Thirteen of YA’s most celebrated names reimagine Edgar Allan Poe’s most surprising, unsettling, and popular tales for a new generation.
Edgar Allan Poe may be a hundred and fifty years beyond this world, but the themes of his beloved works have much in common with modern young adult fiction. Whether the stories are familiar to readers or discovered for the first time, readers will revel in Edgar Allan Poe’s classic tales, and how they’ve been brought to life in 13 unique and unforgettable ways.
Contributors include Kendare Blake (reimagining “Metzengerstein”), Rin Chupeco (“The Murders in the Rue Morge”), Lamar Giles (“The Oval Portrait”), Tessa Gratton (“Annabel Lee”), Tiffany D. Jackson (“The Cask of Amontillado”), Stephanie Kuehn (“The Tell-Tale Heart”), Emily Lloyd-Jones (“The Purloined Letter”), Hillary Monahan (“The Masque of the Red Death”), Marieke Nijkamp (“Hop-Frog”), Caleb Roehrig (“The Pit and the Pendulum”), and Fran Wilde (“The Fall of the House of Usher”).
**** Huge thank you to Flatiron Books for providing me with a copy via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review ****
General Trigger Warnings: Violence, Gore, Murder, & Death
Story specific triggers will be listed with the story below!
I have to say when I first heard about an anthology of contemporary Edgar Allan Poe retellings, I was absolutely pumped! And while there were definitely a few stories in here that I didn’t completely fall in love with there were also a few winners. Some of the stories really dragged on and felt too long and thus it took me a while to finish but the stories I did love really stuck out. Overall I feel like this is a fantastic way to introduce Edgar Allan Poe stories to younger readers and a modern audience in general. It’s always fun to see modernized versions of the classic stories you know and love!
Fun fact: all of the original Poe tales are included in this collection as well so if you have’t read them yet or need a quick brush up, they’re handy! I know I loved reading the originals and comparing them to the retellings while reading.
There’s also quite a bit of diversity in these stories ranging from POC characters, to LGTBQ+ romances, and disabled characters.
I will be reviewing each individual story but for those of you keen to know which were my favorites I’ll just leave them right here….
- She Rode a Horse of Fire by Kendare Black
- It’s Carnival by Tiffany D. Jackson
- The Glittering Death by Caleb Roehrig
- The Murders in the Rue Apartelle, Boracay by Rin Chupeco
She Rode a Horse of Fire by Kendare Blake – ★★★★
I have to say this was a story by Poe I wasn’t completely familiar with but after reading both I have to say this was a very good retelling, keeping close to the original while switching things up a bit. The story is told from the POV of a maid working in a mansion on a lavish estate under the care of a young, wealthy man named Friedrich. After his most recent lover perishes in a fire on the property it’s discovered she was in fact the daughter of another family with whom his has feuded for generations. Friedrich then begins spending time with a strange new woman that suddenly appears, who also happens to look like a woman in a tapestry in the mansion….
As I said the similarities with this retelling and the original were on point! I thought it was a lot of fun drawing comparisons with this one. Although I will say it would have been nice to get a little but “more” from the characters, more insight or more personality.
It’s Carnival by Tiffany D. Jackson – ★★★★
Retold: The Cask of Amantillado
I’m not sure why but this one was just a lot of fun to read, and yes I do realize I just called “murder” fun to read. This story also follows the original quite well but at the same time had its own unique feel. We have a diverse main character named Cindy who is of Caribbean/Barbadian ethnicity and plans to exact her revenge on a boy named Darrel using the cover of the West Indian Day Carnival in Brooklyn to do it. As I already mentioned it follows the original tale very closely so it unfolds much in the same way but I just really enjoyed this modern spin on it and the writing style just pulled me along!
Night Tide by Tessa Gratton – ★★
Retold: Annabel Lee
I really wanted to like this story more but sadly I was left feeling cold and confused. This retells Poe’s poem “Annabel Lee” which is one of my favorites and puts an F/F romance spin on things. This story follows a young girl and her family at resort they always vacation at and how she is excited to see the girl she loves again, however, she soon learns that the girl had fallen gravely ill and passed away. She then reminisces about her time with Annabel Lee.
The writing in this one was very beautiful but I just could not get into it. I felt things were way too vague and left me feeling confused and distant from the story. The characters were bland and I just didn’t feel anything for them. I wanted to feel that longing and sadness present in the poem but found this story to be quite forgettable for me.
The Glittering Death by Caleb Roehrig – ★★★★ (4.5)
Retold: The Pit & the Pendulum
Trigger Warnings: Abduction, Abuse, & Torture
I would like to start off by saying this was one of the more disturbing stories but also one of my favorites because it was so dark and addictive. This one is about a teen girl who is abducted by a serial killer called “The Judge” who is known for taking girls he has deemed “sinners”. He attempts to get her to “confess her sins” before killing her by torturing her.
I loved how clever the MC was but I won’t say too much because I don’t want to spoil it! I would say this one was definitely action-packed and kept me turning pages, I wouldn’t mind reading this as a whole novel to be honest!
A Drop of Stolen Ink by Emily Lloyd-Jones – ★★★ (3.5)
Retold: The Purloined Letter
This story followed the general plot points of the original but definitely gave it its own very unique story which I was really enjoying. It’s futuristic with a very sci-fi feel to it about a girl who needs a new start and is in a precarious position with the government who “hires” her for a mission of sorts. In this world everyone’s identity comes in the form of a tattoo on their body making identity theft nigh impossible. When one of these tattoos is stolen it’s our MC’s job to find it.
I actually really liked the characterization in this one, we actually got backstory and got to know the characters. I also really loved the whole “heist” kind of theme and of course all the sci-fi tech. There’s also a bit of an F/F romance but I think it’s mostly just platonic. The reason I didn’t give this one a full 4 or 5 stars is because the pacing was a bit off and it felt way too long.
Happy Days, Sweetheart by Stephanie Kuehn – ★★★
Retold: The Tell-Tale Heart
This is definitely a pretty unique retelling as the only real connection it has to the original is the “hearing the beating heart” bit in my opinion. This is about a girl who has always tried very hard to the “best” at everything in school, but she ultimately struggles due to her minority status (she is half black and half Mexican). There is a blonde-haired, blue-eyed wealthy white boy that gets all the attention and awards, he’s essentially handed everything. She strikes up a relationship with him but when the end of her senior year comes around she will do anything to be the class valedictorian.
I liked how there was a deeper theme and message revolving around privilege and race in this one and loved Kuehn’s writing style. My only issue with this one was that the ending felt a little lackluster and abrupt.
The Raven (Remix) by Amanda Lovelace – N/A
Retold: The Raven
So I did not realize this right away but apparently the eARC I received was not formatted correctly. This is supposed to be “The Raven” retold by blacking out parts in order to tell another story/poem. However, since I had no way of reading this in it’s proper format I won’t be reviewing or rating it.
Changeling by Marieke Nijkamp – ★★★
Trigger Warnings: Abuse & Ableism
“Hop-Frog” isn’t one of my favorite stories but this retelling was alright, I’m always up for a good revenge story. This is told in a split timeline by one MC, a “before” being rescued by a Fae and an “after”. The Fae come for children that are disfigured or disabled because they are horribly mistreated and give them a choice to come with them to the Unseelie realm and to take revenge on the people that tormented them.
I loved the Fae aspect in this story but overall it was a bit slow and failed to grasp my attention fully.
The Oval Filter by Lamar Giles – ★★ (2.5)
Retold: The Oval Portrait
I have a lot of conflicted feelings about this story, it had really great potential but I felt the ending was….not great. It did follow the original tale in an interesting way and definitely put a modernized spin on it though.
It follows Tariq, a young African American boy nursing a football injury, whose girlfriend is haunting him through an oval-shaped filter on Instagram in order to have him find who killed her. It started off pretty creepy but after a while it lost that bit of flair. And that ending? What? It made zero sense to me and was very abrupt, it left me feeling pretty unsatisfied overall.
Red by Hillary Monahan – ★★
Retold: The Masque of the Red Death
I really enjoy Hillary Monahan’s stories because they always creep me out and the writing is great. However, I was very disappointed with this story. I liked how it followed a certain path set in the original tale and subtle references were fun to pick out but overall this story was confusing as hell.
It follows a “girl” with red hair walking out through the dark streets of Boston on her way to a club where she seeks out revenge on a man. However, we got zero explanations as to who or what she is (supernatural entity of some kind maybe?) and why she seeks revenge. While this added a certain aura of mystery that I liked, I felt a few things could have been explained in order to enjoy the story more. I was left with a “what?” expression and a completely forgettable story due to my lack of understanding it.
Lygia by Dahlia Adler – ★★
Trigger Warnings: Cancer Related Death & Homophobic Statements
This felt very similar to the story “Night-Tide” which retold “Annabel Lee”, and I understand the stories both deal with lost love and grief but…..it just felt too similar for me. This is about a girl who lost her lover to cancer and finds herself entering into a relationship with a new girl at school. She slowly begins to transform her into the spitting image of her lost love.
It is very similar to the original tale and it’s a good retelling in that sense but it’s just not my cup of tea.
The Fall of the Bank of Usher by Fran Wilde – ★
Retold: The Fall of the House of Usher
Okay. This is my least favorite story in the entire collection and to be perfectly honest I was so bored that I skimmed quite a bit. I didn’t think it was all that creative and I just could have cared less about anything with the story or characters.
It’s about twins who are hired to try and hack an “un-hackable” bank. It’s full of very futuristic tech etc. I just quite caring after that.
The Murders in the Rue Apartelle, Boracay by Rin Chupeco – ★★★★★
Retold: The Murders in the Rue Morgue
I have always loved Rin Chupeco and I was NOT disappointed with this story, definitely my favorite in the whole collection hands down. I loved the inclusion of all the Asian mythology and supernatural creatures, it kept my interest. It also follows the original tale very well too and even with prior knowledge of the original nothing is really spoiled either. I was surprised by the ending and loved how there was some characterization in such a short story too. I wouldn’t mind this being a full length novel!
Overall there were a few stories I found worth the read but there were more misses than hits for me unfortunately. However, I would still recommend this book if you’re a fan of retellings and Edgar Allan Poe, there’s something for every fan here I believe!