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The International Writers Magazine: YA Review

The Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin
Indigo Books
ISBN: 978 – 1-78062-122-7
• Marcel D'Agneau
Young April (relative to the Prince Prospero who controls the city) and Araby Worth, (father the Chief Biochemist) are two girls who do what many teen girls dream of – night after night attend the Debauchery Club where anything is possible - drugs - sex- dancing. They attend in risque clothes that leave nothing to the imagination and never seem to get bored.

April tries everything, she’s a cynically manipulative spoiled brat who gets her own way. Araby plays safe and seems to only pretend to have a good time. Araby is April’s neighbour in the last remaining ‘safe’ tower where the rich abide.  They live in a city ravaged by a deadly virus that has killed millions. Anarchy reigns.  Araby’s father has invented a masque that will stop the virus in its tracks, but only the rich can afford it. At any day you could die and the girls are playing with fire as they cross the city in their luxury steam carriages at risk of being attacked.
            April is desperate for Araby to meet her brother Elliot, but Araby is more interested in Will, a tattooed dealer at the club.  When the brother does meet her, one is not sure of his sincerity.
            Behind all this is a seething rebellion against the Prince’s control led by an unseen religious man.  Worse, there is a rumour of a second disease sweeping the city.
            The story is set in a nameless city in a nameless world and to be honest Araby is almost as foolish as April.  They take stupid risks and there is little attempt to colour in how the rest of the population are surviving or what their hopes and aspirations are.  The story might take its cues from Victorian London and Egar Allen Poe detailing the steep divide between the poor and rich; but then why not read Dickens or Poe?  It would be more rewarding.
            The Masque of the Red Death is a pastiche of steampunk in a fake dystopian world with vapid characters whose destiny is hard to care about.
© M. D'Agneau July 2013

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