His Hideous Heart edited by Dahlia Adler
My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes
Date Published: September 10th, 2019
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Pages: 480 pages
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository
Synopsis: “The Cask of Amontillado”. “The Tell-Tale Heart”. “The Pit and the Pendulum”. Filled with love and loss, vengeance and regret, the dark, chilling stories of Edgar Allen Poe have haunted us for over 150 years. Now, thirteen of YAs most celebrated writers reimagine Poe’s stories for a new generation.
These contemporary retellings will grab readers by the throat and drag them along to surprising and unsettling places, whether they are Poe aficionados or new newcomers to these classics. Tiffany D. Jackson, award-winning author of Monday’s Not Coming, transports “The Cask of Amontillado” to the streets of Brooklyn during the present day West Indian Day Carnival in Brooklyn. Poet amanda lovelace finds new meaning in the classic poem “The Raven” by blotting out words from the original lines. And Kendare Blake, New York Times bestselling author of the Three Dark Crowns series, gives the unreliable voice narrating “Metzengerstein” a contemporary edge.
With the original stories printed in the back of the book, HIS HIDEOUS HEART offers up a fun way to meet Poe for the first time, or for readers to revisit old favorites with fresh eyes. His work reminds us why we love to be scared, whether we get that thrill from watching the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, visiting a haunted house at Halloween, or by reading Poe’s spine-tingling stories.
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*
“Once upon a midnight dreary,
I received a review query,
About this very quaint and curious volume of Poe’s retold lore…”
First off, I have to start by saying I was incredibly tempted to write this entire review as a poem in the style of “The Raven” but, unfortunately (…or perhaps fortunately), I think that far exceeds my creative writing talents.
I know I am pointing out the obvious at this point, but this is a collection of thirteen YA authors’ contemporary retellings of some of Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous works. The authors have taken these chilling stories and reimagined them for a new generation of readers. These modernized versions are hauntingly unique yet still retain much of Poe’s signature tone and style while paying homage to the beloved originals. Thrills and chills, love, heartbreak, and revenge can all be found within these pages, forming a collection that further immortalizes these classic tales.
As a lover of all things dark and creepy, I immediately fell in love with Edgar Allan Poe’s work when we first studied him back in middle school. So when I heard about this collection, I absolutely had to give it a read—and I was not disappointed. As with any anthology with multiple authors, you’re going to have some hits and some misses. However, I found that the focus here on Poe retellings helped to unify the stories quite a lot more than other short story collections I have read. Each story possesses the vividly eerie, peculiar, longing, and vengeful qualities found in the originals and stays very faithful to Poe’s visions for them.
My favorite stories from the collection were:
Night-Tide by Tessa Gratton
Lygia by Dahlia Adler
The Oval Filter by Lamar Giles
A Drop of Stolen Ink by Emily Lloyd-Jones
The Glittering Death by Caleb Roehrig
The Fall of the Bank of Usher by Fran Wilde
Now, I’ll go into some specifics about each of the individual stories and my thoughts on them.
She Rode a Horse of Fire by Kendare Blake (3.5/5)
Inspired by “Metzengerstein”
In this story, we follow a girl who works in a mansion. The young master of the estate, Friedrich Baron, loses his most recent girlfriend in a fire on his property. It turns out that she was the daughter of another wealthy family who has a centuries-long feud with Friedrich’s. Then, out of nowhere one day, a young woman appears and Friedrich begins to spend all his time with her. And, somehow, this young woman has a striking resemblance to a figure in a mysterious tapestry found in the Baron estate. Though it was an interesting story, it just felt like it needed something more. I would have liked a little more clarity about who the characters are—particularly the main character—and what their relationships to each other were. The way the story is told, it makes it seem necessary to have a few more of those details. Other than that, it is a splendid update of the original story—very faithful to all the elements of the plot with a more modern twist to them!
It’s Carnival! by Tiffany D. Jackson (3/5)
Inspired by “The Cask of Amontillado”
In this story, a girl named Cindy plans to get her revenge on a man named Darrell using Brooklyn’s West Indian Day Carnival to cover her tracks. It is clear that Darrel has been harassing her and her family relentlessly for years, though not much detail is given. The Cask of Amontillado is one of my favorite Poe tales and I felt that this was a pretty accurate depiction of the general idea of the story. It unfolds in much the same way as the original and that holding back of details is similar to how Poe tells his version. I think my only real issue was that I couldn’t quite get into Jackson’s writing style. It just didn’t click with me and I felt like there was a little something missing, but overall, it is an accurate retelling.
Night-Tide by Tessa Gratton (5/5)
Inspired by “Annabel Lee”
Gratton transforms this classic poem into a short story about lost lovers. A young lady tells of a girl she loves who has tragically fallen ill and passed away. The narrator mourns her Annabel Lee, reminisces of better times, and feels anger at the intolerant whispers of the locals in this beach town. This was my favorite story in the whole collection—I absolutely adored it. It is both beautiful and utterly heartbreaking and is such a brilliant take on the original poem. Gratton did an amazing job of capturing those feelings of loss and longing that emanate from Poe’s writing. A wholly unique and imaginative retelling!
The Glittering Death by Caleb Roehrig (4.25/5)
Inspired by “The Pit and the Pendulum”
In this story, a young girl is captured by an infamous serial killer named “The Judge”. He is going to kill her because he believes she has committed many sins and he wants her to confess them before her time comes. While trapped in a cage in his basement, she realizes she will have to determine how to beat him at his own game if she wants to get out alive. This is just begging to be turned into a full-length psychological thriller novel! The one thing I felt it was lacking was a bit more backstory for the main character. There were a number of plot points, specifically about her relationships with a couple other characters, that were only vaguely touched on. The fact that these plot points were brought up in the first place made some more detail necessary in order to fully develop the story.
A Drop of Stolen Ink by Emily Lloyd-Jones (4.5/5)
Inspired by “The Purloined Letter”
In this story, society has reached a point where our entire identities are written in a tattoo on our bodies that can be scanned whenever our details are needed. This makes it nearly impossible for a person’s identity to be stolen. However, that very thing has happened, and it is up to our main character to find the missing tattoo. Classic mystery/thriller style plot meets futuristic tech? Sign me up! I absolutely loved this story—it was definitely my kind of thing. Once again, this is another story that I would absolutely love seeing turned into a full novel!
Happy Days, Sweetheart by Stephanie Kuehn (2/5)
Inspired by “The Tell-Tale Heart”
In this story, we follow a girl who is dealing with a lot of pressure from herself to be the best but is struggling with being a minority in her school. She continuously loses out to a rich, white boy who does not put the same effort into things as she does. As the end of senior year approaches, she will do anything to become valedictorian. The Tell-Tale Heart is another one of my favorite Poe stories. However, I ended up not really liking this retelling. I do think it was very accurate and featured many of the important plot elements from the original. And, while I definitely understand the message Kuehn is trying to convey, I feel that this particular story is just not the right one to use in order to do that. I wasn’t entirely sure how to feel about this one.
The Raven (Remix) by Amanda Lovelace (N/A)
Inspired by “The Raven”
This is a blackout poetry version of “The Raven” (one of my favorite poems of all time). Essentially, Lovelace takes the original poem and blacks out portions of the text in order to reveal a new poem that she has created from Poe’s words. Unfortunately, there was an error here with the digital ARC and nothing was blacked out, so I cannot give a rating or review on this one. However, I absolutely love Amanda Lovelace and her poetry is always so beautiful and creative. I am certain I will enjoy reading this when the collection officially releases.
Changeling by Marieke Nijkamp (4/5)
Inspired by “Hop-Frog”
In this story, the children in society who are deemed “crippled” are either being treated unfairly or just left to fend for themselves. There is a tale of the fae coming to gather these children and bring them to a better life that many of them are hopeful is true. We follow a character who was once found and taken in by the fae and who now does the same for others—while also aiding them if they wish to take revenge on those who have wronged them. This one felt like a dark fairytale and I loved that. It was definitely an interesting and unique take on the original story.
The Oval Filter by Lamar Giles (5/5)
Inspired by “The Oval Portrait”
This is the story of a guy named Tariq whose girlfriend has recently been murdered. Suddenly, she is haunting his Instagram feed, her constantly changing image in the oval profile picture helping lead Tariq to discover who has killed her. I had not read The Oval Portrait prior to this but I ended up absolutely loving both versions. Giles definitely captures the highly unsettling nature of the original work using our modern-day portraits—profile pictures. The changing image in the oval filter is described so vividly and the way it is used is truly creepy. Giles did a fantastic job of setting a clear and intense tone and atmosphere in a short amount of time.
Red by Hillary Monahan (2/5)
Inspired by “The Masque of the Red Death”
Despite being familiar with and having studied The Masque of the Red Death, I was honestly quite confused by this story. I couldn’t really figure out what was happening. We follow this mysterious girl with red hair and it is clear that she is some sort of otherworldly being out for revenge. But that’s about all I figured out. There are many references to names used within the original story, such as the bar the girl ends up at having the same name and distinct internal color scheme as the home where the guests are hiding from the plague in Poe’s version. The ending produces the same result as the original text. However, I could not figure out why anything was happening or anything about the girl and what exactly she is. I do have to give Monahan credit for making such a fascinatingly atmosphere setting, though.
Lygia by Dahlia Adler (5/5)
Inspired by “Ligeia”
In this story, our main character loses the girl she is deeply in love with to cancer. Then one day at school, she passes Lygia’s locker only to see a new girl who is somewhat reminiscent of Lygia—reminiscent enough that the narrator begins to do everything she can to make her the spitting image of Lygia. This is exactly the type of story that I love and I desperately wish this was a full-length novel. And that ending! I totally want to hear more of this story. I read the original “Ligeia” alongside this one as I had not read it before and felt that it was a very unique yet accurate retelling.
The Fall of the Bank of Usher by Fran Wilde (4/5)
Inspired by “The Fall of the House of Usher”
Here, we follow twins who, together, are the hacker phenom “Madrik”. They receive an email inviting them to a bank in need of their skills to test their new security system. Once the twins arrive, however, it is clear that something much more sinister is at play. The sci-fi/hacker story nerd in me was very pleased with this one. The only “complaint” I had was that I wish this had been longer. There were so many fascinating pieces of technology I wanted more details on, and I would have loved to hear more of the twins’ backstory. Nevertheless, I thought this was an absolutely brilliant modernization of the original tale. Taking the creepy and inexplicable things that ensnare the house in the original story and transforming them into things like biotech and robotics was so great!
The Murders in the Rue Apartelle, Boracay by Rin Chupeco (3/5)
Inspired by “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”
In this story, we follow a transgender girl as she falls in love with a man who takes her on a wild journey. She marvels at his attention to detail and remarkable powers of deduction. After spending days together exploring the area, they find out that a double murder has taken place and they are swept up into the investigation. This kind of had some Sherlock Holmes vibes, which I liked. It was an interesting story, but I never felt like I was all that invested in it or the characters. I think part of it was the writing style. I have read and enjoyed Rin Chupeco’s work in the past, but have also found her writing style a bit difficult to get in to. It was a very faithful retelling of the original, however, with a neat, fantastical twist!
Overall, I had a really great time reading this. I definitely very highly recommend giving this collection a go if you are a fan of Edgar Allan Poe or any of these wonderful YA authors!
Dahlia Adler is an Associate Editor of mathematics by day, a blogger for B&N Teens, LGBTQ Reads, and Frolic by night, and an author of Young Adult and New Adult novels at every spare moment in between. Her books include the Daylight Falls duology, Just Visiting, and the Radleigh University trilogy, and her short stories can be found in the anthologies The Radical Element, All Out, It’s a Whole Spiel, and His Hideous Heart, which she also edited. Dahlia lives in New York with her husband, son, and an obscene amount of books, and can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @MissDahlELama.
Tiffany D. Jackson