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


It was in early summer of my eighteenth year that my destiny arrived, and despite my fancy for premonitions he took me quite by surprise.

This is the story of Katrina Van Tassel, who falls in love with the Sleepy Hollow’s new school master Ichabod Crane. Katrina is delighted when she learns of Mr. Crane’s love for music, and that her father has engaged his services of singing lessons, for her. So begins a love affair that can only lead to doom and gloom with a legendary headless horseman running amok.

Then there is Brom Van Brunt (oh how I love these old names)  nicknamed ‘Brom Bones’ for his large frame,  the town’s beloved favored son,  and bully (when he isn’t leaving sighing women in his wake) who is sure Katrina is his destiny. They are all hung up on their destiny here! Brom is adamant Katrina will be his, has known this since childhood as they were once a tight trio including her best friend Charlotte (of strange gifts). They spent their youth inventing their own mischief until he turned sour, cruel to Charlotte for something she did (which is his fault, really). Now he seems to spend most of his time sniffing around Katrina and informing her that she will ‘come around’ to loving him, to being his wife. It’s only a matter of time, and a lot of harassment. He may have been her first kiss, but she’ll be damned if he’s her last.

Even the most progressive parents weren’t likely to welcome a terrible match for their child. Her father certainly isn’t going to support his daughter’s love for someone like Ichabod, well read and musical talents aside, wealth speaks louder than character when it comes to your precious, privileged child. Is Brom so awful? I mean, really Katrina, the whole town loves him, he is popular and handsome, full of brawn and… well he looks good on paper and that’s what mattered then. Alliances aren’t often made between the pillars of society and the penniless, better the promise of Brom or someone of his ilk. Maybe Charlotte can use her ‘magical talents’, reading tarot cards to see if there is even a slim chance of happiness and a future as Mrs. Crane. Charlotte does seem to have her uses.

Charlotte spends much of the novel giving warnings, or herbs to solve other inconveniences for Katrina. She has ‘feelings’, some of us may just call this intuition, others a wild imagination, depends on who you ask. Katrina isn’t immune to visions herself, in her nightmares of the headless horseman she keeps seeing ominous warnings but he isn’t real!!!! Something is brewing, but is her love for Ichabod truly doomed? Not even the terror of a legend can keep the lusty lovers out of the woods, and each other’s arms.

Circumstances push her to conform to society and it’s demands when Ichabod seems to have disappeared on All Hallows Eve, life becomes its own special hell. Will she ever be reunited with her lover? Or will she have to go to extreme measures to keep herself, and maybe someone else, safe?

It does have a pinch of feminism with Katrina, whose spirit won’t be tamed, who wants to love where she will and thwarts society, maybe even has to resort to manipulations here and there. Herbs as a safeguard against unwanted pregnancy isn’t something new, though it was forbidden (such witchery), even when she is reduced to accepting the turn her life takes, she still tries to hold some sway over her own destiny. My only beef was, I expected more terror beyond the occasional nightmare. Though to be fair, human beings are ugly enough themselves without a headless horseman lurking about and they don’t fail to be so here. I wished for more magic and spells, I mean love can be a spell I suppose or a curse. No? With Spellbook is in the title, I admit I was holding out for witches and spells, all sorts of spooky but I have high demands.

It was fun to visit Spooky Hollow again but came off more as a romance. More seduction than nightmare. Charlotte’s reputation is dangerously ruined by Brom early on, no one takes kindly to any whispers of evil, dangerous accusations, couldn’t the novel have backed up these threats with more than her seeing into the future? Too bad she couldn’t conjure some spell against Brom, but take heart, he seems hellbent on defeating himself half the time.  If you like romance with an old spooky legend thrown in, this will be perfect for you. Just in time for pumpkin patches, and headless men, out in October.

Publication Date: October 2, 2018

St. Martin’s Press

St. Griffin


The Hawkman: A Fairy Tale of the Great War by Jane Rosenberg LaForge


Yet it was his eye, or both of them, that attracted the most notice and gossip- their unnerving brilliance. It was hungry and restless; and it earned him his nickname.

In this fairytale for grownups, an American schoolteacher (spinster, nay old maid)  Miss Eva Williams, falls under the spell of the Hawkman, Mr. Michael Evan Sheehan. Sheehan is suffering from the torments of the war, including his time of imprisonment. His vagabond ways have damned him as an outcast, and his yellowing, ‘hungry and restless’ eyes make him more birdlike than human. Mrs. Sheehan knows there is more to the man, tormented by children’s taunts, rocks and even attempts at poisoning. He is more than a scavenger, certainly not a threat when he doesn’t fight back, though the children’s cruelty would deserve a firm punishment in a better world. She herself is a misfit in England, a foreigner, teaching at a lady’s college, horror of all horrors she is on the shelf and unmarrie, progressive (never a welcome trait in a woman bygone times). He becomes her cause.

Lord Thornton wants nothing more than his world to return to the normality of before the war. The Hawkman is a reminder, a constant stench of war and all its horrors. To make his village safe and ‘clean’ for it’s young ladies seems to be his sole purpose, ridding it of such scavengers as Sheehan. The villagers, especially his son Christopher( recovering after his own war wounds) are in compliance to Lord Thornton’s plans, but not Miss Williams. Even Thornton’s wife, Lady Margaret wants nothing more than to be ‘ride’ of the Hawkman. Miss Williams has a far better understanding of the ‘protagonist’ of various countries and sees in the Hawkman no difference. Sifting through the fears and myths, she sees past the ‘filth’ and reclusive behaviors for what they are the reactions of a broken, damaged man.

Eyes wide open, Eva invites Mr. Sheehan into her world with empathy and compassion. She goes gently with him, as one might a wounded animal. She sees the man, not the myth. Hiding him in the cottage won’t last, but she will not be cowed or bullied into giving up on him. When she comes to need him, one wonders just who needs salvation. With war weaved into the story, it is a unique twist on modern fairy tales and the true shame and horror is that people always find ways to invent monsters, to condemn those who need the most help to the shadows.

A quiet, yet moving tale.

Publication Date: June 5, 2018

Amberjack Publishing