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The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel: A Story of Sleepy Hollow by Alyssa Palombo: A Book Review

The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel: A Story of Sleepy Hollow
Author: Alyssa Palombo
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery & Suspense, Fantasy
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Release Date: October 2, 2018
Pages: 432
Source: Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: 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.

     My Review: Katrina van Tassel is often not portrayed favorably in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”. Washington Irving shows Katrina as a vain, flirty, and manipulative character. In this retelling, Katrina is given a feminist makeover by being the protagonist and the narrator. When Ichabod Crane vanishes, Katrina investigates his mysterious disappearance. Katrina is willing to do anything, including dabbling in witchcraft, to find out what happened to ichabod on All Hallow’s Eve.

     The author attempts to make Katrina sympathetic. However, I found her to be an annoying and frustrating character. She was a very irritating narrator because all she could think about was Ichabod. She was also a boring character, and there was not much to her character development until near the end of the novel. Throughout the book, she is mostly naive. There were times that she was wishy-washy because she could not make up her mind about what she wanted. There were some aspects about her that I liked. She is an excellent storyteller, and I love her perseverance. However, I believe that the novel would have been better if it was narrated by her best friend.

   Overall, this retelling did not do Washington Irving’s tale justice. All of the characters were bland and had little character depth. I found the original characters more compelling than in the retelling. Most of the novel is made up of boring and repetitive love scenes that did nothing to enhance the plot. The pace of the novel tended to drag. I was also disappointed that Katrina barely made any attempt to investigate Ichabod’s disappearance and focused on newfound love for Brom Bones. The Headless Horseman barely featured into the novel and was primarily used as a metaphor. I thought the title was misleading because it did not contain a spellbook. The only thing going for this novel was its gothic setting. Thus, The Spellbook of Katrina van Tassel is a perfect read for those wanting a Harlequin novel. However for those who want a spooky, satirical retelling that is characteristic of Washington Irving’s tale, then skip this book. Re-read the original instead. The Spellbook of Katrina van Tassel is a forgettable and at best mediocre retelling.

Rating: 2½ out of 5 stars


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