Title: The Raven’s Tale
Author: Cat Winters
Genre: YA Historical Fiction/Gothic
Release Date: April 16th 2019 from Amulet Books
Format: Physical ARC
**I received an ARC of this book from the author herself and I’m forever grateful that she was so kind to send me an ARC copy. But all thoughts and opinions are my own. No quotations will be used**
Goodreads Synopsis: 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!”
Oh man you guys, the moment is finally here! Many of you know that this was my top anticipated release for the first half of the year since Cat Winters is a favorite author. Then she was so freaking awesome and sent me an ARC that I did a book mail post about. Then I got two buddy partners (LaRonda and Ashley, put links here) and I’m so glad to have done my first buddy read for this book. I’m not gonna lie though…I was scared of how this was gonna turn out. But in the end, this is such a cool take on Poe’s life in his teen years that’s not written about as much as his adult years. Here’s a break down of my thoughts:
We’re shaking things up first with the cons first so we can end on a positive note!
- Pacing: The pacing was hard at some points and I think some readers might not enjoy the pace as much. We are following Poe in his teenage years and a lot of it is his daily routine. It can be slow at points but luckily it does pick up at the end.
- Poe’s struggles: This was another thing that was hard is Poe’s struggles. His “foster father” is a terrible man and Poe’s relationships are complicated due to his conflicted feelings about being a writer, accepting his creativity and not wanting his “foster father” to win. He has a lot of personal pain so that he does struggle with Lenore, his Muse. I was frustrated at times with his behavior but I will say that I do understand how he feels. He has no parents, no real job and he’s left at the mercy of his “foster father” and writers at the time didn’t get paid well at first. His fear of rejection, being unwanted, fear of destitution and other things make him a complicated person. But I still feel like we never got to see his actual decision process; he accepted Lenore or rejected her or just did things without thinking. If that’s how Poe was, then that’s a good portrayal of him. But I would have liked to have understood his actions.
- A bit more macabre: While I loved the Gothic imagery woven into the book, I think it could’ve used a bit more. There’s fun references to Poe’s famous stories of course, but I think it could’ve gone just a bit further.
- Setting: One strength that Cat always produces flawlessly is the historical setting. We see Richmond, Virginia and the university Poe goes to in the 1820’s and it feels dirty, lived in, sad at times but also feeling oppressive. Richmond feels steeped in paranoia of the macabre and stiff necks with how Poe is treated. Muses aren’t looked upon nicely there and you feel how trapped Poe is there, despite wanting to try at first. But then you have the university, with the gambling, lectures and all the male classmates. The setting felt real and like I said, flawlessly written 🙂
- Lenore, the Muse: Oh man I loved Lenore so much! I seriously wonder if the image of her on the cover would’ve been something Poe would’ve thought of himself way back when. The raven feathers, a blood red heart necklace, soot and ash, all combined with a sharp girl who refuses to stay in the shadows. She’s the personification of Poe’s mind and his potential and her desire and presence is potent in every page she’s in. Her chapters reflect what our creativity could feel like when its suppressed or neglected. I felt her frustrations so well at times or the victory of reading the poetic lines that formed.
- Muse concept: This was the perfect paranormal element to add to this story! I loved seeing how Muses formed in other people’s eyes and the rules surrounding them with humans. There’s an added bit of fear on occasion for the fate of a Muse. This is MY jam for paranormal/Gothic stories 🙂 ♥
- Poet Lines/Easter Eggs: There many lines in this book that Cat herself wrote to be in the style of Poe’s work and it’s SO well done. I think that match the mood and the rhythm of his lines perfectly. I liked that she added her own touch, which reflects her admiration for his work. Plus, there’s some Easter Eggs to Poe’s future work. Some are ones you can easily see if you’re more familiar with his work and a couple are small enough, but they were fun to uncover. (I’m thinking that they are fun Easter Eggs, but either way, I liked seeing his other work referenced)
- Learning something: Many stories and works of both fiction and non-fiction focus on Poe’s adult years, but Cat wrote this book focusing on his teenage years and ends when he’s 18 years old. I think that is unique to focus on a different time in his life and I learned many things about him, from him being an athlete, growing up and other things that he wrote or did. Cat added some author’s notes and a “Further Reading” section with other actual works you can read. To me, if you can learn something in historical works (whether they have magical elements or just complete historical fiction) then the book earns more credit for me. I’m glad that she wrote this book that focused on a time his life and how it will shape his future years.
- Ending: All that I will say is that I wasn’t sure how the ending was going to turn out. But my fears were assured and the ending was very satisfying to this book 🙂
Final Thoughts: I will say right now to go in to this book with a ton of expectations and only go off the Goodreads synopsis. Not having a ton of expectations will always help a reading experience and also there’s some little surprises in there if you don’t read into possibly spoilery reviews if they’re out there. So even though I was worried that this book would disappoint me, it satisfied me in the end. This is a book about what you do with creativity, getting out of an abusive situation and letting yourself not be afraid of what you’re capable of. Cat Winters delivers another solid book and I will always look forward to her future works. If you love Edgar Allen Poe and Cat Winters, please read this book and pick it up when it comes out in April.
Have you read this book? If so, what are your thoughts? Have you read any Poe books that you would recommend? Let me know in the comments!