Severed: A Tale of Sleepy Hollow by Dax Varley
Bookdictive Categorization: YA Para/Retelling
Rating: 3/5 stars
Procurement: Netgalley ARC
Recommend? If yes, to whom?: This isn't the kind of book to jump into my head when recommending, but I wouldn't not recommend it. The only reason I would strongly promote it to somebody is if they have an obsession with retellings, or are Sleepy Hollow fangirls/boys (do those exist? Is this a category??).
When I was in elementary school, we had to watch The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. It was an animated-ish movie from the 80's I think, but in my young eyes, it was just another AWESOME excuse to watch a movie in class! I was so excited because Halloween was coming closer and I think that was the year I was dressing as Cleopatra which isn't really important but I thought I should mention it. :D
Fast forward to the end of class, where I was shaking and scared out of my mind. With Ichabod Crane looking like this,
and the scenery looking like this,
you can see why I was freaked out. I went home that night reassuring myself that Glenn Close, the narrator, was a nice lady and therefore the story wasn't real. But I slept with my bedside light on for fear of the Headless Horseman coming in and replacing my head with a pumpkin.
This story has therefore ALWAYS been creepy to me. There are few tales in American folklore that have stood the test of time, and there's a reason why this one has. We are fascinated by the unexplained dark magic of a ghost who cuts off people's heads and can scare an entire town senseless. Americans have always loved the unexplained. So though this story is creepy, I have always kind of loved it in a weird, perverse way. So I was totally excited to receive an ARC of Severed, a retelling of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow from the perspective of Katrina, the love interest of schoolmaster Ichabod Crane.
I am completely at fault for allowing myself to be blinded by the gorgeous cover and the lure of a retelling. I know better! But still, I built up my hopes. Would I survive this book, or would my head be chopped off in frustration??
I'm not too sure actually. I wasn't let down, but I did get my hopes up, which I guess places me in a hover or limbo. However, I do know why this book received such a mediocre rating from me.
As always, spoilers abound below, though they are in smaller script than everything else this time.
Problem the First
It wasn't Katrina, who was kind of a badass. She was contrary, but not annoyingly so. She saw all the bullshit happening around her in town--overprotective father, strict/conservative/stupid townspeople--and saw through it. She's the type of feisty heroine we bloggers love to read about, because we're tired of whiny ninnies who rely on the guy to solve everything. The only thing that I faulted her for, though, was her love for Ichabod and her rejection of Brom.
Problem the Second
I liked Brom! I wasn't supposed to like Brom! But he was way better suited to headstrong Katrina. Ichabod was this flowery bookworm, and never seemed like more than a one-dimensional character. It was the weirdest matchup for Katrina. Brom is annoying I guess, but he's manly and overprotective and FREAKING SAVES HER LIFE WHEN ICHABOD DOESN'T. And then he DIES. Ichabod decides that he has been tricked by a witch with a love potion, which by the way, that story he told about the reason he came to Sleepy Hollow? It was totally weird and bothered me. It seemed like too much of an excuse so that Ichabod would look victimized and that only served to make him even more unlikeable. I was so mad that Ichabod bailed on Katrina when she was really in danger, only to just change his mind. Brom never wavered in his devotion, so this was another obtuse love triangle of death.
Problem the Third
The ending. This is where the big climax of the story is, but I was okay with that because the original Legend sort of waits until the end too. It also doesn't exactly end happily in the book, but that's what happens in the original tale so this didn't bother me either. So I can appreciate all of that. This still didn't make me like this ending. The ending is when the book gets really good, and I was like, "Okay, I know this story. Ichabod is going downnnnn! He's totally getting his head chopped off." FALSE. JUST FALSE. That's all I'm going to say. I'm honestly not even going to reveal what happens, because it made me mad. I ended the book just feeling like "Wtf?!" was written all over my face.
Three stars is NOT a bad rating. But it's mediocre. It's a solid middle ground that I normally do not place books in: I'm far more inclined to award two- and four-star ratings. Too many things prevented me from giving it a four-star rating, like Brom getting mistreated as a character, Ichabod being so unlikeable for me, and some smaller things like the bitchy bff of Katrina that I didn't bother to mention because she's such, well, a bitch. What saved it was the delightful creepiness of the town and the Horseman, the suspense, and the impressive narrative of Katrina.