Araby Worth lives in a city destroyed by disease and controlled by the cruel Prince Prospero. The contagion first struck when she was a child and she was the first to wear a mask, made by her father, to keep the germs at bay. But her brother fell ill before her father had a chance to make a second mask and she has spent the rest of her life depriving herself of what her brother will never have. Instead, she spends her nights with her friend, April, at the Debauchery Club where she can lose herself.

The Masque of the Red Death is inspired by Poe rather than adapted from the original story and there are little nods to him throughout, such as the club called The Morgue. The Red Death of Poe’s story does occur but is perhaps not the ones that started it all. At first I thought the steampunk style setting was due to the plague halting progress, but as Araby remembers the beginning the timeline doesn’t account for this. If anything the plague has pushed them to invent more, steam carriages, defensive masks and research into disease. I think it’s more of a made-up world that can echo that of Poe’s era. The fashion trends subvert those of the 19th century, whereby dresses are tattered or worn short to prove that they are disease free. Because health is more important than modesty.

Araby’s time at the aptly named Debauchery Club is decadent and risky. Seeking release from her painful thoughts, she uses drugs (never implicitly mentioned but syringes and passing out give little room for doubt) and is found by Will who tests patrons of the club as they enter. She’s had a silent crush on him for a while but her pact with her dead brother holds her back. Will is love interest number one. Then there’s April’s brother Elliott, nephew to the evil prince who is most likely using her for his own agenda. Despite what would appear to be a love triangle, it’s not mushy or predictable and I found myself swaying between the two in who I wanted to “win”.

Unfortunately for me, there’s no real conclusion. Yes, it’s another young adult book that just stops and left me feeling unsatisfied. Perhaps I should just wait until trilogies and series are complete before reading them as I otherwise enjoyed it. The end can’t even be called a cliffhanger; it just sort of carries on at the same pace and then it’s the acknowledgements. If you can’t feel a story coming to a close, it’s not being done right.

The Masque of the Red Death is published in the UK by Indigo, an imprint of Orion and will be available in paperback and ebook editions from 2nd August 2012. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review. There will be a giveaway coming up shortly so stay tuned!

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