I’m a specter-loving Salem girl with a love of American Lit, so it should surprise precisely no one that I adore Edgar Allen Poe…which was one of the reasons I was so eager to get my hands on The Raven’s Tale by Cat Winters, out from Amulet Books in April 2019.
The Raven’s Tale is a Young Adult Historical Fiction infused with a fun speculative streak that takes the narrative to interesting and unexpected places. The tale begins in Poe’s hometown of Richmond, Virginia, circa 1826, where a 17-year-old Edgar prepares to leave his adoptive family and his sweetheart to attend university. Edgar’s already earned some local acclaim with his work–some positive, some not so much–but when his father demands he give up writing before leaving for university, Edgar faces a choice: turn his back on the muse, or risk losing his father’s financial support, and with it, his education.
To make things worse, Edgar’s muse has taken on a life of her own. The muse, a compellingly gruesome thing who calls herself Lenore, terrorizes all she comes into contact with. Edgar must learn to control his muse while at the same time keeping her from John Allan, lest he lose his university ticket.
When Edgar does arrive at university, however, controlling Lenore is only the start of his troubles. John Allan has left him at the university with only a third of the money required for his tuition, and Edgar is forced to take on debt he knows he can’t repay. His sweetheart, to whom he’s made a secret engagement, won’t return his letters. Lenore’s demands begin to increase as she insists he devote himself to the macabre… around the same time a second muse with a bent for satire threatens to tear them apart.
It is, fittingly, a strange little tale that will surprise as much as it delights. I enjoyed the author’s take on creativity and the muse, and the battle that often rages inside creative souls. Winters also draws on her considerable experience as a historical writer to create a vivid and satisfying portrait of the early nineteenth century that aptly straddles both sides of the economic divide. Readers who enjoy historical as well as the macabre will want to get their hands on The Raven’s Tale.
*Thank you to Amulet Books and Edelweiss, who provided an advanced reader copy in exchange for an impartial review.*