Firstly, I just want to say a huge thank you to Titan Books for providing me with a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
Publisher: Titan Books
Publication Date: 28/09/2021
Length: 336 pages
Genre: Gothic Horror | Retelling
CW: graphic depictions of death, mentions of abuse, alcoholism, attempted sexual assault
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.GoodReads
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?
After yesterday’s review (as well as other Henry reviews of mine…) it will not be a surprise at all that I absolutely loved this novel and devoured it in one sitting. Somehow, each time I read one of Henry’s books they just get better and better which I didn’t know was even still possible.
Whilst her novels have always focused on the darker side of the traditional fairy tales that we all know (eg. Peter Pan) I am loving how her writing is becoming progressively darker and more gothic. From the opening pages I knew that I wouldn’t be able to put down Horseman, I was gripped immediately as we’re thrown into the woods with a mischievous Ben and Sander as they play ‘Sleepy Hollow Boys’. I really loved Ben’s character, and the exploration of his identity as he refuses to become the proper young woman that his Oma (Katrina) wishes he’d be and instead wants to model himself on his Opa (Brom) – the man who has such a presence wherever he is and is respected by the village.
Of course, this way of thinking does get Ben into trouble and he ends up seeing things and becoming more aware of the goings on in Sleepy Hollow than Katrina would like. He quickly begins to find himself even more intertwined with the suspicious incidents and bodies appearing in the woods than even he would like. I found Ben such a level headed character, yes he would want to push himself to be the best and the bravest but he would reach out and talk to Brom instead of trying to deal with it all by himself which we so often see in teenage protagonists. Each character we’re introduced to just captivated me, either for good reasons or for bad, Henry expertly builds relationships between characters as well as breaks them which result in some heart wrenching moments (keep some tissues handy!). One relationship I would have loved to have seen more of was the bond between Ben and Sander, however, the relationships between Ben and his grandparents were much more vital to the plot so it makes sense as to why other relationships weren’t as developed as this one.
Whilst I have heard of The Tale of Sleepy Hollow, I only know that the ‘Headless Horseman’ features heavily. However, even if you just have that one piece of information about the original text going into this novel that is more than enough to enjoy it and see the different ways that Henry is challenging the tale. I’m sure there are plenty of satisfying little easter eggs scattered throughout the pages for those who are much more familiar with the tale, but it isn’t a requirement by any means to enjoy this book. Whilst the novel is fast paced, instilling a sense of urgency to discover the truth behind what’s going on in the reader, it is still easy to keep up with and understand all the characters and their motives. I liked how Henry would often revisit little details and offhand comments made earlier on in the novel, as it just shows the amount of attention to detail has gone into this novel. It’s also incredibly satisfying to the reader when you can see where certain aspects of the story are linked.
I should wrap this up before I start accidentally spoiling the novel, because there are just so many parts of the novel that I could talk about for hours. I felt on edge and excited every time I turned the page, there were many moments where I was unsettled and uncomfortable and yet, there was something familiar behind the words and the pages that made it difficult to look away from. Overall, I highly recommend you pick up Henry’s latest gothic masterpiece (and then go back and read her other novels too!) whether it be for the spooky season or just in general – you won’t regret it!