Dance of the Red Death takes up right where the first book left off, and with little to no recap.The book offered a few memory-jogging reminders here and there, but there were definitely things I'd forgotten about the first book.Luckily, I did remembered many of the main plot points -- a sheltered main character whose nightly clubbing with her best friend is a way to forget the death of her twin from the illness that's spreading across her city. The twins are only one of a number of pairs and doubles featured in this book: there are actually two diseases, two sinister figures to contend with, and -- to some readers' dismay -- two guys. More on that later...What was impossible to forget was the sad, spooky, ravaged story world in which this book takes place. My review of Masque of the Red Death called the book something like post-apocalyptic steampunk Gothic horror, and the description still stands. These books are studies in contrasts: love and death, beauty and horror, betrayal and sacrifice. In this city ravaged by disease, there is an elevated neighborhood inhabited by the rich, a seedily chic nightclub, a swamp, and a castle with turrets and a drawbridge. There's cool alt-technology -- hot air balloons and steam carriages -- but all the residents have to protect them from disease are masks, and only the rich can afford them.The books also feature characters who are full of contradictions. In Masque of the Red Death, Araby is naive and a little spoiled, but also truly grieving her brother's death. As that book progressed, she learned hard truths about both her parents, was betrayed by someone she thought was trustworthy, and learned that someone close to her had caught the contagion. In Dance of the Red Death, she's sadder but wiser. She -- and a group who has escaped the city in an airship -- hope to track down a rumored vaccine for the contagion and find a way to get clean water to the masses.Just as in the first book, much of Araby's angst is centered around her attraction to two guys -- one with a tortured past and idealistic dreams of fixing the city's ills, the other gruff but nurturing. The triangle-y aspect of this didn't bother me as much as some, because I thought I could see which way things were headed. In Dance of the Red Death, Araby is still processing a betrayal by one of the guys, and thus does kind of torture both of them by leading one on while pining for the other. Usually that kind of stuff drives me nuts, but I guess in a book filled with so much gloom and despair, this just added on more in a way that kind of worked for me.What I did wish for was the long promised masked ball scene. Yes, it's finally there, though as part of the climactic showdown, so there wasn't as much of a focus on the ball as pure macabre spectacle as I'd hoped. The book ends with some loss and sadness -- of course -- but also on a note of hope.All in all, I've really enjoyed this pair of books. I definitely recommend them, and can't wait to see what Bethany Griffin writes next!