Published: September 28, 2021
Publisher: Berkley Books
Genre: Horror, Fantasy
Pages: 320 (Paperback)
My Rating: 3.5/5.0
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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?
I’ve had decent luck with Christina Henry’s other titles, so I was really quite excited to see that she was writing a Sleepy Hollow retelling. It was ultra creepy, not at all what I expected, and a really refreshing take on the tale.
Horseman takes place two decades after the events of the original Headless Horseman tale and stars Ben van Brunt, grandchild of Brom and Katrina. Ben’s parents died when Ben was just a babe, supposedly of a fever. This is the generally accepted story, but it becomes clear something suspicious is afoot when a child’s body, missing head and hands, is discovered in the woods. The reaction of certain adults who were around the first time this happened is a dead giveaway that not all is as it seems. Something dangerous is in the woods, and it has a hunger that only hands (and a head) can satisfy. Ben is determined to investigate this mystery, but between the spine tingling presence in the woods, and the ghostly drumming of a horse’s hooves it’s quite a terrifying thought.
I loved the first ~85% of the book. There was a creeping dread that really fit the tale well, I loved Ben, Brom, and Katrina, and the little reveals of what actually happened during the original Headless Horseman tale were great. The dead bodies devoid of head and hands were absolutely ghastly and the thing eating them was honestly way creepier than it had any right to be. It was fantastic! And then the book jumped forward in time and I didn’t care for that portion all that much. It yanked me out of the story and while I can understand why it was executed that way, I was a little let down by the ending. The creeping dread was gone and only sadness remained.
Overall, this was a really good story with plenty of creep factor. I love reading spooky retellings as Halloween gets ever closer and Sleepy Hollow is one of my favorites! The landing didn’t quite stick (for me) but I’d definitely recommend this if you’re looking for a good Sleepy Hollow retelling.