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.

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I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect of Masque of the Red Death, as I have not read the original story by Poe, but I was blown away by how absolutely magnificent this story is! Bethany Griffin truly gives the Master of Dark & Grim a run for his money!

Araby is the only living child of her parents, struggling with survivor’s guilt after the Weeping Sickness took her twin brother, Finn. She has vowed to never do the things that Finn did not have a chance to do in his lifetime: hold someone’s hand, kiss someone, love someone. She has become a shell of her former self and often contemplates taking her own life. The only things keeping her tethered to the physical world around her are the nights when her closest friend, April, dresses her up and drags her to the Debauchery Club.

“I don’t know why she seeks out my company. She is animated. I’m barely alive. I stare into space and whimper in my sleep. When I’m awake, I contemplate death, try to read, but never really finish anything. I only have the attention span for poetry, and April hates poetry.” – pg. 13

Enter Will, proprietor of the Debauchery Club and love interest numero uno. He’s tattooed, dark, mysterious, and gorgeous. Sign me up! He may look rough and tumble on the outside, but Araby soon discovers that there’s so much more to Will than meets the eye. He teaches her how to look past her immediate suffering and see that there are things worth living for.

“You have to remember that there are reasons to live, and that at least a few people are decent, and that the world is worthwhile some of the time, okay?” – pg. 172

Despite Araby’s best efforts to distance herself from others so that her heart won’t be vulnerable, she soon finds that her heart is capable of so much more than she gives it credit for. April and her brother, Elliott (love interest numero dos!), have also  maneuvered their way into Araby’s heart, and she soon finds herself taking great risks for her family and friends, even facing the evil Prince Prospero himself.

I adored the two “love interests”, Will and Elliott, and for different reasons. One wanted to protect and shelter Araby, and the other recognized her strength and fortitude and encouraged her to be brave. These are both wonderful qualities in a man, and it was interesting to observe the differences between the two.

Though there is a slight love triangle, Masque of the Red Death is by no means a romance. While there are moments of serenity and innocence, you never quite forget that the Contagion does not care if you’re in love, if you have others that depend on you, or even if you’re only five years old. It takes just a second of carelessness to become infected, and therefore, doomed to suffer until you die. I caught myself holding my breath a couple times throughout the story – that’s how real it feels!

The setting for Masque of the Red Death was simply breath-taking. It was as much a character of the story as Araby, April, Will, or Elliott. Bethany Griffin describes the setting as “a cross between present-day New Orleans and turn-of-the-last-century Paris”, which is accurate to a “T”. From the trash-filled streets and crumbling buildings, to the porcelain masks of the privileged and the disease-ridden faces of the doomed, this book gives the reader a perfect sense of place – and of despair.

This is how a Dystopian is written, folks!

“People whisper about the Debauchery Club in the tattered remains of genteel drawing rooms, while they sip a vile substitute for tea from cracked china cups. Real tea was imported; we haven’t had anything like that in years” – pg. 14

I cannot say enough wonderful things about Masque of the Red Death. While it is not a “happy” story by any means, Bethany Griffin gives her characters -and her readers- just enough hope to press forward and to fight for the “the things that make life worthile.”

I highly recommend this book to everyonereading this review. You will not be able to stop thinking about the story or the characters long after you’ve turned the last page. Bethany Griffin’s re-telling of Masque of the Red Deathis sure to become a classic that will be passed on from generation to generation long afterI’m dead and gone.