interesting new take
"The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel" is a retelling of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow from the point-of-view of one of the characters (Katrina). Katrina is a young woman of 18 who loves to read and spend time with her best friend Charlotte. Charlotte and her mother are midwives who also know about herbs and can treat ailments. Charlotte may also be able to see some visions of the future. It was this skill that got her labeled a witch by Brom Van Brunt (Brom Bones). While the three used to play together frequently as children, after Brom's accusations, Charlotte and Katrina refused to acknowledge him.
Katrina's family is wealthy and so they would like to see her make a good match. It is their wealth and her father's good standing that leads him to be a powerful member of the community. As such, the new schoolteacher, Ichabod Crane, comes to call on him and is offered a place to stay until he can begin to stay with his pupils, as is customary. When their eyes meet, Katrina finds herself drawn to the schoolteacher from Connecticut. As he offers her singing lessons and they begin to spend more time together, Katrina and Ichabod begin to fall in love.
However, as Ichabod is poor and would be seen as a fortune hunter, they must be careful about their attractions. Brom is also set on making Katrina his wife. Although she wants nothing to do with him after his accusations of Charlotte, Katrina's father also thinks Brom would be a good match. Brom's father (and thus Brom) have the second largest fortune/farm in the area and the joining of the two is good business. Considering they were also friends as children, Katrina's father also believes their love would grow over time (love was not the basis for marriage in the 1700s). However, Katrina only wants Ichabod (although this remains a secret due to his socioeconomic status) until Katrina feels the time would be right for him to announce his intentions.
We all know where the story is fated to go (as it does follow the Legend of Sleepy Hollow). However, this is a story of love, forbidden romance, jealousy, and mystery. The superstitious town has its legends, particularly of the Headless Horseman. Katrina sees him in her dreams. While I was expecting more magic (primarily due to the title), here it is limited to visions and herbal concoctions (though I don't think this qualifies). The vast majority of the book is about Katrina's love for Ichabod and the subsequent anguish when he disappears.
My favorite character was Charlotte, and I really liked her big involvement in the story and her wisdom. I would have loved to read the story from her perspective too (or maybe she could have her own story someday). Overall, I felt that this retelling really brought new life to the old story. I did find that it dragged a bit in the middle, but the ending was quite fascinating, and I enjoyed it overall. The story really takes on new meaning when reimagined from Katrina's perspective, and this is a great Halloween season read.
Please note that I received an ARC from the publisher through netgalley. All opinions are my own.