Dance of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin
Series: Red Death #2
Genre: YA, steampunk, romance
Published on June 11, 2013
Published by Greenwillow Books
Read From: 9.23.13 - 9.28.13
Everything is on fire.
Araby Worth's city is being torn apart by death, disease, and corrupt forces wanting to claim it for their own. She has lost her home. Her best friend is dying. Her mother has been kidnapped. The boy who made her feel something again has betrayed her. And her father may be a murderer.
But Araby has found herself.
Despite the death and destruction all around her, she will fight for herself, for her friends, for her city. Her rebellion will take her, finally, to the mad prince's palace, for the decadent - and sinister - masked ball. It could be a trap. It could be the end of them all. Or it could be the moment that Araby becomes the kind of hero she never dreamed she could be.
Characters: Araby's lack of extreme emotion does, thank goodness, persist, and she is, for the most part, level-headed. However, she is not practical, for while I'll accept that girls simply don't wear trousers in this world, Araby never tries to find a sensible dress, when she so direly needs one. The thing that makes Araby so much more foolish in this book, as opposed to Book #1, is the love triangle, which I will talk about below. But apart from that, she remained a relatively good protagonist. April is still a loose cannon, though her brush with death tones her personality down a bit and has made her more relateable and distances her a little more from the role of "best friend who is all girly and light-hearted and flirty." I like that type of character in small doses, but as a series progresses, I always begin to question their purpose to the plot. Will is still awesome, with his gentle personality and ability to understand everyone. He was my favorite, right along with his two little siblings. Prince Prospero is a bit more memorable in Dance of the Red Death, though still not as much as he could be. Once again, he comes across as a very creepy person with a very interesting background, but we Readers never get to see enough of him to really make this poignant. And then there's Elliott . . . . In my review for Masque of the Red Death, I described Elliott as a very interesting character. I neither liked nor disliked him, and I appreciated what he brought to the story with his tortured past, complete self-loyalty, and untrustworthiness. That opinion hasn't exactly changed (except I did see the arrogance Araby was talking about); it's just that the love triangle clouded his true purpose to the story and made me dislike him.
The Romance: The reason Masque of the Red Death was so much better than I expected was because the love triangle, while there, was never the main focus of the story. Araby clearly liked Will, and Will liked Araby. And while Elliott was falling for Araby, she kept him at a proper distance, despite her attraction to him. Since the events of Book #1, however, Araby has lost all common sense when it comes to love, and she's fallen hard for Elliott, regardless of the fact that there is no earthly reason why she should. I understand that she's mad at Will for what he did - no matter how much I understood, I would have difficulty forgiving it, too. But that doesn't mean she has to seek solace in the arms of another guy - especially if that guy is Elliott. Araby acknowledges that he's completely untrustworthy; she acknowledges that he's dangerous and is only motivated by his own goals. As soon as someone becomes irrelevant to obtaining those goals, he's going to abandon them. To top it off, Elliott continually injects drugs into Araby's system after she has specifically told him not to. And she likes this guy? It didn't make sense at all, and I decided that if she chose him over Will, I would hate this series forever more. Now, even with this moment of idiocy on Araby's part, the love triangle still would have been more tolerable if it had taken backseat like in Book #1. Unfortunately, a goodly portion of the book is spent on it, and the political intrigue takes its turn in the side saddle. I also began to really dislike Araby when it came to the boys. She flip flopped between them so much that I wanted to scream, not to mention that she kept misleading both of them, which hurt Will's feelings a lot (and no one hurts the feelings of my favorite guy character without arousing my ire).
Plot: The Red Death is raging, killing thousands. Araby, Elliott, Will, and April have only just managed to escape in an airship. Prince Prospero is inviting all those who have yet to catch the illness to join him at his palace for one final grand masquerade. Meanwhile, Malcontent's followers are spreading out, carrying the disease with them. Araby now knows that it is her father's fault that the disease exists in the first place, but she is desperate to return to the city and find him. For while she, Elliott, and Will are safe, April has the Red Death. And she is running out of time. Elliott, meanwhile, wants to take the city back, while Will just wants to protect his siblings and Araby. But ever since he betrayed Araby to Malcontent, Araby feels as if she can no longer trust him. For the time being, she's throwing her lot in with Elliott, who is determined to use her for his own gains, but she will do whatever it takes to find a cure for April. Even if it means turning herself over to Malcontent. Okay, terrific plot! It picks up right where Masque of the Red Death left off, there's amazing political tension, and a world just bursting with ambiance and mood and desolation. I adore this world, even though I still don't know if it's supposed to be futuristic or maybe a sort of speculative historical fiction. It still bugs me that it's never specified where this is, but I also like that it never says. The problem? More time is spent on Araby's struggle between forgiving Will and trusting Elliott than the actual political struggles. I wanted to know more about Elliott's resistance, Malcontent's army, and what Prospero was up to. I could not have cared less about Araby's emotional struggles; I wanted to know more about the world. Thus, while there is great potential, a lot of it isn't realized, and the story begins to drag, I got frustrated with Araby's inability to forgive Will, and her continued flip flop between the two boys.
Believability: How the masks exactly work still isn't explained. And it still bothers me. I would have liked more detail about their workings; how did they protect people from the plague, why could only one person wear a mask and then it wouldn't work for anyone else, did they cover one's nose and mouth, or just one's nose?
Writing Style: First person, present tense. While I actually rather liked it in Masque of the Red Death, it wasn't as effective in Dance of the Red Death. Maybe because more time was spent on Araby's emotions, rather than the world itself. While we still get a lot of world building, the ambiance and moodiness isn't quite as strong as it was in Book #1. Still, Bethany Griffin is one of the few Authors who makes present tense work.
Content: Drug use and some very slight sexual innuendos from Elliott, but nothing big.
Conclusion: The climax had a lot going for it. Prospero's masquerade was weird and ominous and creepy and said a lot about the villain's personality in a very short span of time. It was in that moment that Prospero actually became a favorite villain. However, it was also confusing. Characters that weren't there before - and who were, in fact, in a totally different part of the city - were suddenly there with very little or no explanation whatsoever. They just were. And the Reader, I guess, was supposed to accept that it didn't matter how or why they were there. Prospero's ultimate fate was also highly anticlimactic and even downright disappointing. I loved the note of hope the story ended on, but I could have wished for a more coherent conclusion. The Author had a great idea going; the execution just wasn't very good. Dance of the Red Death isn't, sadly, as good as Masque of the Red Death, but I ended up enjoying it once Araby sorted out her emotions (which was about halfway through). The end, while convoluted in some areas, made up for the slower pace at the beginning, because it was so Poe-esque. But I wish it had taken after Book #1 and made the love triangle practically nil. Because I'm sorry, but making Araby fall for Elliott just made her look foolish, and no one likes a foolish protagonist. Nevertheless, I still maintain that it is a two-volumed series that is worth reading, because the world is awesome and the majority of characters are good - even Araby.
Recommended Audience: Girl-read, fifteen-and-up, great for steampunk fans.
Others in This Series:
1)Masque of the Red Death
2)Dance of the Red Death