Raising the Horseman

Disney-Hyperion. Sept. 2022. 304p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781368054614.
Gr 6 Up–Spinning the story of the Headless Horseman from the perspective of Ichabod Crane’s love interest with a twist of feminism and LGBTQIA+ positivity, Valentino retells one of the most ubiquitous cautionary tales of gothic horror, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, with authenticity and ingenuity. Eighteen-year-old Kat longs to attend a distant college but is bound to inherit Katrina Van Tassel’s legacy when she marries and accepts the mantle of matriarch as the “reigning Katrina.” Tethered by tradition and superstition, Kat’s feelings for childhood crush and assumed fiancé, Blake, sour in the face of her blossoming autonomy and skepticism toward the town’s morbid obsession with the Headless Horseman. On the 200th anniversary of Katrina’s demise, Kat is nowhere to be found; her absence does not go unnoticed, nor does her budding romance with newcomer Isadora Crow, who harbors secrets about the town’s mythology and her place in it. Fleeing the entrapment of a loveless marriage, Kat seeks more than friendship with Isadora, but when lies are revealed, her trust waivers; Blake further complicates matters. The townspeople’s blind acceptance of the supernatural Katrina lineage is inexplicable, but authentic dialogue and animated storytelling render the parallel story of Kat and Katrina an apt retelling of Irving’s classic morality tale, weaving past and present to mirror the original themes of greed, folly, and the threat of superstition trumping reason.
VERDICT Recommended for a mildly macabre Halloween-themed read for younger teens who enjoy Marissa Meyer and Jane Yolen, and a good addition where fractured fairy tales and gothic horror are popular.

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