Christina Henry is prolific. Horseman is her second novel of 2021, following the fantastic Near the Bone, which is one of my favorite novels of the year so far. With Horseman, she is back to reimagining stories, and this time The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is getting the esteemed Henry treatment.
Teenage Ben is orphaned, living with his paternal grandparents in the small town of Sleepy Hollow. Sleepy Hollow is a place with a dark history, full of superstitious inhabitants, and a creepy set of woods. Things have been suspiciously quiet for a while, but when young boys begin to get murdered, old ghosts awaken. Ben must align the past with the present, and discover how his mysterious family history is central to the devastation in the hollow.
Horseman is centrally about two things; solving the mystery of who/what is responsible for the murders in Sleepy Hollow, and a coming-of-age story for Ben. Ben was born Bente, a female, and identifies as male. Ben’s struggle to convey his gender is well-balanced with his determination, and the unconditional love he receives from his grandfather, Brom. It also works very well alongside Ben’s journey to find out the truth about his deceased parents, and the weird connection he has with the woods. It’s essentially a continuous journey of discovery for Ben.
There is no doubt Christina Henry knows how to keep a reader captivated. It is impossible to stop reading at the end of a chapter, as Henry always urges the reader forward with a cliffhanger. Her writing is fluid and uncomplicated, and she develops well-rounded, lovable characters. And my word, she knows how to create a memorable violent image, and I am here for it!
But with all this being said, Horseman didn’t completely work for me. I love the character of Ben, and his relationship with his grandparents, but the story didn’t grip me quite as much as Henry’s previous novels. I found the story quite complex, and I often had to remind myself of a character’s previous actions. Admittedly, I’m not overly familiar with The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a prerequisite. I was along for the ride until about halfway through, I just didn’t remain captivated for the whole time.
If you’re an established fan of Christina Henry’s books such as Alice, The Girl in Red, or The Mermaid, you will probably appreciate Horseman. It’s an enjoyable book; Henry just blew me away so much with Near the Bone that my expectations were maybe a little high.
Horseman is published by Berkley Books, and will be published on September 28th, 2021. HUGE thanks to Berkley Books for the ARC.