Thanks to NetGalley and Berkley Books for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: September 28th, 2021
Synopsis: In this atmospheric, terrifying novel that draws strongly from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, the author of Alice and The Girl in Red works her trademark magic, spinning an engaging and frightening new story from a classic tale.
Everyone in Sleepy Hollow knows about the Horseman, but no one really believes in him. Not even Ben Van Brunt’s grandfather, Brom Bones, who was there when it was said the Horseman chased the upstart Crane out of town. Brom says that’s just legend, the village gossips talking.
Twenty years after those storied events, the village is a quiet place. Fourteen-year-old Ben loves to play Sleepy Hollow boys, reenacting the events Brom once lived through. But then Ben and a friend stumble across the headless body of a child in the woods near the village, and the sinister discovery makes Ben question everything the adults in Sleepy Hollow have ever said. Could the Horseman be real after all? Or does something even more sinister stalk the woods. (Goodreads)
Before I even begin my review of Horseman, we need to address the cover. How gorgeous is that? Aren’t your fingers just reaching for it under their own volition? Well, I’m happy to say that the actual story just about lives up to that perfect cover.
I took me a few chapters to warm up to fourteen-year-old Ben, who is born female, but knows in his heart he’s a boy, and insists on dressing and acting like one. This puts him in direct conflict with his prim and proper grandmother, Katrina who has raised Ben along with Brom Bones after the death of his parents when he was young. I kept trying to remind myself of his age and the fact of his fighting against the societal norms of the time period, but at first his combativeness got on my nerves. As the story progresses I warmed up to him and I love the close relationship he shares with Brom. The relationship between Ben and Katrina eventually develops into one of open communication and mutual understanding, which is a welcome change to the hurtful arguing they both engaged in at the beginning. In addition to Ben, I think all the characters here are ingeniously written, especially the ones that readers of the original tale of Sleepy Hollow are familiar with. Katrina and Brom are particularly well written and while flawed, they’re also likable and relatable.
The story itself is quite dark and at times graphically bloody, but it’s an imaginative continuation of the original story that pays homage to Washington Irving’s classic, yet takes its own unique and unexpected path, especially in regards to the Headless Horseman mythology and the mystery of what happened to schoolmaster Ichabod Crane. I absolutely loved the ending and thought it the perfect way to wrap everything up.
Mixed in with the mythology are some real life issues including three child murders, Ben’s aforementioned transgenderism, a violent physical attack on him, and an attempted rape. Because of these scenes and a few other gory ones, I would recommend this for ages 16 and up. I’ve read a couple of Christina Henry’s previous books which I’ve enjoyed, but I believe Horseman is her best yet. As it’s coming out on September 28th, this really is the perfect horror tale for the Halloween season.