Book Review: Quoth the Raven edited by Lyn Worthen
When I was around ten years old, I came across the story The Pit and the Pendulum by Edgar Allen Poe. That was my introduction to his work, and I loved it. Over the years, I read more of his stories and eventually his poetry and enjoyed it all. He’s in my top ten list of favorite authors, and more than one of his stories would be in my list of favorite short fiction. When I was offered the chance to read and review Quoth the Raven, an anthology of retellings of Poe’s stories by contemporary authors, I responded with a resounding yes.
This anthology features prose and poetry, mostly modern day reworkings of his stories, but some stand out as original ideas written following his style. “The Cellphone,” by R.C. Scandalis, for example. That one is a poem patterned after Poe’s The Raven. While the new poem is a humorous exploration of someone who has become a slave to his smart phone, it follows the rhythm, meter, and rhyming pattern of The Raven. It was inventive and it often made me laugh.
Other works by Poe were heavily mined for this anthology. The Cask of Amontillado, which is my favorite of his stories, is given a contemporary voice in four different tales. My favorite of the retellings of Cask is “The Montresor Method,” by Hugh J. O’Donnell. It was a clever take on the classic tale of revenge that uses a physical copy of Poe’s story as a plot device. O’Donnell did a good job of capturing the feel and essence of Edgar Allen’s voice and I enjoyed reading his story.
My favorite poem by Poe is The Bells, and I was pleased to see that one of the selections used that as a basis for a new work. “The Tones,” by Amber Fallon follows the pattern of The Bells in an exploration of alarms, ringtones, sirens, and other similar sounds heard frequently in today’s world. I liked it almost as much as the original it’s patterned after.
Several other of Poe’s more famous works are retold, including The Masque of the Red Death, The Tell-Tale Heart, The Black Cat, and The Purloined Letter; some appearing more than once. Aside from the works I mentioned already, one that stood out for me is “My Annabel” by Emerian Rich. “My Annabel” is a retelling in prose form of the poem Annabel Lee. I really liked it. Like O’Donnell, Rich did a great job of capturing the feel of Poe’s voice and style, and it read like something he might write today, were he still alive and (spoiler) a fan of George Romero’s work.
I enjoyed reading Quoth the Raven. There were definitely selections that stood out more than others, but for me, there wasn’t a single dud in the book. I would recommend the anthology to anyone who enjoys dark-themed stories. Those who love the work of Edgar Allen Poe will enjoy seeing how the authors translate his tales into contemporary society. However, one doesn’t need to be a fan of Poe to like these stories and poems. Quoth the Raven is a fine collection that any fan of horror fiction should enjoy. It’s available on Amazon both in paperback and for the Kindle. Give it a read; you won’t be disappointed.
Disclaimer: I was provided an electronic copy of the book so that I could read and review it. I received no money for the review, and the opinions stated therein are my own.