The Raven’s Tale, by Cat Winters, is an incredibly intoxicating book. You are transported to the snowy landscape of Richmond, Virginia, to a point where you feel the smoke from their antique fireplaces suffocating you. The setting is impeccable and carefully designed to fit the story, and it’s truly a testament to how much love Winters must have for Edgar Allen Poe and his works. Her characterization of Edgar is careful, sensible, unsettling, yet deeply revealing – almost exactly like his works. His journey throughout the book draws you in; you simply have to find out what happens. The book itself is drawn-out, but that only works to benefit it. It fits the slow-paced and sleepy setting, and how Edgar reacts to his muse that changes his world – shocked, disbelieving – is made even more apparent because of this.
Lenore is a fascinating character (and muse), but I did not enjoy her chapters in the beginning. I thought her petulant, almost child-like, throwing tantrums whenever Edgar would not do exactly as she wanted. The first chapter introduces her as an eerie character that responds whenever Edgar seeks her out, whether or not he wants to. I was expecting him to be addicted to her and what she brought out in him, but the first part of the book is very much the opposite. The idea of Edgar Allen Poe’s muse being anthropomorphized is a fascinating concept and adds an edge to this historical fiction story.
However, as the book went on, their relationship’s development, and how their dynamic was explored, made her grow on me. The implications behind her character, and what she meant for Edgar, left me wondering for days afterward about my own adolescence. It was heartbreaking to read about the struggles Edgar went through, and he found solace within poetry. Winters weaves in various notes and little tidbits of Poe’s poetry that makes the reader appreciate how much thought and care went into every chapter. Although the undertone of this story was dark, and I definitely felt the creepy vibes more than once, this fear drew me in; like Edgar, I, the reader, could not get enough.
In The Raven’s Tale, Cat Winters writes a heady study of Edgar Allen Poe that is thoughtful, entertaining, and inspiring. It is one of the most atmospheric tales I have ever read – I felt absolutely transported to Virginia in the 1800s. Winters’ writing style must also be mentioned; it is vividly descriptive, just on the edge of flowery:
“My soul – so cramped, so sore and weary of entrapment in shadows – longs for unruliness, wildness.”
The drawn-out emotional descriptions serve to bring the reader closer to the characters’ emotions. I’ve never felt more connected to Edgar Allen Poe than I did throughout this book – his struggles with his parents and how he is pulled in two directions: one by his parents and the other by Lenore, who is the embodiment of his individuality. This was more than a story about Poe and his muse; it was a depiction of the choice one must make when out-growing their adolescence. I went in expecting a story about Edgar Allen Poe to be melancholy, emotional, and filled with vivid imagery, and Winters did not let me down.
A copy of The Raven’s Tale was provided by the publisher, Amulet Books, for review.