An elegant retelling of the legend of Sleepy Hollow, The Spellbook of Katrina van Tassel is an enjoyable read, especially as the autumn draws near and we enter the Halloween season.
The novel recreates the whirlwind courtship of wealthy heiress of Dutch descent Katrina van Tassel and Ichabod Crane, a newly arrived schoolteacher in reduced circumstances. Fearing Katrina’s father’s disapproval, the couple nonetheless plan for Ichabod to propose during the annual celebration of All Hallow’s Eve at the van Tassel estate in upstate New York.
After his suit is rejected, Ichabod leaves the party, dejected but promising Katrina to see her soon and that “All will be well.” Yet that night, the young man and his horse vanish into thin October air, and the only traces of him ever found are a hat fished out of a nearby stream and a shattered pumpkin. The villagers believe that he had been abducted into the underworld by The Headless Horseman, the specter of a revolutionary war soldier haunting the woods of Sleepy Hollow at night.
Yet Katrina is not convinced.
After a few weeks of anxious waiting for any news, Katrina, expecting a child fathered by Ichabod, agrees to marry the arrogant Brom van Brunt, whom she deeply distrusts, in order to secure her child’s future. But as months and then years go by, she cannot forget her first lover and is tormented by not knowing his fate.
One day, Katrina enlists the help of her friend Charlotte, who has a vast knowledge of medicinal and magical properties of herbs, to induce a vision that would once and far all tell her what happened to Ichabod. She goes ahead with the plan, despite Charlotte’s warning that knowing the truth might shatter the fragile peace she has built for herself.
Imbued with the chilling, ominous atmosphere of Washington Irving’s classic tale, The Spellbook of Katrina van Tassel is a meditation on love, loss, resilience, and the power of societal norms in the early decades of the American independence.
If you like historical mysteries, check out Silent Water, a Jagiellon Mystery Book 1, set at the 16th century royal court in Cracow. It’s available in ebook and paperback on Amazon and FREE to read on Kindle Unlimited.