far more depth than Poe's original short story, especially with the characters. And it has nothing to do with vampires at all (so far, at least).
The setting is quite steampunk. A Victorian kind of age where people drive around in steam-powered carriages (well, they have to, since all of the horses have died from the plague), but still go to places with names like "The Debauchery Club." Victorian, yet almost modern in some sentiments.
Without giving too much away, I have to say that I really do like Araby. I expected her to be annoyingly angsty, but I was wrong. She is very troubled, has drug and alcohol problems, and is too trusting at times. But she's a believable and sympathetic character. She's found herself, after a terrible tragedy, in a place where she can't trust anyone. Not her best friend, not her mother, and not even her father. Her entire world has crumpled around her, and she uses the "oblivion" of the drugs and alcohol to deal with it; something she finds herself doing less and less throughout the plot.
And if you thought being torn between two guys while your city is drowning in a plague, suffering under a cruel rule, and burning down around you was difficult, try dealing with the major plot twists Griffin throws at Araby. Elliot (who can be a complete ass and tends to ignore personal boundaries) and Will may be really attractive, but I do not envy her. I do, however, love her and want to hug her while telling her what a good job she's doing considering the circumstances.
Griffin has done a wonderful job fleshing out this story. The characters are fantastic. I love how she develops Araby's best friend, April. Though she is absent for the majority of the book, April is the character who undergoes the most personal change. It really is incredible how well she does it.
I'm going to give this book 4.5 out of 5 stars.
I deducted the .5 because Elliot's character was so disrespectful of Araby's requests not to touch her. I'm not a huge fan of potential love interests who refuse to keep their hands to themselves.
Recommendation: If I could throw this book through your window for it to land open on the first page in your hands, I would. I am definitely looking forward to the next one (my reservations about Elliot aside).
*I judged a book by its cover, and I turned out to be really wrong. I guess that old adage still holds true.