It’s the season of spooky so it’s only reasonable that my reading should turn that way. The Spellbook of Katrina van Tassel by Alyssa Palombo is a retelling of the Sleepy Hollow tale. I was very happy to accept a copy at no charge from the publisher for my honest review.
About The Spellbook of Katrina van Tassel:
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.
About the Author:
ALYSSA PALOMBO is the author of The Violinist of Venice and The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence. She is a recent graduate of Canisius College with degrees in English and creative writing, respectively. A passionate music lover, she is a classically trained musician as well as a big fan of heavy metal. When not writing, she can be found reading, hanging out with her friends, traveling, or planning for next Halloween. She lives in Buffalo, New York, where she is always at work on a new novel.
I will start by noting that I have not read the original Legend of Sleepy Hollow. I know the barest basics of the story – who doesn’t know of the Headless Horseman? As to the rest of the tale – I’m pretty clueless. I do plan to rectify that as I am now curious after reading The Spellbook of Katrina van Tassel. Ms. Palombo set about to retell the legend from the perspective of the woman at the heart of the tale. Something I’m sure that given the times in which the original was written was hardly given much consideration at all.
Katrina is the only daughter of a rich landowner in Sleepy Hollow. She is a little bit spoiled. Her father indulges her and her mother pretty much let’s her do what she wants only occasionally calling her away from her reading to help entertain guests or help with the mending. Unlike what one would expect for a young lady of the times she pretty much has free rein to do as she pleases. She does give some thought to propriety but is comfortable enough in her station in life that she knows she can get away with more than others.
One day a visitor comes along and although annoyed at first at being pulled from her leisure she finds that this man, the new school teacher is very intriguing. Ichabod Crane has come to town to take over the duties at the school and also give music lessons to earn some extra money. As the two embark upon their lessons they find themselves falling in love. But Ichabod is a poor man of a lesser class and Katrina is an heiress whose father expects her to marry the young man whose father owns the orchard next to them.
Katrina does not care for this boy known as Brom Bones as he has done harm to her best friend Charlotte. Charlotte and her mother are healers but she also has a bit of the sight and has made some predictions that made Brom nervous. He publicly called her a witch and since then the townspeople have been wary but Katrina stands by her friend.
As Katrina and Ichabod get closer Brom gets more jealous. Her father is pressuring her to marry Brom but she only loves Ichabod. What will become of this triangle? Katrina dreams of the Headless Horseman, a ghost famous to the area but what warning is he trying to give her?
Oh this was a page turner for me. I can’t say I fell in love with either Katrina or Ichabod as characters as each had traits that made them at times very unlikable; Ichabod was wishy-washy at times and Katrina was no lady. But the two of them together made for a compelling tale of love against the odds. Ms. Palombo created a mysterious, creepy world for her spirits to reside with Katrina sharing the ghost stories of the area throughout the book. The title is a bit of a misnomer as there is no real spellbook as there are no spells cast so if you are looking for tales of witches you will not find that here. There are dreams and tarot cards and visions and it creates the atmosphere that drives the story and keeps you on the edge wondering, even though you know what happened.
I sped through the pages felling the emotions of the characters and crying along with Katrina for the loss of her great love. For that is no spoiler as the synopsis tells you that Ichabod disappears. It’s the how that you need to read the book to discover. It’s a perfect read for a moonless night by the fire with a crackling fire. Just don’t jump at any strange sounds you might hear…