I have decided that last year was the year of Frankenstein retellings and this year is the year of all things inspired by Edgar Allen Poe. And what better way than to start off the year with The Raven’s Tale. I first became obsessed with Poe in middle school, can you believe that? I read “The Tell Tale Heart” and it was over for me. Full scale obsession.
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!”
(Disclaimer: I received this free book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
First off, I cannot get over how intriguing the concept of the muses appearing both in personified form, but also their whole history in general is. There were so many fascinating elements to The Raven’s Tale such as the prejudice the characters have against the theater and the horror/mystery genre as a whole. The Raven’s Tale is a story about Poe struggling to come to terms with the gothic elements in his work, but also of him struggling to come to terms with who he is. Throughout the book there are all these characters who expect him to be other than he is. And he has to continuously struggle with their expectations, and who he wants to be.
Writing & Poe Himself
If you are an Edgar Allen Poe lover, I think this book is absolutely worth your time because Winters has done research into Poe and his earlier work. Additionally, there are all these delightful Easter Eggs of references to his poems and phrases from his work. This entire book has that sort of gothic quality, to be sure, but when it is scattered with ideas and phrases from Poe himself, it takes on a richer quality.
Another added layer to the story is that in The Raven’s Tale we are also able to read and witness the perspective of the Muse herself (and her love for a female spirit as well). This lends the story another added layer of depth, examining the relationship between both Muse and poet, but also of the work itself.
Not to mention that Poe really struggles with his own writing, and not only about the nature of his work, but also the finances of being an artist. His background being adopted and into a family which both loves and seems to despise him, is a complex relationship. Poe struggles not only to be who he is in the context of his family, and a father who seems to continuously be jealous of Poe, but also who he wants to be in the world. Does he want to be the dependable provider, or does he want to write these gothic pieces?
Caught between muse and family, self and future, The Raven’s Tale is an ode to the life of Edgar Allen Poe and to the universal quest for agency and identity. The need to embrace who you are, to refuse to stifle your inner flame, the passion within your heart, and inspiration in your veins.