Shots of YA: The Fall & Dance of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin

Series: Stand-alone

Format: Digital ARC
Release Date: October 7, 2014
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
Genre: YA Fantasy

Madeline Usher is doomed.

She has spent her life fighting fate, and she thought she was succeeding. Until she woke up in a coffin.

Ushers die young. Ushers are cursed. Ushers can never leave their house, a house that haunts and is haunted, a house that almost seems to have a mind of its own. Madeline’s life—revealed through short bursts of memory—has hinged around her desperate plan to escape, to save herself and her brother. Her only chance lies in destroying the house.

In the end, can Madeline keep her own sanity and bring the house down? The Fall is a literary psychological thriller, reimagining Edgar Allan Poe’s classic The Fall of the House of Usher.

And Bethany Griffin’s gothic love affair with Edgar Allan Poe continues in THE FALL. Frankly I’m still scratching my head, unsure of WTF I just read. I know that this is a reimagined version of The Fall of the House of Usher and aside from all its creeptastic elements, I don’t think BGriffing gave us any definitive resolution for Roderick and Madeline Usher’s plight, reimagined or otherwise.

Now BGriffin didn’t really take too much liberties with the original Poe short story, to me it was more of an extended version of the tale with a few tweaks here and there but for the most part it’s still The Fall of the House of Usher. BGriffin retained the Gothic feel of the original story with the cursed family and the entity that is The House. Yup proper noun there because The House is a character in THE FALL like Amityville where it just sapped the life out of the characters, casting this ominous gray cloud throughout the novel… literally. I mean The House is one badass villain i.e. turning an otherwise happy pink frock into a drab gray dress? Heck, even the characters started turning gray after some time! How can you possibly go up against that?! 
There’s a lot of gray areas, pun intended, in THE FALL which reinforces my comment that this is the novel version of the original short story. Like WTF is up with the curse and The House? There was a family legend that was shared but it didn”t factual. Then there’s The House. It’s creepy what The House does to its residents and the Ushers themselves but it remained more of a looming and passive entity and retained its mysterious air until the end. I mean I want to know how it does its juju and what is it exactly? Like is it a gateway to Hell or some messed up shiznit like that? 
I love dark reads and THE FALL satisfied that perfectly. I enjoyed the unconventional way BGriffin told the story, flip flopping across Madeline Usher’s life in a crisscross manner to show how bad the curse is and the power The House has over the Ushers. There was a great build up and since this was a reimagined story, I was expecting that we’ll get a concrete backstory and a concrete resolution that Poe didn’t give us. Alas, the ending totally pissed me off… yeah what the lady is saying/doing. 
Photo Credit
Series: Masque of the Red Death 2

Format: Digital ARC
Release Date: June 11, 2013
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
Genre: YA Fantasy

Bethany Griffin continues the journey of Araby Worth in Dance of the Red Death—the sequel to her teen novel Masque of the Red Death.

In Dance of the Red Death, Araby’s world is in shambles—betrayal, death, disease, and evil forces surround her. She has no one to trust. But she finds herself and discovers that she will fight for the people she loves, and for her city.

Her revenge will take place at the menacing masked ball, though it could destroy her and everyone she loves…or it could turn her into a hero.

With a nod to Edgar Allan Poe, Bethany Griffin concludes her tragic and mysterious Red Death series with a heroine that young adult readers will never forget.

Now THIS is a perfect example of what a retelling should look like… IMO. Like The Fall, Masque of the Red Death is also based on an Edgar Allan Poe short story. But unlike The Fall, DANCE OF THE RED DEATH is more vivid and a great expression of creativity without sacrificing the integrity of the original story. 
This series has a dystopian feel to it and the gist of the plot is that there’s a plague that’s ravishing the populace and the cure or vaccine is being held hostage by a despicable tyrant. And typical of any YA fantasy novel, the fate of the world rests on the hands of a handful of special teenagers. In this case it’s up to Araby Worth, daughter of the scientist who created the plague, and her ragtag team of usurpers and rebels to save the day against the tyrant, Prince Prospero and his arch nemesis, rebel leader, Malcontent. 
I love how this duology was concluded with the conflict of choosing the lesser of two evils. BGriffin played her cards right in extending the short story and using a big bright palette of colors to give an otherwise dreary story vibrant. In the original story Prince Prospero basically got away with murder while in DANCE OF THE RED DEATH, justice was served and everyone reaped what they sowed and I appreciate this alternative ending because Prince Prospero is scum and he needs to be put down like a rabid dog. 
Not just that, I enjoyed some of the gray characters and the layer of uncertainty they brought to an otherwise predictable story. This is a retelling after all and we know good always wins, it’s the stuff that happens in between that makes this interesting. The journey not the destination and all that shiznit. DANCE OF THE RED DEATH had a lot of crazy stuff that went on in the middle before it got to that satisfying ending. 
My only critique here are the incessant distractions. The super long search for Araby’s missing father took up a big chunk of the book eating up space that could’ve been better used for the big confrontation between Araby, Prince Prospero, and Malcontent. On and on they looked for Araby’s father to get the cure which proved to be in vain. 
Still I enjoyed DANCE OF THE RED DEATH. My enthusiasm for YA have whittled since I read Masque of the Red Death but that did not deter me from appreciating this. The ending felt realistic despite it’s fantastical premise, important characters died, got punished, or was hardened by the ordeal they went through thanks to the plague and Prince Prospero. DANCE OF THE RED DEATH didn’t end with rainbows and butterflies which is expected because they all went through varying types of tragedies that should and would change them in some ways. Plus it’s a duology people, no long standing series or drawn out plots. It can’t get better than that.

Early Review: Masque of Red Death by Bethany Griffin

Series: Masque of Red Death 1
Format: ARC
Release Date: April 24, 2012
Puchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Set in a decaying city surrounded by swamps, a place somewhat like a cross between present-day New Orleans and turn-of-the-last-century Paris, this is an eerie and strangely beautiful novel. 

Welcome to a world where the corpse collectors are the first ones on the streets in the morning, a place where bats and crocodiles are poised to attack, where the wealthy ride steam carriages and design zeppelins, where the terrifying tunnels under the city may or may not offer a way to escape, where the fashionable dust their masks with glitter but bare their arms and legs in order to prove they don’t carry The Contagion.

– Virginia Duncan

VP & Publisher

A night of merriment, mayhem and Debauchery.

This is how I’d probably describe my reading experience with Bethany Griffin’s MASQUE OF RED DEATH, an extended version of Edgar Allan Poe’s short story. Her wonderful liberal updates resulted to a sweeping adventure and interesting characters that I’m sure a lot of us will definitely follow. 

One of my favorite period movies, Sophia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette. 

Debauchery District’s masked citizens reminded me of the movie’s Masquerade Ball 

which is also the backdrop of Poe’s classic short.

This Dystopian Steampunk is indeed more French than English with it’s opulent fashion, let-them-eat-cake attitude, Prince Prospero’s tyrannical ways and blatant disregard for his citizens and their needs felt very Marie Antoinette to me. I can’t help but be seduced by Debauchery District; the fashion, social life and the extreme ways the privileged do to fool themselves that everything is fine and dandy in their wonderful town. Constant clubbing in Debauchery and Morgue, shooting themselves with Oblivion to a dead stupor to make them forget their personal tragedies. And although debauchery is defined as living in excess, the citizens are more scared and obviously in denial of their current state of affairs than living a decadent life. Side by side this wasteful lifestyle is the constant threat of the airborne disease the contagion/Weeping Sickness which is a cross between The Consumption and the Black Plague, the under privileged and their unmasked faces, the throbbing hunger and pains of poverty, dead bodies carted and dumped, Death is a permanent resident in this town. With this combination we are very much aware that a rebellion of epic proportions a la The Storming of Bastille is waiting to happen.  

They want to change their lives. The poverty, their desperation, the state in which they are forced to live. Desperation and apathy are all we have left —

The character developments are appealing to me despite the fact that the center of the story are a bunch of teenagers who have different motives with the commonality of wanting change. Their oppressed and drugged up District is forcing their hands to do something about their current situation and fight Prince Prospero’s artificial power. I find Elliot and his maniacal tendencies enigmatic, he’s a freedom fighter which gives him a sense of volatility and an air of danger which makes the love triangle part even more interesting. William is another tragic hero in the making and his connection to Araby Worth is shaking up the unobtrusive life he’s made for himself and his two younger siblings. April is Elliot’s sister and Araby’s bestfriend, her carefree attitude is merely a front to hide a traumatic past thanks to Prince Prospero.

Maybe it doesn’t matter. She’s made herself so artificial; it’s okay to wear next to nothing because we aren’t real people any longer.

And then we have Araby Worth, BGriffin’s naive, loyal to a fault heroine, the one who will tip the Prince’s power scale in the end. However I must admit I did not feel Araby’s character very endearing, see she’s a druggie with Mommy issues and a little boy crazy, which I tolerated because BGriffin is presenting us her shallowness so she can contrast Araby’s growth later on in the series. But what ticked me was when she went home to an empty house after being poisoned and threatened by Prince Prosepero and instead of panicking and finding out what happened to her parents, she went up and risked her life to see William in the shady part of the District. At this point in the story, Araby was already part of Elliot’s planned rebellion and Prince Prospero cannot be more crystal with his nefarious intentions towards Araby Worth’s parents. I felt that Araby’s apathy towards her parent’s disappearance off putting.

No one can save the world. Not when it doesn’t want to be saved.

In any case I absolutely love, Love, LOVE this brilliantly written allegory! BGriffin’s charming metaphors were successful in making me stop and think of the story’s parallelism to historical events and present day matters. And even if I am not a big Araby fan now I know that I will be later on, her character is going through some interesting things that is the perfect catalyst for a metamorphosis that I want to witness. The risk BGriffin took and basing her novel to a well loved story worked to her advantage because MASQUE OF RED DEATH will appeal to a spread of readers with varying tastes from the classical junkies to lovers of fantasy fiction.

So the city is in ruins and the prince is holding a party?

Now with the Red Plague ravaging Debauchery, book two can’t come soon enough.