Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Bookish Thoughts: The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel by Alyssa Palombo

Washington Irving got it wrong. ~ Opening of The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel

The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel: A Story of Sleepy Hollow by Alyssa Palombo
St. Martin's Griffin, 2018
Fiction/Fantasy/Historical; 416 pgs
Source: Review copy provided by publisher via NetGalley

Although I will not be doing a formal write up of Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, I did reread it before diving into The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel. I thought it would be a nice segue from one book to the other. I was reminded how beautiful Irving's writing is, not to mention just how eerie his tale is. It has long become canon in American literature.

For those new to the story, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is about a school teacher, Ichabod Crane, who arrives in Sleepy Hollow to teach. He has little means, and relies on the kindness of his pupils' families and other families in the area to put him up and provide him with sustenance. He meets the beautiful Katrina Van Tassel and the brawny Brom Van Brunt, who is known for causing mischief and strife. Ghost stories are nothing new to Sleepy Hollow, and that of the Headless Horseman is one of the most famous. Ichabod Crane is about to find that out first hand.

Author Alyssa Palombo builds on the original tale, writing a novel from the perspective of Katrina Van Tassel. Her love for music and books matches that of Ichabod Crane's who has come to stay in Van Tassel home as he begins his assignment of school teacher in their town. He has little to offer the beautiful young woman other than music lessons and good conversation. She falls for him nonetheless, even knowing her father might not be a fan of the match. Brom, the son of a neighboring farmer, is much more to her father's tastes. Katrina and Brom were once childhood friends, but a falling out over a friend of theirs is not something Katrina is willing to forgive at all. Brom, however, has long loved Katrina and wants to make her his wife. Would he do anything to make that happen? When Ichabod disappears on All Hallow's Eve night, Katrina begins to wonder. Or is the legend of the Headless Horseman really true as the signs suggest?

I confess it took me a bit to get into Alyssa Palombo's novel. I found myself watching the first few episodes of Sleepy Hollow, risking getting the television show's characters images stuck in my head. Fortunately, that didn't happen. It did help in getting me more in the mood for the novel, however. And I soon found myself caught under Palombo's spell.

When I first heard about this novel and considered accepting it for review, I noticed mention of the romance being a main focus. And in a way it is. The romance between Ichabod and Katrina kicks off quickly. The heat between the two characters and their frequent trysts was much like two young lovers who cannot keep their hands off each other. Katrina, raised as an only child in one of the wealthiest families of Sleepy Hollow, is a bit spoiled and immature. Over the course of the novel, however, her character does grow. This is not a romance novel, however, as the reader will come to see.

I enjoyed the ghost stories Katrina relates throughout the novel, particularly to Ichabod in the first half of the book. I have always enjoyed historical ghost stories, and these were no different in just how compelling, sad and creepy they could be.

Of all the characters in the novel, I was most taken with Charlotte Jansen, Katrina's best friend. Rumor has it she is a witch, given her uncanny ability of foresight. Set in a time when witchcraft is more than frowned upon, Charlotte and her mother, the town healer, are very careful in what they do and say. She proves to be a faithful friend to Katrina and stands by her side throughout, even when she does not agree with the choices Katrina makes.Katrina herself soon discovers a use for a little magic, and her own natural abilities.

While The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel got off to a shaky start for me, it ended strong, and overall I can say I enjoyed the novel. With a bit of mystery, romance, a coming of age story, and just the right amount of creepiness, this was an entertaining historical novel. 

For more information about the author and her books, visit her website. You can also find her on Twitter.

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  1. Oooh, I watched the first season (and a few others) of Sleepy Hollow too! I'll probably have the characters in my head too - but this sounds interesting so it's going on the TBR list.

  2. I generally don't enjoy retellings so this may not be for me.

  3. Sleepy hollow isn't a book I've read nor a series I've seen but I have watched Tim Burton's film sooo I'm thinking The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel may not work for me in that I'm not familiar with Sleepy Hollow. Then again ... perhaps for that very reason I may well enjoy it more than I would have done for that very same reason. Either way, not a book I can see myself seeking out but if ever the opportunity arose and I stumbled across a copy, yes, I think I'd read it.

  4. That's a really good idea to read the original Legend of Sleepy Hollow before reading this one! (And thanks for the heads up about the slow start.)

  5. Love that cover and this is one I'd probably like if I was in the right mood.

  6. I really want to read this one. I've read the original story and didn't really like it, but I think an alternative version would appeal.


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