In a world where death and decay permeate day-to-day life, Araby seems to have it better than most. She has a breathing mask to keep contagion away, she lives in a fancy tower and she spends her evenings at The Debauchery Club. But Araby is borderline suicidal after the death of her twin brother Finn and drugs herself to oblivion. Can Araby find something worth living for?
MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH presents a bleak world where the plague informs everything about people's lives - from fashion (showing non-infected skin is in) to education (only the rich can afford the masks that allow their children to attend school risk-free). Via the dark, foreboding atmosphere and vivid descriptions of rotting bodies (yes, seriously) I really got a sense for this crumbling society. (side note: I've seen steampunk fans criticize the world-building, but since I have no experience at all with steampunk, I found the world-building fantastic).
I got less of a sense for the characters. In the beginning, Araby is clearly primarily motivated by grief. She even says that she's never kissed anyone because she made a vow never to experience anything her dead twin had not (heart-wrenching x 1000). But I never really understood why she got involved with Elliot's revolution against his uncle Prince Propero (to be fair, I don't think she understood either). Both Elliot and a Debauchery Club staff member named Will are enigmatic love interests who desire Araby but aren't above using her. Prospero, Elliot's sister April, Araby's parents and the "Prophet" Malcontent are the other major characters - all with very murky connections to each other.
Maybe the best way to describe this novel is to say that I felt it deeply while I read it, but trying to remember it afterwards and sort through the plot in my head makes my brain numb.
MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH comes out April 24, 2012. Find out more about it at the author's website.
I'd like to pass my ARC on to one of my readers, so if you'd like a chance to read this, fill out this form by March 6, 2012 at 11:59 pm CST. Open internationally.
See index of all dystopian reviews on Presenting Lenore
FTC disclosure: I received a review copy from the publisher