Hello Humans! How much do you know about the early life of Edgar Allan Poe? Not much? Me neither! So I thought it would be fun to learn some things about this famous author’s teen/young adult years with a bit of a gothic twist (of course) in Cat Winters’ new book The Raven’s Tale. I certainly learned some new things about the hardship poor Poe went through – but I’m not sure this book had quite the impact it should have done. More on that below!
Seventeen-year-old Edgar Poe counts down the days until he can escape his foster family—the wealthy Allans of Richmond, Virginia. He hungers for his upcoming life as a student at the prestigious new university, almost as much as he longs to marry his beloved Elmira Royster. However, on the brink of his departure, all his plans go awry when a macabre Muse named Lenore appears to him. Muses are frightful creatures that lead Artists down a path of ruin and disgrace, and no respectable person could possibly understand or accept them. But Lenore steps out of the shadows with one request: “Let them see me!”
I’ll start by saying that I knew little to nothing about Poe before I started reading this book, I think I had read an abridged version of The Raven in a poetry book once but other than that I’ve never really got on board. That’s not me being snobbish about Poe or anything, we just never really crossed paths -part of that’s just chance, it’s also partly because I don’t like horror very much and since I get scared by most things in real life I don’t tend to want to add to that! But finishing this I think I need to maybe dip into some Poe if the fancy takes me! But yes, I can’t really speak to the historical accuracy of this story – and maybe you wouldn’t want me to. There are some interesting authors notes at the end of the book for those who do want to delve further into the history of the thing.
Overall, I thought this had the bones of a good book. I loved the idea of muses being a physical thing and the theme of nourishing your muse and your muse reciprocating and all of that stuff. It’s an interesting way of looking at the creative process and thinking about what you do personally to feed your own muse (I’ve been so busy lately my muse is probably looking like a bedraggled pidgeon). It does a great job of depicting all the horrible things Poe went through with his foster family (again, can’t speak to the accuracy of this) some of which I found genuinely upsetting. It’s a little bit of insight into the early years of a figure who, I think for most people, has become little more than a series of wacky facts.
So why wasn’t this book as impactful for me as it could have been? I think this says more about me than it does the book but I just kept finding it funny when I don’t think I was supposed to. The mental image of this goth (in the modern sense of the word) woman following Poe around university and badgering him all the time just felt so silly to me. In part I think that’s because the author is almost too earnest at times – it’s hard for me to take it that seriously, but again it’s also on me and how I read this. If you see me in person in the next few months ask me to do my impression…
But if you’re more mature than I am (or more willing to suspend disbelief maybe?) then I think you’d enjoy this. There are smatterings of Poe’s writing to keep you engaged as well, which gives a bit of variety and context to the story that I appreciated.
I think this is a good, quick read that many will find informative. Personally, I wasn’t totally sold on the gothic aspect of the book but that was more of a me problem than it was with the book!
My rating: 4/5 stars
I received a free digital advanced review copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
The Raven’s Tale is out on April 16th!
What say you? Are you excited for The Raven’s Tale? Are you a Poe fan? Let me know in the comments below!