Horseman by Christina Henry is a new Sleepy Hollow retelling. In this tale, we follow Ben as she navigates tricky family legends.
All quotes are from an advanced reader copy and may or may not reflect the published edition.
Everyone in Sleepy Hollow knows about the Horseman, but no one really believes in him. Not even Ben Van Brunt’s grandfather, Brom Bones, who was there when it was said the Horseman chased the upstart Crane out of town. Brom says that’s just legend, the village gossips talking.
Twenty years after those storied events, the village is a quiet place. Fourteen-year-old Ben loves to play Sleepy Hollow boys, reenacting the events Brom once lived through. But then Ben and a friend stumble across the headless body of a child in the woods near the village, and the sinister discovery makes Ben question everything the adults in Sleepy Hollow have ever said. Could the Horseman be real after all? Or does something even more sinister stalk the woods?
“I ran, because I wanted to live another day and I was absolutely sure that if I stayed there another moment that I wouldn’t.”
I’m a pretty big fan of Henry’s retellings. They don’t always stick to the script and stay mostly to the main, mental concepts. Even then, I find them enjoyable. The Horseman is one of those retellings, often pulling more from ideas from Sleepy Hollow rather than retelling the actual plot. The difference between Henry’s other books and this one though is the narration style. Instead of actions being shown to you, most of it is told to you. That form of info-dumping is something I loathe, and this is no exception.
“A boy with a cruel, stupid face even in death. A boy who would never try to blindside me again.”
The subplot of Ben’s gender identity was interesting, especially as Henry has come close to this in her Peter Pan retelling. I found that it was done well, and the reactions that others had around their identity were realistic. I did find it intermittently confusing as to what pronouns Ben would want, as it’s never really addressed. Ben doesn’t seem to react negatively to femme ones when loved ones use them. The narration style being so rambly thought dumping, hindered some of the development of this.
“You weren’t a horse to be broken, I should have remembered that. I’m sorry that I made you think I didn’t love you just as you were.”
I think my greatest frustration with this was the nonstop info-dumping as conversations. Additionally, the thought-dumping form of narration made things feel like they were more or less serious than one would expect. It led me to not understand fully what was going on, and while I understood the twist, I didn’t enjoy it. There is no real pacing to this book that makes sense, and I don’t think I’ll think about it again any time soon.
“Another Ben, they say, though you are a strange one.”
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.