Book Review: The Masque of the Red Death / Author: Bethany Griffin / Publisher: Indigo / Release Date: August 2nd
Using a famous work by the great Edgar Allan Poe as a source of inspiration for a fantasy novel sounds like a daunting and high risk idea. Get it right and you’ve enhanced people’s enjoyment of a classic, but get it wrong and the work is simply going to wither when compared to the original.
Sadly, Bethany Griffin’s version of The Masque of the Red Death fails to achieve either. It’s not a disaster, but it cannot hope to compare to Poe. The plot revolves around a city in which people wear face obscuring masks in order to avoid becoming infected by a deadly disease. The main character, the daughter of the scientist who created these illness avoiding masks, spends most of her time in the Renaissance version of a Goth club, moping about until she stumbles into intrigue and mystery.
The main problem with this work is that neither the world the characters live in, or the characters themselves, are well realised. Bookshop shelves are filled with novels about spunky young heroines who find themselves caught up in a whirlwind of romance and conspiracy, and this book tells the same sort of story, making it one of many. The world is so poorly realised that immersion is impossible; in parts it’s too modern to feel like fantasy, and the fantasy elements seem only to exist to fill in gaps in the plot. This is a real shame, as the work it is based on is a masterpiece of creepy strangeness and terror.
What could have been a brave, clever and intelligent novel filled with interesting concepts of a world gone wrong is instead a dull, cliché ridden tale filled with the sort of boring, nonsensical characters cynically marketed to a young adult audience because they’re the ones who haven’t had the chance to read better books yet. There are some genuine sparks of talent here, but they’re mostly hidden behind a run-of-the-mill tale.