Review: The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel by Alyssa Palombo

Ok you guys, this book has been on my radar for months. I love Halloween and I can’t tell you how obsessed with Sleepy Hollow and the Headless Horseman I have been….basically since my youth.

I watched the Disney movie over and over again and to this day continue to watch it at Halloween because it’s just that good! And don’t even get me started on how many time’s I’ve seen the Tim Burton adaptation… way way way too many times and every time I am legitimately scared of that damn Horseman! So to say my expectations were high for this book is a drastic understatement.

When I opened the book to start reading, I will admit, I was actually kind of scared because I was worried that it wouldn’t live up to my expectations. Palombo is an excellent writer and I have enjoyed her other books quite a bit, so I had confidence that I would love this one just as much as the others, so I bit the bullet and jumped in. 

When Ichabod Crane arrives in the spooky little village of Sleepy Hollow as the new schoolmaster, Katrina Van Tassel is instantly drawn to him. Through their shared love of books and music, they form a friendship that quickly develops into romance. Ichabod knows that as an itinerant schoolteacher of little social standing, he has nothing to offer the wealthy Katrina – unlike her childhood friend-turned-enemy, Brom Van Brunt, who is the suitor Katrina’s father favors.

But when romance gives way to passion, Ichabod and Katrina embark on a secret love affair, sneaking away into the woods after dark to be together – all while praying they do not catch sight of Sleepy Hollow’s legendary Headless Horseman. That is, until All Hallows’s Eve, when Ichabod suddenly disappears, leaving Katrina alone and in a perilous position.

Enlisting the help of her friend – and rumored witch – Charlotte Jansen, Katrina seeks the truth of Ichabod Crane’s disappearance, investigating the forest around Sleepy Hollow using unconventional – often magical – means. What they find forces Katrina to question everything she once knew, and to wonder if the Headless Horseman is perhaps more than just a story after all. In Alyssa Palombo’s The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel nothing is as it seems, and love is a thing even death won’t erase (summary from Goodreads).

This book was a hard one to review. On one hand, I loved it but on the other, I needed more—-I needed more of The Horseman. He is such a central character in the classic story and in this book he’s been more marginalized. This book is meant to be more about Katrina and Ichabod’s romance and ultimately Katrina’s life and loss which means naturally the Horseman would take a backseat, but I just felt like I needed more—especially at the end.

I won’t spoil the ending for anyone but I felt like the ending was fitting and worthy of the ghost story and Sleepy Hollow canon, but I think I just needed more Horseman.

Warming up to Ichabod as a romantic interest was surprisingly easy. If I had any reservations with this book it was that I couldn’t visualize Ichabod as a romantic character, but it was easy to adore him. He was charming, honorable, and romantic. I loved that about his character.

I was actually worried that I would have a hard time visualizing Ichabod Crane as sexy and attractive, but I think that Tom Mison’s Ichabod Crane in the recent TV adaptation made that more likely. Let’s be honest, he’s just plain sexy and I think that helped me gear up to this of Ichabod as a romantic figure. In the novel itself, I thought the author did a great job and building the tension and romantic interest between Ichabod and Katrina. It was believable and tender and even though it was a whirlwind courtship, I found it even more romantic because of the whirlwind!

I admittedly was frustrated with Katrina’s character early on in the book. When we first meet her she’s privileged and naive. She seemed to have more of a school girl/first love interest in Ichabod which I found frustrating. But I was thrilled to see how they grew into their relationship in such a short time. I enjoyed watching Katrina’s character grow over the course of the book as well. It was very clear that her experiences and choices changed her and she was very much NOT the naive school girl by the end of the book and I absolutely loved that about this book. I was completely engrossed in her story the more I read. I love books like that that sneak up on their readers. It gave a realistic demonstration of how life and your choices change you. Well done!

What stood out to me though and why you should read this book and not dismiss it as just a retelling or romance, was the relationship between Charlotte and Katrina. This book is just as much about them as it is about Katrina and Ichabod, if not more so about their friendship. Charlotte and Katrina’s relationship was intimate and illustrated how complex and real their friendship was. They had disagreements, secrets, and fights just like real friends would and I thought that added a lot of depth and interest to the overall story.

This book was an excellent fall read and I absolutely loved the mood of this book. The characters and plot were interesting and I was actually surprised by the ending. I honestly thought it would go in a completely different direction, but I liked being surprised.

I actually kind of hope that Palombo writes more stories set in Sleepy Hollow. I think Katrina definitely had enough ghost stories to fill a couple more books!

If you are on the hunt for a Halloween read this year, I can literally think of nothing better than this book. It’s so Halloweenie and fun! Do yourself a favor and read this book on a dark stormy night in front of the fire!

Challenge/Book Summary:

Book: The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel: A Story of Sleepy Hollow by Alyssa Palombo 

  • Kindle Edition, 432 pages
  • Expected publication: October 2nd 2018 by St. Martin’s Griffin
  • ASIN B079DWS56D
  • Review copy provided by: Publisher/Author in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are my own
  • Recommendation: 4.5 out of 5
  • Genre: Historic fiction, romance
  • Memorable lines/quotes: 


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