His Hideous Heart Reviewed | Ok, But Not My Cup of Tea

Book cover of "His Hideous Heart" edited by Dahlia Adler

His Hideous Heart: 13 of Edgar Allan Poe’s Most Unsettling Tales Reimagined Edited by Dahlia Adler

  • Published September 10th, 2019 by Flatiron Books
  • Tags: Short Stories, Horror, Retellings, Anthologies, Young Adult
  • Pages: 480

| Synopsis from the Publisher |

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 both Edgar Allan Poe’s classic tales, and in the 13 unique and unforgettable ways that they’ve been brought to life.

Contributors include Dahlia Adler (reimagining “Ligeia”), Kendare Blake (“Metzengerstein”), Rin Chupeco (“The Murders in the Rue Morgue”), 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”), amanda lovelace (“The Raven”), 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”).

| Book Review |

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Flatiron Books through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

– Content –

Great Writers Do Not Guarantee Great Anthology -> I have a small problem with anthologies, mainly because there can be a coming-together of really excellent authors, maybe even a few of my favorites, but that doesn’t mean I’ll like the book as a whole. For me, anthologies have always been very hit and miss, and this book is no exception. There were a few standouts for me, in particular, It’s Carnival! by Tiffany D. Jackson, which was a retelling of The Cask of Amontillado and Night-Tide by Tessa Gratton, a retelling of Annabel Lee. But otherwise, I thought most of the stories were pretty forgettable or had too many plot-holes.

Where’s the Creepy? Where’s the Horror? -> When you read and Edgar Allan Poe story, you expect to be creeped out, to be unsettled, to feel spooked, even. But I didn’t really get that with most of these stories. For one thing, a couple of the stories were not what I’d consider Poe’s “most unsettling tales.” Annabel Lee is more tragic, than unsettling, but maybe that’s why I enjoyed that particular retelling more, since I wasn’t feeling all that spooked by this book.

Then, the stories that are some of Poe’s truly unsettling tales are retold in a manner that is…more puzzling, than unsettling? I didn’t find any of the stories to be very creepy or horrific. Perhaps Happy Days, Sweetheart, Kuehn’s retelling of The Tell-Tale Heart, was horrific in that a high-aiming, minority student who’s always losing to a Cis-White Male student decides to murder him by stabbing him in the heart and dumping him in a lake…but otherwise, most of the stories told here were lacking in the mystery, the suspense, and the spookiness that one would expect from a Poe story.

Half-formed or First-Draft Feelings -> I’m sad to say that I felt like most of the stories in this book didn’t seem well put-together. A couple of stories had me scratching my head as to what they were trying to get at, or there were elements within the story that just didn’t have the space to become formed properly. Short stories are tricky – it’s hard putting together the completeness one might feel from reading a full-length novel in the span of only a few pages. This anthology just didn’t quite hit the mark for me.

– Literary Value –

Poe Stories are Timeless -> The one thing that I think is the saving grace of this anthology is that it helps re-introduce Poe stories to a modern generation. Let’s face it, reading stories written ages ago is not for everyone. The language feels out-dated, the events and setting are no longer contemporary therefore they might be harder to relate to.

I appreciate this anthology for harnessing the power and timelessness of Poe’s stories in new stories by authors that are contemporary, because it is a bridge that can bring readers who enjoy these stories back to their inspirational creator. I think Poe is one of America’s most talented authors to-date and I really hope that this anthology can get new readers excited in Poe.

Anthologies are Hard to Review -> I’m not trying to cop out of writing a thorough review here, but it’s difficult to review a book of collected stories. Each author has brought something different to the table. The best I can do is give you a sense of what the overall feel is. I think that the majority of the stories in this compilation are good. Are they exemplary works of fiction? No, not really. I think that they do the job they’re asked to do, they’re mostly well put together, with a few exceptions. I wasn’t blown away by any of the stories here, but only one or two really let me down.

– Entertainment Factor –

Prepare to be…Somewhat Entertained! -> I can’t say that I was fully engrossed in this book at any particular time. I do like reading short stories, but none of the stories in this collection really spoke to me or had me on the edge of my seat. I enjoyed a handful of them, felt meh about a few of them, and there were one or two that I just didn’t enjoy.

Overall, I would say I was mostly entertained, but I was underwhelmed considering how excited I was for the book. I feel like if you head into this book with the bar set medium to low, you’ll be entertained.

– Cover Art –

Book cover of "His Hideous Heart" edited by Dahlia Adler

Dudes, I love this cover. It is so, so aesthetically pleasing to me. I love the blacks, the reds, the blues. I love the way it looks like it was an engraving or block print, and I love the detailing and vine-work around the edges. Mostly, I really dig the fonts. Whoever did the word art is a true artist. I love it so, so much. The fact that they use a heart is so fitting, considering that not only is A Tell-Tale Heart one of Poe’s most famous works, the title, “his hideous heart” is very fitting. All together, it’s a gorgeous cover and I love it more than it’s contents.

| My Rating |

Okay, But Not My Cup of Tea

I wish I didn’t have such high expectations for this book going in, or I might have been less disappointed by it. I love Poe’s work so much, so seeing this anthology come-up I was thrilled at the prospect of reimagined tales. Sadly, I felt like the stories included here were just okay. One or two caught my attention, but overall, the feeling was less disturbing, more mildly spooky. Some of the stories just didn’t feel well put-together.

Would I still recommend this book?

Yes, because -> I think it’s important that Poe’s writing is still being talked about and is being brought to new readers in a contemporary way. If you are a major fan of Poe, like me, just don’t go into this book with the bar set high. Give to those who are looking for an introduction into horror and want to start off with something light.

Thoughts & Thanks

Thank you so much for reading this post. I would love to hear your thoughts on this book if you have read it. If you’re considering reading it, let me know what you think, once you do!

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