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His Hideous Heart by Dahlia Adler: A POE-etic Review of 13 Genre-Bending Tales

His Hideous Heart by Dahlia Adler: A POE-etic Review of 13 Genre-Bending TalesHis Hideous Heart by Dahlia Adler, Kendare Blake, Rin Chupeco, Lamar Giles, Tessa Gratton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Stephanie Kuehn, Amanda Lovelace, Marieke Nijkamp, Emily Lloyd-Jones, Hillary Monahan, Caleb Roehrig, Fran Wilde
Genres: Horror, Fantasy, Poetry
Pages: 480
Published by Flatiron Books on September 10, 2019
ISBN: 1250302773

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”).

Edgar Allan Poe might be ‘nevermore’ , but his deliciously horrific tales continue to hold our hearts hostage over a 150 after his death. And why wouldn’t they? From Tell-Tale Heart to A Cask of Amontillado, his stories contain themes that are still relevant today: Loss and love. Life and death. Mankind — and its many demons. And all manner of strange afflictions that twist around the mind like a beautiful poison. For some people, the grotesque and horrific nature of his tales might be a turn off, but I loved that about his work. I love his confrontation of the darkness that lies within the very hearts we rely on, no matter how unfathomably hideous.

And that’s why I was STOKED to get my talons on His Hideous Heart.

Disclaimer: Thank you so much to Flatiron Books for an ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and thoughts are entirely my own.

Thirteen Thrilling Tales Re-imagined

A GIF of The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe

An overview of the book: His Hideous Heart is an anthology collection of 13 re-imagined tales inspired by works of Edgar Allan Poe. The book is split into two sections: The Tales Retold and The Original Tales. What I liked about the layout of this collection is that it’s easy for those of us who’ve read the originals to revisit them before or after reading the retold stories — and it’s also convenient for readers who’ve never been introduced to Poe before. When it comes to retellings in any form, catching on to the fact that a story was inspired by another can be a challenge, especially if the inspiration is rather loose. But that’s another reason why I love the layout of this collection: It’s clear as to which original story inspired a retelling, and I loved reading along, connecting the dots and yet, being surprised by all the new twists and turns.

In a perfect world, I’d love to review each and every retelling in this collection, because many of them were downright gorgeous and grotesque. But I’ll spare you (today) and only cover my absolute favorite retellings from His Hideous Heart.

The Glittering Death by Caleb Roehrig
(inspired by “The Pit and the Pendulum”)

” I was sick—sick unto death with that long agony.” 

Narrator, The Pit and the Pendulum

The most striking element of the original tale of The Pit and the Pendulum was the atmosphere of tension and terror. I remember reading the story as a child and clutching the book, my own heart pounding as I imagined the worst that had yet to come to the narrator of the story. The mind is relentless with its skills of imagining the worst. His horrors were mine; his inescapable fate caught my breath and held it, painfully, between two lungs.

And that’s how I felt reading The Glittering Death.

Roehrig weaves that foreboding atmosphere into the story, breathing life into new terrors and setting teeth on edge. But perhaps what I enjoyed most that he made this retelling into a story of his own. The Glittering Death centers around The Judge, a notorious serial killer on the hunt for girls who commit the Seven Deadly Sins. It’s The Judge’s stalking of sinners and gruesome, ritualistic torture that really brings a uniqueness to this story without abandoning the religious roots of the original tale. And it truly explores the twisted mind of a man gone mad in a modern world.

It’s Carnival! by Tiffany D. Jackson
(inspired by “The Cask of Amontillado”)

Nothing is more bitter than an insult by the hand of a friend, or sweeter than getting revenge for it. Of course, I wouldn’t encouraging bricking said friend into a wall…but we all manage our rage in our own way. Though similar in plot to the original tale, It’s Carnival is proof hell hath no fury like a woman scorned….

I absolutely loved this particular story, and not just because the original happens to be a favorite of mine (okay…maybe a little). What I enjoyed about It’s Carnival was the voice of Cindy. The girl doesn’t play around, and from the get-go, we know she’s gunning to make Darrell pay for ‘disrespectful ribbing’ or, as I like to call them, ‘sexist digs’. Outside of setting, the biggest differences seem to be the two main characters, Cindy and Darrel, and the bad blood that festers between them. I kind of liked how heartless Cindy was — how beyond apologies and cares she seemed to be. She was outside the realm of rationality, well-beyond reason for her actions, but that’s why I loved it; even in this absurd moment of revenge — of raging oblivion — she was both the human…and the monster.

Happy Days, Sweetheart by Stephanie Kuehn
(inspired by “The Tell-Tale Heart”)

“Villains!” I shrieked, “dissemble no more! I admit the deed!—tear up the planks! here, here!—It is the beating of his hideous heart!”

Narrator, The Tell-Tale Heart

The Tell-Tale Heart was the first story of Poe’s I’d ever read, and I’ve always found my way back to this dark corner of eyeballs and floorboards. Happy Days, Sweetheart captured all the grittiness of the original, embracing the darkest of atmospheres and twisted corridors of an ill-turned mind.

Because of the richness of the story and the captivating narrator, the pacing felt perfect. I was hooked from the very first line to the very last, turning each page with a sense of anticipation. I loved that the narrator is a cut-throat overachieving student. One only has to be a competitive nerd *cough* to know that neurosis runs high among the top smarties of the class. We all want to be perfect. We all want to reach every goal. We deserve it, damn it. We deserve to be top dog.

But there can only ever be one top dog.

I loved how Kuehn took this seemingly harmless desire, and showed how good intentions, if led to the extreme, can become a lethal poison.

 Lygia by Dahlia Adler (inspired by “Ligeia”)

To be honest, I’ve never actually read the original tale, Ligeia. So going into this retelling was an entirely new experience for me on multiple fronts. I adored the opening of Lygia by Adler. It felt personal, like a diary or a letter. There was intimacy and confessions, the kind of words passed between the closest of friends or lovers. I like POVs like this because it draws me in emotionally. Though I haven’t read many f/f romances, I particularly enjoyed this one because of the emotionally intimacy of it, the intrigue of how distant the closeness seemed to be between these two women, and the rich, Gothic themes woven throughout.

“Memories of you now, though . . . those come unbidden nightly, daily, hourly. They come whether I call them or not, but they are never entirely unwelcome, nor are they ever entirely gone.”

Narrator, Lygia by Adler

Let me stress my love for thee: Lygia was gorgeously Gothic. It felt as though Lygia herself haunted each line, each moment the narrator coveted, but had become no more than a faint memory in the present world. Truthfully, it was poetic, filled with life and death. Love and loss. Desire and decay. And, when placed within a modern setting, took on a unique life of its own…at odds with what we would consider “normal” today. But I loved that estranging effect, that reminder of the closeness between life and death.

It truly made Lygia one of my favorite discoveries this year.

Overall, the anthology will definitely appeal to a modern audience, and to readers who are unfamiliar with Poe’s original tales. There’s diversity upon every page, from characters of color to LGBT+ representation.

But perhaps what I loved the most was that the stories themselves aren’t confined to the horror genre, often weaving a mix of sci-fi, horror, suspense, and fantasy throughout the collection. It truly felt like I was reading the same stories….for the first time. Does that even make sense?

The Verdict

Is it Worthy of Valhalla?
The Characters
The world
The plot
The feels
The cover

Credit: Maggie Hall

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.

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”).

You can find His Hideous Heart by Dahlia Adler is available at:

MacmillanB&N | IndieBound | Book Depository

What’s your favorite Edgar Allan Poe story? I’d love to hear all about it!

About Ari Augustine

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