We all know I love a retelling, but a Sleepy Hollow retelling shut up and take all my money. I have been a fan of Christina Henry for years, but I was sceptical of this retelling as I love the orginal legend and if it wasn’t due to idiopathic anaphylaxis and Covid I should have been in sleepy hollow for Halloween last year. If it wasn’t for the other Lauren over at Where there’s ink there’s paper I might have left it longer on the to read pile. Well, honestly, I would have been an idiot! This review might be a love letter I’m not even sorry.
For me part of the joy while reading Horseman comes
from the nostalgia of revisiting Sleepy Hollow and its characters it
was an odd sensation of meeting old friends without yourself aging. I will say from
the get-go this isn’t technically a retelling it’s a sequel to The Legend of Sleepy
Hollow by Washington Irving. Our story picks the story up 30 years after the
Headless Horseman chased Ichabod Crane from town or did, he? What happened to
Crane? Is the Horseman still lurking chasing his enemies out of town?
This story introduces us to 14-year-old Ben Van Brunt, grandson of Brom Bones and Katrina Van Tassel. Dumb comment incoming from me so I didn’t know this book had a trans representation in this book and my dear god I am living for it. Ben Van Brunt assigned female at birth declared "No one was ever going to make me be a female.... Once I was old enough, I was going to cut my hair and run away and be a man in some place where no one had ever heard of me.". For someone who is a cis(gender) ally and someone who wholeheartedly supports trans rights I can confidently say for me personally the trans representation in this book is wonderful and not taken advantage of as a plot point like some books have done in recent years.
Ben adores and admires his grandfather more than anything in the world and when he grows up, he wants nothing more than to be the man that Brom is, this is such a beautiful yet heartbreakingly plot point for me Ben is just a perfect character, and it broke me in parts having to listen to how hard he was on himself. One day Ben happens upon a child’s headless body while out playing, and the villagers are forced to question whether the legendary Horseman has returned. This triggers a series of events that are not just heart breaking but soul destroying. I don’t think I’ve cried at a book since I read the final Heroes of Hastovia book. I was screaming at the book and to Ben he is brave, he is strong, and he is worth more than he thinks.
The story is dark and atmospheric and feels like a real Grimm fairy tale, while also brutally gruesome, befitting the genre. Sleepy Hollow itself (the village) acts like its own character it vibrates with a magic that is woven into its very being, a place that accepts the price of living in such a beautiful location is the sporadic horrors, possibility of a demon or two and the occasional loss of children.
The Horseman is a wonderfully dark tale that intwines plot lines about family, love, loss, grief, identity, and acceptance with the myth of the Hollow.