Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Raven's Tale by Cat Winters {review}

The Raven's Tale
by Cat Winters
♦publisher: Amulet Books
♦release date: April 16, 2019
♦hardcover, 368 pages
♦intended audience: Young adult
♦stand-alone, historical fantasy
♦source: arc from publisher for honest review
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 review}
This was spectacular! Just beautiful and moody and dark and perfect. Granted, Cat Winters was already of favorite of mine, and her taking on the early life of Edgar Allen Poe was nothing short of a dream pairing for me---but this still blew me away. Winters has so perfectly captured what I would imagine Poe being like as a teen.The fictional story she has lovingly intertwined with what is obviously hours upon hours of detailed historical research culminates into a wonderfully rich, eerie, and heart-wrenching fantasy. I took my time with this one, savored every beautiful word and just enjoyed every moment.

As with many of Cat Winters works, I feel that this book won't be for everyone. It's not fast-paced or action packed, and it certainly isn't lacking in it's peculiarity. I felt completely immersed in Poe's world..his troubled home life, his hopeful romance, his triumphs and failures at school.  As an enchantingly dark and bizarre twist, Poe's muse becomes a physical being with needs and emotions and hopes. Lenore is a shining character, even in her grotesqueness, and all she wants is to be seen and acknowledged and made whole. The story manages to have almost no actual romance but still be completely romantic.
Those new to Poe's work will hopefully get a taste enough that they're left with the desire to seek out more. And fans of Poe are sure to adore every easter egg of his many works, every insight to his dark genius, every carefully Poe-stylized phrase, and (my personal favorite moments) the imaginative take on his creative process, with him wildly spinning tales and gushing out poetry line by painstaking line, with Lenore at this side setting his mind ablaze with dark images. This whole story was such a cool concept and I absolutely loved it!

{About The Author}

Cat Winters is an award-winning, critically acclaimed author of fiction that blends history with the supernatural. Her young adult works include IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS, THE CURE FOR DREAMING, THE STEEP AND THORNY WAY, ODD & TRUE, and a forthcoming novel about Edgar Allan Poe's teen years, THE RAVEN'S TALE (available April 16, 2019). She is also the author of two adult novels, THE UNINVITED and YESTERNIGHT. She has been named a Morris Award finalist, a Bram Stoker Award nominee, and an Oregon Spirit Book Award winner, and her books have appeared on numerous state and "best of" lists.

Winters was born and raised in Southern California, just a short drive down the freeway from Disneyland, which may explain her love of haunted mansions, bygone eras, and fantasylands. She currently lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and two kids.

Purchase the book:  Indiebound  •  BookDepository  •  Amazon 


Tuesday, April 2, 2019

We Rule the Night by Claire Eliza Bartlett {book birthday review & interview!}

Dear Readers---listen up!!
Today a fantastic debut hits the shelves,
full of fierce flying, historical influence,
powerful magic, and a hefty dose of girl power!!
Happy Birthday to

Seventeen-year-old Revna is a factory worker, manufacturing war machines for the Union of the North. When she’s caught using illegal magic, she fears being branded a traitor and imprisoned. Meanwhile, on the front lines, Linné defied her father, a Union general, and disguised herself as a boy to join the army. They’re both offered a reprieve from punishment if they use their magic in a special women’s military flight unit and undertake terrifying, deadly missions under cover of darkness. Revna and Linné can hardly stand to be in the same cockpit, but if they can’t fly together, and if they can’t find a way to fly well, the enemy’s superior firepower will destroy them–if they don’t destroy each other first.

We Rule the Night is a powerful story about sacrifice, complicated friendships, and survival despite impossible odds.

  First a quick mini-review:
I really enjoyed this one, from the moment we meet Revna and Linné, we know we are going to be in for an interesting friendship. They are so different, and so fierce and complicated each in their own way. When they are both brought on to a secret military force of young women who have shown the needed skills to mount a surprise attack on the enemy using a magical force called The Thread, their two worlds are thrown together and they find themselves with their lives in each others hands. Their friendship is a rocky one and hard won, but it's quite the adventurous ride getting there. The legacy of the Night Witches heavily inspires this story of feminine strength and determination, what hardships and mistreatment these women who put their lives on the line just as much as any of the male soldiers endured and it is just as inspiring as it is frustrating to imagine how that felt. The worldbuilding and magical system are so creative, vivid descriptions of the aircrafts give this a slightly steampunk feel, and the family conflict and realistic interactions of a group of young women from many different backgrounds all being thrown together all felt genuine.  A wonderful debut and one I highly recommend!

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I was honored to be able to ask Claire Eliza Bartlett a few things about her amazing book:

•Linné and Revna--wildly different personalities. Both great characters. Do you feel you're most like Linne or Revna?

I am more like Revna. Practically thinking, second-guessing myself, not too intent on rocking the boat - at least, not the way Linné does it! Though Linné's sarcasm is allll me.

We Rule the Night has lots of beautiful steampunk fantasy elements, but is also very grounded in history. What most drew you to tell a story inspired by the WWII Night Witches?
After learning about the Night Witches in a rather roundabout fashion involving a power metal song, what drew me most to their story was this sense of strength in the face of unrelenting tribulations. The Night Witches faced certain death every time they got in their planes - and when they got out of their planes, they were often met with sexism and derision from their own side. Some of the women who flew were even considered traitors, for the simple reason that they'd been shot down and captured or killed in enemy territory. But these women kept going, and they relied on each other to keep going. Something spoke to me about fighting so hard for a country that cares about you so little. And as with much of history, I found a lot of parallels for that feeling today.

Speaking of steampunk fantasy, what was the inspiration for your mechanical dragons, serpents, and other machinery flown in the story?
The machinery is inspired by fantasy and art deco design. Think the swooping lines of a Bugatti. There are a fair few mechanical dragons in fantasy literature, and a big visual aesthetic for mine came from Havemercy by Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett (though the dragons in WRTN are very much machines!). Art deco pins and insects served as a design standpoint for war beetles and palanquins - then I added a dash of tank in there, because it's war time. Pinterest has a lot of great dieselpunk and steampunk spiders, horses and so on, but I had to do a little extra thinking to make them practical additions to the world.
•Every character held such distinct threads of the story, was there any character that was especially hard to write? Any that was your favorite to write?
Probably the hardest was Revna, which makes sense to me. She's my main main character, at least in my head! Her character arc is also less...explosive than Linné's. The other characters were built up over time, in layers, so it was just a matter of thinking hard enough about them that they felt like individuals, not copies of each other. My favorite character is Magdalena. She hopped into my head pretty much fully formed, and she's been a cheerful presence there since the novel's first draft!

The magical system is such a unique one, a bit like telekinetic energy, but more interwoven into the world...what is one thing you would use it to do in today's world if you could? 
Ooohh, that's a tricky one! If I could use the Weave well, I'd probably use it to give my bicycle a push in the mornings! I ride my bike to work, and Copenhagen can get pretty windy, which is no fun for a lazy girl like myself.

•What is one thing you hope readers take away from Linné and Revna's story?
That sometimes you fight for something, and you lose. But that doesn't mean it wasn't worth fighting for, and it doesn't mean you didn't gain something else in the process. I hope that doesn't sound too dismal. 
Thank you so much Claire, for giving us even more insight into your story!!

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{About The Author}

 Claire Eliza Bartlett grew up in Colorado. She studied history and archaeology and spent time in Switzerland and Wales before settling in Denmark for good. When not at her computer telling mostly fictional stories, she works as a tour guide in Copenhagen, telling stories that are (mostly) true.