In one word: Puzzling
It’s been a minute since I picked up a horror book and grabbed this one on a whim at my local library. I mean, check out that gorgeous cover! We apparently aren’t supposed to judge books by them, but this one snagged my attention. I was very intrigued by the premise of a continuation of the Sleepy Hollow mythos, set thirty years after the horseman allegedly ran Ichabod Craine out of town.
Henry starts strong by fitting her story and characters into and around the Sleepy Hollow story, as Ben, the protagonist, is the grandchild of Brom Bones and Katrina. When Ben finds a village child missing a head, accusations are made and fear rises as the villagers wonder if the Headless Horseman has returned, or something else from the woods has risen, or if Ben is somehow to blame? Sounds great, right? Unfortunately, the whole is not equal to the sum of his parts.
There’s a lot I find confusing about this book; a magical system that is left unexplained, a weird pedophile plot angle, and a time jump that is jarring to the story.
A puzzling spoiler (that is revealed a few chapters in) is that Ben insists he is a boy, not a girl, which at first seems like an interesting transgender character is being developed, but the plot point doesn’t really go anywhere. It’s mostly just Ben arguing with Katrina I’M A BOY and the townspeople either being like “oh, cool” or “why is that girl in pants.” Without any real grounding, it seems like both a) a cheap author “gotcha” twist and b) suuuper unlikely that would actually work out for Ben as simply as Henry explains it in a backward small town in the 18th century that believes in Ichabod Crane and magic.
I wouldn’t say there were plotholes so much as rushed explanations that don’t stand up to scrutiny. Also, I’m capable of addressing how she wove this all together with Irving’s original story. I believe I read it at some point in my schooling, but as I’m not a big horror fan, I have very limited knowledge of the original tale. I don’t know if she takes any creative liberties that would be frustrating to diehard fans of the original source material.
Overall, it’s a gorgeous cover and an interesting premise but for me, it doesn’t come together successfully.