Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Dance of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin

Synopsis: Goodreads Amazon B&N

Dance of the Red Death is the conclusion to Masque of the Red Death, which re-imagined Edgar Allan Poe's story of the same name. At the end of Dance, I looked up when to expect the next book and was surprised to see that this is it. The story does reach an endpoint of a kind, but I was definitely left wondering how at least three important characters' fates were going to be resolved. 

This is not one of those books that can be read without reading the first one. Dance picks up immediately after Masque. Do not even check out excerpts. I started Dance without reading Masque as it was an ARC and I wanted to review close to its publication date. The first line totally reels you in, but there is too much backstory and entanglements in Masque to try to proceed without it. This turned out to be no chore at all and is an excellent investment of your time if gothic angst and adventurous comings-of-age are your thing.

So, now that that giant caveat is out of the way, I might advise readers of Masque to stop there. Dance doesn't have the gorgeous moodiness or the purposeful drive of Masque. In the sequel, the Red Death has finally struck the city and the panic has altered a city already beaten down by the Weeping Sickness. Revolutionaries are taking advantage of the chaos, including our troupe of heroes. Despite Araby narrating again, the story and its motivations are more opaque. Previous roles are all topsy-turvy and no one seems like who they were. It's hard to feel attached to a story when you can't trust the characters. It's not like Araby and Elliott and April were terribly charismatic when they were introduced, but I felt they earned the respect I eventually gave them. To then have that affection twisted and confused is a major betrayal - and a serious breach of the author-reader trust as well. Araby's on a mission and at a time when she should be the scientist's daughter coldly pursuing her agenda, she is all blither-blathery over Elliott and Will. I felt that issue was adequately and sensitively dealt with in Masque and to have it regurgitate all over Dance to the detriment of the real action drained away the this reader's bank of good will.

The concluding sequence and the resolution do create closure to some degree, but it seems like Griffin is leaving the door open for another book if the demand is there. Perversely, despite my coolness towards this book, I do want to find out what happens with the trial and city's new rule. Or I just might re-read Masque instead and forget Dance exists. Choose your own adventure.

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