Review: The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel
The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel: A Story of Sleepy Hollow
by Alyssa Palombo
Paperback, 416 pages
Published October 2nd 2018 by St. Martin's Griffin
When Ichabod Crane arrives in the spooky little village of Sleepy Hollow as the new schoolmaster, Katrina Van Tassel is instantly drawn to him. Through their shared love of books and music, they form a friendship that quickly develops into romance. Ichabod knows that as an itinerant schoolteacher of little social standing, he has nothing to offer the wealthy Katrina – unlike her childhood friend-turned-enemy, Brom Van Brunt, who is the suitor Katrina’s father favors.
But when romance gives way to passion, Ichabod and Katrina embark on a secret love affair, sneaking away into the woods after dark to be together – all while praying they do not catch sight of Sleepy Hollow’s legendary Headless Horseman. That is, until All Hallows’s Eve, when Ichabod suddenly disappears, leaving Katrina alone and in a perilous position.
Enlisting the help of her friend – and rumored witch – Charlotte Jansen, Katrina seeks the truth of Ichabod Crane’s disappearance, investigating the forest around Sleepy Hollow using unconventional – often magical – means. What they find forces Katrina to question everything she once knew, and to wonder if the Headless Horseman is perhaps more than just a story after all. In Alyssa Palombo's The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel nothing is as it seems, and love is a thing even death won't erase.
Like many people, I was introduced to The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving at a young age, mostly thanks to Disney. I had read this Gothic classic before, but I couldn't really recall my initial impression of the story. I remember being terrified of the Headless Horseman. I remember thinking Ichabod was kinda ridiculous. I remember Katrina was the prize to be won. So I reread The Legend of Sleepy Hollow to refresh my memory of this classic, and now reading this story as an adult, I found I wanted more. Irving gives us a great characterization of Ichabod and Brom, but not so much about Katrina.
Alyssa Palombo's The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel is the answer to my bookish request. Palombo explores the inner life of the woman at the center of Irving's story. Palombo gives Katrina her own unique voice. She's smart; she's feisty; she's forward-thinking; she's brave. And she's in love with Ichabod Crane. I have to admit I had a hard time seeing Ichabod as a romantic lead. I blame Disney. Truly I do. I had this preconceived notion of what Ichabod looked like stuck in my head, and I'm afraid that image was hard to shake off. Palombo's Ichabod would have any girl swooning. It just took me a few minutes to adjust my thinking.
I was intrigued by the storyline of this book from the get-go. This Gothic story told from Katrina's point of view was more interesting than the original story--sorry Irving. There were a few twists and turns that kept this story fresh and exciting. The characters felt more fleshed out than in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and the story felt more complete. I love that Palombo was able to capture the romance without losing a bit of the mystery.
The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel is a great fall read. In fact, it's great any time of the year. Whenever I think of Sleepy Hollow from now on, Alyssa Palombo's The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel with be the first thing that comes to mind. And if you get the opportunity, you might want to pick it up. Be sure to clear your calendar for a day or two, you won't want to put it down.
Thanks to St. Martin's Griffin for providing me with a review copy. All my opinions are my own and are in no way influenced by this.