Masque of the Red Death, written by Bethany Griffin, is, as the title suggests, based on the work of the same name by Edgar Allan Poe. It follows a girl named Araby Worth, and shows us how life has become in her city during a plague. Society has crumbled, and Prince Prospero is at the head of it all, holed away in his castle as the city slowly dies. Araby’s father has given the world its only hope in the form of masks which are able to block the contagion, but the prince restricts their production, and refuses to let him fix an error which only allows each mask to work for the first person who breathes through its filter. Araby herself is suffering from a deep depression brought on by the death of her twin brother, Finn, due to the prince sending soldiers out to murder the sick. Due to his death, she has sworn never to experience any pleasure that he didn’t get to. This includes everything from holding hands to kissing. Her best friend, April, the prince’s niece, is the only one who knows most of the details of this vow, and wants to get her to break it and live. Part of her efforts to do this is to take Araby to a club owned by Prospero, the Debauchery District. Their visits eventually lead to Araby getting to know a bouncer named Will that works at the club, and later, April’s brother, Elliott. This book has certainly had an impact on me, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things I would change about it.
This book has made it clear to me that any sort of story can become a published work, whether it be an idea triggered by some other work or not. It is obviously heavily based on Poe’s work, but it brings so much of its own charm and ideas to the table that it is truly its own creature. It was the first novel I’ve read in a long while that I truly felt myself losing track of time because of how absorbed I was with the story. This was, at least, until the last 60 or so pages. The ending of the book, while not terribly confusing in its composition, seemed rushed. There are two kissing scenes that leave relationships in a tangled state by the time it ends, as they occur between Araby and Will, and Araby and Elliott respectively. This, coupled with the fact that the entire book spends its time pulling you towards wanting Araby to end up with Will, only to have Will betray her by getting her captured by the leader of a revolution (Reverend Malcontent), and then be immediately forgiven, makes the ending seem jumbled compared to the rest of the story. To add onto the confusion, Araby is almost killed because of Elliott’s actions at least thrice during the story, and he tells her multiple times not to trust him, but you’re suddenly supposed to believe Araby would return his feelings by the end? I would change the ending to eliminate all this confusion by having Araby captured by the reverend by some means other than Will betraying her, as well as removing the kiss between her and Elliott. This would give the plotline a much neater conclusion than what it has now, without removing the ability to lead into its sequel.
I loved most of the book, and am happy that I read it, but I do not think it could ever become a true “classic.” The way I define a “classic” book is something that everyone, even people who haven’t read it, knows about. The reason I could never think of this book being that? Its title, which has not tried to differentiate itself from the material it is based on in the slightest, a material that is a classic. This leads me to believe that this book could never get out of that shadow, as sad as it is. I would definitely love for it to become a popular example of what it is, a fan-work turned published novel, but I don’t know whether it would achieve that or not.
In conclusion, Masque of the Red Death is an excellent example of what inspiration can do for an author. It had the personal impact on me of making it clear that any sort of idea you would want to write about can become a novel with work. Despite this, the story still has flaws that could have easily been avoided, and the deep connection it has to the existing Edgar Allan Poe story could be what holds it back from being a classic.