The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel: A Story of Sleepy Hollow

Written by Alyssa Palombo
Review by J. Lynn Else

1790. Wealthy heiress Katrina Van Tassel falls in love with not-to-wealthy schoolmaster Ichabod Crane. With a shared love of music and stories, Katrina tells Ichabod all the folklore surrounding the town of Sleepy Hollow. Unfortunately, social constraints and a jealous, overbearing suitor force the young lovers to meet in secret. After Ichabod disappears mysteriously on All Hallows’ Eve, Katrina wonders if the stories from her childhood could be true. Delving into the realm of witchcraft, Katrina begins to investigate why the Headless Horseman is stalking her dreams while also attempting to uncover what really happened that fateful night.

Early on, the main characters felt like templates from Beauty and the Beast. Katrina and her would-be suitor, Brom, were almost identical to Belle and Gaston, and they weren’t too interesting until the second half of the book. Once the elements of folklore and witchcraft took hold of the plot, character development flourished. This made the novel hard to put down. I only wished there had been more character development for Brom. Palombo’s prose was so enchanting, she could have easily added many more pages.

In her Author’s Note, Palombo explains her adjustments to history so that the book aligns with audience expectations. While typically these choices to modernize history frustrate me, it worked for this novel. Palombo deftly fleshes out this well-known story in an enchanting way. The romance was a bit steamier than I expected. However, the emotional exploration was well done, and the setting was immersive. A spooky female-driven storyline, with not completely unexpected twists, but many spine-tingling and captivating turns. A must for fall reading lists.