Take A Peek Book Review: The Raven’s Tale by Cat Winters

“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought.

 

Synopsis:

(via Goodreads)

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!”

My Thoughts:

In The Raven’s Tale, muses are considered dangerous to the soul, yet at the same time, they’re acknowledged to exist. The Sunday sermon exhorts the congregation to “Silence your muses!” lest they lead you into temptation and keep you from pursuing an honest, hardworking, upright life. Such is the world in which we meet young Edgar Allan Poe, a 17-year-old devoted to poetry whose foster father wants to see him settled in the family business as a clerk. It’s all about respectability!

Poor Eddy! He’s consumed by thoughts of a deadly Richmond theater fire from eleven years earlier, and from his obsession with the fire, his muse emerges into life. His attention makes her more and more real, a girl of smoke and ashes who assumes human form and accompanies Edgar through the streets and in his home, leading him to greater and greater devotion to his writing. Edgar’s goal is to escape his awful father and begin his university studies, where he hopes to achieve greatness through his poetry — but the dream is on the verge of slipping away as his financial situation becomes dire and he’s forced into debt and out of control gambling in a futile attempt to pay for his fees.

The idea of personification of muses is an interesting one (and there’s also a secondary muse, who represents Poe’s forays into satire). We see how Edgar becomes consumed by his obsessions with his art, and if we didn’t know that his friends and family are all able to see his muses as well, we might think he’d tumbled into madness.

The concept is unique and inventive. The author weaves together her extensive research into Poe’s youth with her flights of fancy in his interactions with the muse. Sprinkled throughout are both lines from what will become his published work and other rhymes and verses that are written by Cat Winters in the style of Edgar Allan Poe. It’s fun to see the use of his style, and seems credible that his great works could have started in bits and pieces, with all sorts of variations, as they do here.

Overall, I thought The Raven’s Tale mostly (but not totally) successful. It’s an interesting and engaging read, but the reality of the muses was not entirely believable. I’m not sure that the balance between established history and invented fantasy really works well, but as someone not previously familiar with Poe’s early years, I found the parts based on real-life events especially interesting.

The writing takes on all sorts of rhythms and moods that feel true to the Poe of popular imagination, and that makes reading The Raven’s Tale a treat (despite some of the plot bumps).

Whenever I’m not writing, time trudges forward with the maddening, mortifying, miserable, morose, moribund pace of a funeral procession.

Don’t you just love that line?

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The details:

Title: The Raven’s Tale
Author: Cat Winters
Publisher: Amulet Books
Publication date: April 16, 2019
Length: 368 pages
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Purchased

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Shelf Control #98: Circling the Sun

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

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Title: Circling the Sun
Author: Paula McLain
Published: 2015
Length: 366 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

Brought to Kenya from England as a child and then abandoned by her mother, Beryl is raised by both her father and the native Kipsigis tribe who share his estate. Her unconventional upbringing transforms Beryl into a bold young woman with a fierce love of all things wild and an inherent understanding of nature’s delicate balance. But even the wild child must grow up, and when everything Beryl knows and trusts dissolves, she is catapulted into a string of disastrous relationships.

Beryl forges her own path as a horse trainer, and her uncommon style attracts the eye of the Happy Valley set, a decadent, bohemian community of European expats who also live and love by their own set of rules. But it’s the ruggedly charismatic Denys Finch Hatton who ultimately helps Beryl navigate the uncharted territory of her own heart. The intensity of their love reveals Beryl’s truest self and her fate: to fly.

How and when I got it:

I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway back in 2015 — and I swear, I so appreciate it and was super excited to win and absolutely planned to read it right away… and then I just didn’t. I’m sorry, Goodreads! Please forgive me!

Why I want to read it:

The synopsis doesn’t make this entirely clear, but Circling the Sun is biographical fiction about the life of the great Beryl Markham. My book group read her beautiful memoir West With the Night earlier this year, which inspired me even further to finally read this novel. I really will try to make a point of getting to it in early 2018!

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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments!
  • If you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

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