“Horseman: A Tale of Sleepy Hollow” by Christina Henry: Spooky and Compelling

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. 

More than thirty 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 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?

Christina Henry gets better with every book, especially the ones where she dives into old legends and tales and adds her own unique twist. “Horseman: A Tale of Sleepy Hollow” is no exception and in this case, Henry has added an especially intriguing element with Ben who isn’t quite as you expect. Christina Henry explores not only the legend of Sleepy Hollow but also gender expectations and transgender characters in this thrilling tale.

My favorite element of the story is the character of Ben, his relationship with his grandparents, and how in Ben’s character, Henry explores what our culture expects of girls and what happens when you have someone who doesn’t fall into those norms, who’s true gender doesn’t match the outside. It is deftly explored and Ben’s voice is clear in the story from beginning to end, giving readers a unique character to identify with, especially those who are transgender. 

The plot is a wonderful and spooky tangle of the Sleepy Hollow tale into a uniquely scary story that does not rely on the Horseman to be the villain of the piece. In fact, the true antagonist is something else entirely and is incredibly compelling while also being undeniably terrifying. The ending is unique and unexpected, with the entire novel being one twist after another.

If you love spooky stories, or love the legend of the Sleepy Hollow, you should definitely pick up this book. It will be a perfect read to set up your Halloween season.

Rating: 5 out of 5 horse

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