The Raven’s Tale by Cat Winters
ARC received via NetGalley for an honest review.
Publish Date: April 16, 2019
First, I would like to thank NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read and review this book. That being said, I apologize for being so ridiculously late getting this review posted. I have been slumping the past couple of weeks and I finally sat myself down yesterday and dedicated the time it took to finish up this creepy yet so poetic book. Also to all my friends reading this review, you should be so proud of me, I struggle with my writing and when it comes time to sit down and write my reviews, I usually end up at a loss for words. Knowing this, I did something a little different this time around and made notes on what parts of the book I’d like to mention in this review. My hopes for this new process is that the review will be a little more coherent and not just the ramblings of a crazy girl trying to remember what she just read! So here goes nothing!
The Raven’s Tale is about a young teenage Edgar Allan Poe and the beginnings of his macabre writings. We jump right into the inner workings of Poe’s mind while he sits in church listening to a sermon on silencing muses and how the fancies of the imagination are a sin. But in young Poe’s mind, he can’t stop thinking about the many lost souls buried far beneath the church he sits in, knowing that he will never give up his passion for poetry. This is just the beginning of his struggle to break free of the confines of the small town of Richmond, Virginia where he has lived since being adopted as a baby when his mother died of an illness leaving him and his brother and sister orphans. Aside from his beloved Elmira Royster, he does have one thing to look forward to. In a matter of days he is to leave to study at the University of Virginia and the days couldn’t go by any quicker. But when his muse takes on a more human form, walking out of the shadows late one night to break free and run rampant around town, he fears that this could be what keeps him from escaping his terrible foster father.
Writing about such a well known person of history, its clear that the author went to great lengths to study every bit of information regarding Poe that she could get her hands on. In the back of the book she mentions what she researched and how she came to certain conclusions on how Poe’s life must have been as a youngster. From letters, to bank receipts, to interviews of other students, its clear that she covered all her bases to bring about the most accurate portrayal of our beloved Poe as she possible could. This was one of the bigger parts of the book that stood out to me to be completely honest. From the town he grew up in, to the location of the church he attended, to the names of his friends and family and acquaintances and love interests. There is scarcely a stone not turned. Winters even goes to mention how she came up with the ideas for the blank periods of time where there isn’t a lot of history to be found, and to be honest I think she did a fantastic job staying true to the character and represented Poe in a way that feels so incredibly realistic and believable.
I think that on top of having to know the personality and history of Poe so well, this led to the writing in this book being dark and poetic and perfect for the atmosphere that the poet deserves. It feels like the chapters were written by Poe himself and the incorporation of the actual works of Poe into the plot of the book were woven together so seamlessly that it honestly felt like the author somehow went back in time to find out what inspired him to write each and every work of art. There were even times where the author wrote some of her own poems that to be honest were amazing. I loved how the tone never changed and it felt so accurate and similar to what you would expect in a tale about a young Edgar Allan Poe. Some books you get to parts where you want to cringe knowing that this is an artistic liberty that the author must have taken to keep to their plot, but that was so far from the case in The Raven’s Tale. Every part of the plot seemed to revolve around actual poems and historical facts that I was convinced it all must be real.
If there is anything that kept me from truly loving this book to its full potential, its that there were points where it tended to lag. It felt like I was just waiting for something to happen while following Poe on his daily routine to just end up reading about an average day of waking up, struggling to get by and then going to bed unsatisfied with the days work. This always tends to be my issue with historical fiction though, I know that the author can’t take too much liberty into changing the events around too much, but sometimes there are parts that to me don’t seem as necessary to the plot. While I did get a little hung up on the slower, dryer sections, they moved on quickly enough to keep me interested and didn’t take away from the atmosphere that the story portrays. I also had a little issue with the fact that the book just sort of ends. If I hadn’t read on to the author’s note I would feel a little frustrated with all the loose ends of the life Poe left behind in Richmond. Knowing that these are real people its easy enough to do some research of your own to find out where they ended up and how their lives turned out, but I didn’t start this book to end up doing research once finished. But still like I said, these issues weren’t enough to make me dislike the book in any way shape or form. The story itself is still wonderfully written and stay so true to the characters that I really had to reach to find anything that I didn’t quite like all the way.
My favorite part of the whole book would be how the muses come to life. I absolutely loved Lenore and felt like this was such a beautiful way to describe the inspiration for so many of the poems that we know so well today. I felt so much for her and her journey as well as rooting for Poe to overcome his obstacles and find his connection to Lenore. There were so many times where I wanted her to do away with the evil Mr. Allan and his mission to keep Poe from ascending to greatness that he was always destined to achieve. She knew it all along and now look at how well known Edgar Allan Poe is today! I’m honestly surprised he would ever keep the name Allan after all he went through at the hands of that jerk of a man.
This was such a well written, dark, poetic, and lyrical book that takes you right into the life of who we all know today as The Master of the Macabre and I think it did him wonderful justice. Everything was so on point and respectfully written. Be prepared to look over your shoulder at every creak and pop you might hear and don’t read this one before bed because that thump thump that you keep hearing just might be the sound of The Tell Tale Heart, or your darkest muse about to step out of the shadows!
If you liked this book:
This book is another ARC I read earlier this year but I honestly kept thinking of this book the entire time I was reading The Raven’s Tale. If you enjoyed The Raven’s Tale I suggest picking up Spectacle by Jodie Lynn Zdrok. Both of these had that strong religious yet dark and dreary vibe that seemed to be the norm of people struggling to make a name for themselves in the 1800s. Both set in similar time frames, they have a similar voice and when strange things start to occur, the first things our main characters do is try to hide their differences because the strange and macabre weren’t as widely accepted as they are in the world we live in now. While one books is more of a murder mystery and the other a look into the life of a famous poet’s teenage years, you still get that same creepy yet intriguing longing to keep reading and see where the story will take you.
Do you enjoy reading fiction based on real people in history? Have you read any historical fiction that you thought did the historical figure justice? What about a book that missed the mark completely? I’d love to hear about your hits or misses! I wasn’t sure going into this book if I was going to understand all of the references or not, and if that would hinder my reading experience. But I was so surprised by how fantastic this representation played out. I’d love to know your thoughts!