One of my favorite seasonal classics has always been Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. I love the original text, and I love the countless adaptations and retellings (with a special place in my heart for the animated Disney version, in particular). So when I heard about The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel by Alyssa Palombo, I knew immediately that I wanted to dive in. I am happy to report that this book does not disappoint.
When Ichabod Crane arrives in the spooky little village of Sleepy Hollow as the new schoolmaster, Katrina Van Tassel is instantly drawn to him. Through their shared love of books and music, they form a friendship that quickly develops into romance. Ichabod knows that as an itinerant schoolteacher of little social standing, he has nothing to offer the wealthy Katrina – unlike her childhood friend-turned-enemy, Brom Van Brunt, who is the suitor Katrina’s father favors.
But when romance gives way to passion, Ichabod and Katrina embark on a secret love affair, sneaking away into the woods after dark to be together – all while praying they do not catch sight of Sleepy Hollow’s legendary Headless Horseman. That is, until All Hallows’s Eve, when Ichabod suddenly disappears, leaving Katrina alone and in a perilous position.
Enlisting the help of her friend – and rumored witch – Charlotte Jansen, Katrina seeks the truth of Ichabod Crane’s disappearance, investigating the forest around Sleepy Hollow using unconventional – often magical – means. What they find forces Katrina to question everything she once knew, and to wonder if the Headless Horseman is perhaps more than just a story after all. In Alyssa Palombo’s The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel nothing is as it seems, and love is a thing even death won’t erase.
In Palombo’s version, Sleepy Hollow gets a fiercely feminist twist — with both Katrina and Ichabod showing more progressive leanings. I loved their passion and their hope for their young country. And of course, I swooned for their love story — and my heart broke when Ichabod disappeared (even though I literally knew it was coming).
Katrina’s version of this story is lush, complex, and filled with both love and one young woman’s willingness to do whatever it takes to survive and protect that which she holds most dear. The romance between Katrina and Ichabod is palpable. It seems to progress quickly, but naturally, and you ache for their desire to be together.
The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel is also — as the title would suggest — laced with atmospheric tension, and hints of magic. It’s moody and fantastical, and especially perfect for reading in the lead-up to Halloween. That said, the magic and mysticism is not in your face. It reads more like historical fiction than fantasy, and the existence of the infamous Headless Horseman remains a mystery for most of the book — though his presence is keenly felt throughout the entire novel.
Full of lush romance and haunting atmosphere, The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel is a dark, sexy retelling of an American classic; look for it in stores now.
? FULL DISCLOSURE: Hey kids, this isn’t YA. Some mature sexual content can be found within these pages.