If you’ve read Poe, then you should know the story of the Masque of the Red Death. It’s a short story that describes a sweeping illness across the land and how its ruler, Prince Prospero, tries to outrun it by hiding out with a few hundred of his closest friends. But he soon learns, you can’t outrun Death.

While you can see the story Poe created in the book Bethany Griffin wrote, she also makes it her own by giving the illness a name, giving the country its set in a backstory, and focusing not on Prince Prospero, but a young girl who feels she doesn’t deserve to live anymore named Araby Worth.

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.

At the beginning of the book, I felt like I was reading about a robot. Araby was essentially a blank slate who lived each moment only by blinking and breathing and refusing to feel a single thing. She’d cut herself off from the world and the tone of the book reflected that. Told in stilted sentences and jumps in times and places, Araby describes the devastated world around her in the wake of the Weeping Sickness.

A lot happens in this book; more than I thought would happen. Araby is kind of tossed around between two factions of the increasingly coming war between Prince Prospero and Reverend Malcontent, just because she’s the daughter of the scientist who created the air masks that can save lives and is also friends with the Prince’s niece. Slowly, she becomes more aware of herself and what’s happening around her, and toward the end of the book, actually starts to make a stand on where she wants to be in the upcoming fight.

The book tries to set up a love triangle, but honestly, there’s no contest. Simply because one of the guys is a jerk. And he never stops being a jerk. I have no idea why Araby puts up with him because he’s just a huge jerk who might be insane. If she starts liking him in the next book, I will throw it at the wall.

Overall, this was an interesting idea that became a fascinating world. The tone was a bit depressing, as was Araby, but it was still interesting enough to finish. And I want to read the next one just to see what happens next, which is always a good sign. If you like Poe, depressing main characters, and hints of steampunk dystopia, then I recommend reading this book.

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