Horseman:  A Tale of Sleepy HollowHorseman: A Tale of Sleepy Hollow by Christina Henry
Published by Berkley Books on September 28, 2021
Pages: 320
View Title on Goodreads
Bantering Books Rating: four-stars

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.
Thirty 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?

Bantering Books Review

I don’t cry over horror novels.

Squirm, yes. Feel repulsed, yes. Sleep with one eye open, yes. Leave all the lights on in my house and raise my electric bill, yes.

But cry tears of sorrow and awe from the emotional resonance of the writing in a horror novel?

Nope. Never.

Christina Henry brought forth my tears, though. And they spilled over. Because her latest release, Horseman, is a mesmerizing, creepy, and (surprisingly) poignant continuation of Washington Irving’s classic tale, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

Henry picks the story up 30 years after the Headless Horseman chased Ichabod Crane from town and introduces us to 14-year-old Ben Van Brunt, grandson of Brom Bones and Katrina Van Tassel. Ben spends his days helping Brom on the farm and playing games in the woods, living quietly in the Hollow. Until he happens upon a child’s headless body while out exploring, and he and the villagers are forced to wonder whether the fabled Horseman has returned.

Part of my joy in reading Horseman comes from the nostalgia of revisiting Sleepy Hollow and its characters. But what Henry adds to Irving’s legend is clever and entertaining in its own right. The story is darkly atmospheric and fairy tale-esque, while also brutally gruesome, befitting the genre.

But where the novel truly shines is in its closing scenes when Ben has aged to 24. Henry slows the story’s pace and digs powerfully into the narrative, opening Ben like a wound. She lays bare his anguished emotions, his torturous unrest. And this is why the tears streamed from my eyes, only to then gush when I reached the novel’s hopeful final passage, the sheer beauty of it nothing short of perfection.

Horseman gives way more than I ever expected it to give. And it taught me something quite important.

A good horror novel can make a girl cry. Profusely.