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.