Author: Bethany Griffin
Genre: Pseudo YA steampunk post-apocalypse
Pages: Hardback, 319
Published: April 24, 2012
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Opening Lines: "The charcoal sky spits cold rain as we rumble to a stop at a crossroad. A black cart blocks the road, and even in an armored carriage we know better than to force our way past."
"Everything is in ruins. A devastating plague has decimated the population, and those who are left live in fear of catching it as the city crumbles around them.
"So what does Araby Worth have to live for?
"Nights in the Debauchery Club, beautiful dresses, glittery makeup . . . and tantalizing ways to forget it all.
"But in the depths of the club—in the depths of her own despair—Araby will find more than oblivion. She will find Will, the terribly handsome proprietor of the club, and Elliott, the wickedly smart aristocrat. Neither is what he seems. Both have secrets. Everyone dies.
"And Araby may find not just something to live for, but something to fight for—no matter what it costs her."
~ Jacket copy
Thoughts: I have had a love affair with Edgar Allan Poe's works since I was a child. His words are extremely haunting and captivating. There was a time in my life that only his words could truly speak to me. When I heard about this book, I couldn't get my hands on it fast enough. However, knowing that I would host an apocalypse themed month, it sat on my shelves waiting to be the finale.
Araby is living in her father's shadow. Being the daughter of the creator of the masks that keeps people from getting the plague, Araby is able to rise above the cellar to a penthouse. Her life is spent in luxury, beautiful dresses and makeup, clubs, and drugs. However, even with all of this wealth and status, she is a constant reminder of her brother and seeks oblivion at the end of a needle. Wanting Will from afar, Araby is startled to wake up one morning in his bed. And, if that isn't enough, she has caught theeye of her best friend's brother, Elliott. Both men want her, but for different reasons. Araby is pulled from her garish world of guilt, drugs, and parties.
This book is a haunting and dizzying ride. It is a dance of things that are not said; things that need to be said. While the masks are a form of freedom, they are also a way to hide. Araby spends her time hiding from herself, her family, and friend. She lives with unbearable guilt over her twin brother and spends her time with April in the Debauchery Club. The inside of the Club reminds me of the opium dens in the Victorian era. The patrons did not find it strange that Araby would lose consciousness, that April had to carry her out of the Club, etc. Honestly, even though it is not, the inside of the club reminded me of Prospero's party in Poe's short story.
I loved how Araby was defined by her guilt and vow. However, Griffin did a wonderful job showing how she was able to grow and move beyond that. The distance between the girl and her parents was extremely heartbreaking. It was obvious how badly they wanted to reach out and talk to each other.
The little steampunk touches added an interesting element to the story. I wouldn't go so far as to say the book was fully steampunk. Granted, there were airships, gaslights, and steam cars. But it was not a gritty steampunk novel. It was more of a vehicle for the storyline.
The landscape in the book was amazing! Even though Griffin didn't specifically state it, I felt as though they were traveling through a landscape of gray. The only colour was in the fancy dresses that the upper classes wore, the makeup, and the more fashionable masks. The clothing was an extreme contrast to the setting. It was garish and halting. To me, it was like the landscape of Europe during the Bubonic Plague: bodies littering the streets, people walking around with handkerchiefs in front of their faces, poor begging food, and revelers trying to out dance death.
It struck me that the story kind of takes place before Prospero's party and that the main character was named Araby. Griffin pulls to two literary greats!
This book is a page turner. Once I started, it was hard to put down! Araby's inner struggle captivated me from the first page and stayed with me until the last. This book was masterfully written and crafted. It is hard to read, and it will linger once you have finished. My hat is off to Bethany Griffin for writing this beautiful piece of literature!
"And now was acknowledged the presence of the Red Death. He had come like a thief in the night. And one by one dropped the revellers in the blood-bedewed halls of their revel, and died each in the despairing posture of his fall. And the life of the ebony clock went out with that of the last of the gay. And the flames of the tripods expired. And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all." Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe
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