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The Raven's Tale

Review

The Raven's Tale

Edgar Allan Poe. The man, the myth, the memorable master of the macabre. Gather ye round and listen to the tale of what made --- and almost destroyed --- one of the greatest literary talents when he was no more than just a young lad.

 

Eddy Poe’s life was changed forevermore at the age of three when his actress mother died. From there, he was taken in by the Allans and since, his life has known the greatest privileges; supplied unto him by the most soul-crushing man, John Allan.

 

Gifted with words and theatrics from a young age, Edgar proved to be a great novelty in his earlier years. Now, he is the ripe age of 17, a man off to Virginia’s most prestigious university --- or is he?

 

Young Edgar’s future is placed in peril by his foster father. John Allan insists Edgar must grow up and give up his childish, hopeless poems. To do this seems a worse fate than death to Edgar. Yet, the university is his only chance to escape his foster father and his small-minded town and make a name for himself. Poe’s predicament is already precarious; then emerges a beautiful, horrible wretch of a creature from the shadows of his soul, projected into the world --- his Muse. Every artist, and not a single respectable person, has a Muse. An entity to guide them in their creativity right down a disgraceful path, as to indulge in the arts is pure sin itself.

 

Taking the form of a woman/spirit/raven hybrid, the ghastly Lenore demands Edgar’s love, trust and devotion to his creative endeavors --- no matter how dark or depraved they may be deemed. Lenore demands to be seen, Edgar is commanded to condemn her. Could he give up his secure future for his Muse? Is there even really a future without her, without his writings? Now is his time to decide to leap and soar, or clip his wings forevermore.

 

With grisly, Gothic greatness, Winters tells Edgar’s truth intertwined with twists befitting of a tale straight from Poe’s mind.

 

As a fan of Poe and Winters both, I was destined from the very conception of this novel to love it. Reader, love it I did! This is not to say THE RAVEN’S TALE is without its shortcomings, nor shall I overlook them, but Winters overwhelms all of them with her magical story weaving abilities.

 

I commend Winters and all her work on this latest novel. The choice to base it upon a well-known figure and remain as accurate to his life as possible, in theory, leaves little mystery to a reader. We know how Poe’s life turned out; it hardly leaves room for one to get caught up in the “Will he? Won’t he?”. Yet, Winters still manages to capture the reader’s interest, exercise one’s curiosity, and most surprisingly, leave the reader feeling surprised. It’s exactly what historical fiction ought to be.

 

Something that must absolutely be praised is Winters ability to merge Poe's original works with her reproductions of his style. To me, they seemed seamless.  I can't begin to imagine how long it must've taken to perfect her reproductions, but all the work put into them most certainly paid off.

 

Winters recreation of Poe's style didn't just stop at the poetry, no. The entire novel reads in the same vein as Edgar's stories. She nailed writing a Gothic novel (this coming from a reader who has rarely ever cared much for the genre)! THE RAVEN'S TALE is classically Gothic but remains palatable to a broader audience. One needs not to be well versed in the genre to understand, enjoy and appreciate all that Winters achieves here. Winters made THE RAVEN'S TALE exceptionally accessible, regardless of a reader's prior knowledge, without making the book and its themes feel overtly watered down.

 

When Edgar and his Lenore collaborate on his poems, the intensity of the moment is beyond my description. Any good piece of writing has a pulse, sometimes barely palpable, but present nonetheless. Winters makes absolutely everything fall into rhythm. A steadily increasing boom, Boom, BOom, BOOm, BOOM. Reading these portions, in particular, left me feeling as if a bead of sweat were about to drip from my brow and we were just one misspoken word away from J.K. Simmons jumping from the page and shouting "That's not my tempo!".  How Winters made the silent and solitary act of writing into such a visceral play that unfolds before ones very eyes has left me in awe. These particular scenes are an orchestra and Winters is the best-damned maestro in the business.

 

Much like an avian, I think THE RAVEN'S TALE often had to swoop and rest so that it could then soar to heights Icarus could only wish to reach.

 

That is to say, it at times felt stagnant, and sometimes even bordered on boring (Though, I'd clarify it as "boring" for a Winters novel, which still means it's leagues above what generally constitutes the word). The time where Poe and Lenore are separated from one another felt lacking. There wasn't much to drive the story at those times; it felt more so like a recounting of Poe's actual life. That's well and good, I can and did enjoy that by itself. But, after getting a taste of what Lenore and Poe could do together --- heck, what Lenore could do in general, I was insatiable for those moments of collaboration; for Lenore and her wicked lyricism. When Poe and his Muse unite, it's electrifying. Apart? It's the air just before a powerful storm; one can feel what is to come and it's invigorating, but the prolonged anticipation becomes a bit of a drag.

 

That being said, finishing THE RAVEN'S TALE left me feverish, frothing, frenzied to create and consume art in all its beautiful forms. It fed me and made me long for more, more, more. And isn't that just exactly what truly great art should do? Crack you open, tear you to pieces, leave you ravenous for more? Check, check, check.

Reviewed by Olivia Will on April 17, 2019

The Raven's Tale
by Cat Winters