After reading and adoring the first book in this series last year, I was very excited to pick up the second. The covers are absolutely stunning - the red and the purple are both so vivid, and the swirling silver font is lovely. I think I would purchase them both for that reason alone, honestly. I did have a couple of issues with Masque of the Red Death that I hoped would be cleared up here, but right now I'm having extremely mixed feelings about this sequel. On one hand, it was a satisfying conclusion. On the other, it made me want to pull my hair out at times because I was so frustrated. I also kind of wanted more of a recap in the beginning, but it turned out okay, because the author left little reminders here and there about what happened previously.
There are only two books in this series, and I'm glad for that. The story-line has run its course, and nothing else really needed to be said. Griffin did a nice job of wrapping everything up neatly (but not too neatly. I love my imperfect happy endings), without leaving too many loose ends lying around. Honestly, if this had been a trilogy, and the love triangle was drug out any longer than it was, I may not have finished it. This aspect of the novel was by far the most irritating, which was actually pretty surprising to me. I didn't mind it very much in the first book. In fact, I was entertained by it. However, here, that was not the case at all.
Spoilers begin here.
Araby spends a good portion of the story - maybe seventy percent of it or so - being mad at Will for his betrayal towards the end of Masque. She pretty much lets this anger keep her from thinking of him or facing any of her true feelings for him. When she finally sits down to think about it, she realizes that she forgives him, but it takes forever. In the meantime, she is with Elliot quite a bit. Of the two men, I still prefer him. Elliot was definitely an unreliable character; one whose intentions we can never truly know, and he can be rather ruthless when it comes to getting what he wants. Still, I never really thought that he was a bad person. Despite everything, his main goal was to clean up the city and start something new, plague-free. So every time Araby was with him, kissing him, or just talking to him, I was fairly annoyed.
She says repeatedly throughout the story in different ways that she doesn't love Elliot, that she doesn't really want to be with him, and lists the various reasons for why they could never really be together. And yet, it was like all of that was completely disregarded multiple times. She allows him to kiss her, she kisses him, and she leads him on a lot. She knew her feelings towards him were not exactly romantic, but it was like it didn't matter. I absolutely hated her for doing that - especially in that one scene towards the beginning when she's kissing Elliot with Will just a few feet away. She didn't know he was awake, but still.
This is one of those times where I have to grudgingly respect the author's choice of who her main character ends up with. It is very rare that I actually like one guy in the love triangle more than the other, but at the same time, if I'm being logical, I can understand why he might not be the right choice for the protagonist (this happened in The Hunger Games for me). Araby states multiple times that there is no real trust between her and Elliot. They have kind of weird tentative relationship, but never trust. And honestly I don't know if that would have ever changed even in Araby had chosen him. Elliot says he loves her, but I'm not really sure if he ever did or not. Will isn't even around that much; he is present throughout the book, but never for long periods of time. I don't dislike his character, but for some reason I just never felt much excitement for his personality. Still, he was the type of person Araby needed. That doesn't mean I have to be happy about it, sadly.
Spoilers end here.
The other thing that got on my nerves was how much Araby just stood around for the first half of the book. It felt like she was constantly watching everything that was going on, but never participated in anything. It felt like she didn't try hard enough to reach her goals. And that was aggravating because I was really hoping for some character growth, especially after her extremely distant narration of the first novel. But I have to admit, towards the second half she did redeem herself quite a bit by actually going out and getting some stuff done. She's definitely a character I hate a love/hate relationship with. I really appreciated the side characters - I loved April's dramatics and enjoyed the scenes with Henry and Elise. I also appreciated both the villains of the story - Griffin crafted each of them as round, scary characters, which added a sense of fear to the book.
Things started getting really dark in the last three or so chapters - not that it wasn't already, what with the two plagues and the constant sate of depression for all the people. The atmosphere is very dark, and I could really feel this aching sense of sadness. I think it would have been nice if there had been a character who existed solely for comedic relief here and there. Still, I liked the bluntness with which the story was told. The writing is just as beautiful as I remember the first one being - though the first half was kind of slow and infuriating because of the love triangle, I was still mesmerized by Griffin's descriptions. If you enjoyed Masque of the Red Death, I would definitely recommend giving this one a shot.