The Horseman of Sleepy Hollow

Posted on October 18th 2021 ⋄ By Sara Cleveland ⋄ Category: Reviews

Today’s review is of The Horseman of Sleepy Hollow by Rebecca F. Kenney. I thought with it being spooky season and all, that I should give y’all something vaguely in that realm before we transition into the season of elves and candy canes. Since I’m not really much of one for horror, Kenney’s Sleepy Hollow retelling seemed to fit the bill perfectly. I’m going to skip the About the Author section since I’ve already reviewed Kenney’s The Teeth in the Tide.

As always, my opinions are my own. Let’s get into it.

About the Book

The Horseman of Sleepy Hollow is billed as a novella with an estimated page length of 123 pages. You can pick up the Kindle copy for $1.99 or read it for free with Kindle Unlimited. The paperback copy is $12.99, which is what I paid for it. It was released on October 15, 2021.

4 teaspoons of tea leaves

Design

Exterior

As with all of Kenney’s books, The Horseman of Sleepy Hollow has a gorgeous cover. I really love the color choices — very autumn and mildly spooky. It invokes the creepy factor juxtaposed with elegance, and I dig it.

The font on the back has good contrast and is a reasonable size. However, I’m not entirely jazzed by big blocks of small caps text. I find that just a little bit difficult to read.

4.5 teaspoons for the exterior design.

Interior

There are a few things I’m not super crazy about with the interior. The left-alignment of the text feels awkward to me. The Teeth in the Tide was also left-aligned and unjustified, but it didn’t seem as pronounced and off-putting, possibly due to a difference in font family and point. The first chapter starting on the left-hand page also feels weird and non-standard. I couldn’t find another example of it other than The Teeth in the Tide in a quick skim through comprable titles.

I don’t think this makes the book more difficult to read, it just really bugs me personally. However, it was only distracting for a few pages until I got sucked into the story.

The paperback interior does feature some pretty little graphic details at the start of the chapters and near the page numbers, which I greatly enjoyed.

4 teaspoons for the interior design.

5 teaspoons of tea leaves

Premise

The premise of The Horseman of Sleepy Hollow is of course that it is a retelling of Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Admittedly, I’m not super familiar with the source material beyond some pop culture references. I’ve never even seen the Disney adaptation. I think I might have seen part of 1999’s Sleepy Hollow? Maybe. Anyway, as I (and Wikipedia) understand it, much of the elements of the story remain the same: the lovely Katrina is caught in the rivalry of her two suitors–Ichabod Crane, the Schoolteacher and Brom. Where the stories diverge, well… what if Katrina was given a third option?

I generally like the premise of the story. I’m not sure if my lack of familiarity made me more or less disposed towards it. I’ll let you be the judges, dear readers.

5 teaspoons for the premise.

4 teaspoons of tea leaves

Characters

First up is Katrina Van Tassel, our lovely heroine. I honestly have mixed feelings about Katrina. On one hand, I understand her frustrations. She chaffs under the expectations placed on her by the good Dutch wives of Sleep Hollow and the injustices of society in Colonial America. On the other hand, toying with the affections of not one, but two men is very not-cool, Katrina. Still, Kenney’s Katrina has much more life and character than in the original short story. Still her head isn’t the worst place to be, which is a good thing, because the story is told from her perspective.

Brom Van Brunt is given a proper surname (he’s Brom Bones in the Irving original). He’s just as awful as the original implied (maybe worse), I’m really glad he doesn’t get the girl in this one.

Ichabod Crane is an interesting character. Kenney gives him a complexity that I appreciate. You can both feel sympathy for him and simultaneously wish he was a better person. Perhaps if he were, Katrina wouldn’t have been so torn. Kenney at least doesn’t leave us wondering as to the schoolmaster’s fate as Irving does.

I don’t want to spoil too much about the Horseman himself. This take is very much inspired by Irish mythology and gives us a much… sexier character than one might expect. His relationship with Katrina and the goings-on is interesting and kept me guessing for a little while. Leave it to Kenney to turn the Headless Horseman into a swoon-worthy romantic hero.

My only regret with the characters is that the relationship between Katrina and the man she ultimately chooses is a bit rushed. It makes sense, given the length of the story.

4 teaspoons for characters.

5 teaspoons of tea leaves

Worldbuilding

The primary job of the worldbuilding in this case was to 1) ground us in Colonial America in Sleepy Hollow and 2) give us a reasonable explanation for how The Headless Horseman could be a romantic hero. Overall, I think Kenney did an excellent job at both of these objectives.

5 teaspoons for worldbuilding.

3 teaspoons of tea leaves

Plot

As this is a novella and a retelling of a short story, the plot is rather straightforward. There’s an incident with a tree branch that almost broke my suspension of disbelief, but I was able to roll with it and enjoy the story. Honestly though, part of me wishes that there had been more story, fleshing this out to a full-blown novel. I would have liked some more romance and some more intrigue with the real evil of Sleepy Hollow. Still, the plot was sensical and enjoyable.

3 teaspoons for plot.

5 teaspoons of tea leaves

Writing

As has thus far always been my experience, Kenney’s writing is just enjoyable.

5 teaspoons for writing.

Final Thoughts

I really enjoyed The Horseman of Sleepy Hollow. It was a fun Halloween-time read that didn’t leave me hiding under the covers. It was just the right about of spook and steam for a chilly autumn night.

My overall rating is 4.5 teaspoons.

- ♥ -

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