Christopher Golden and Ford Lytle Gilmore, The
Hollow, Horseman (Razor Bill Books, 2005)
The copy on the back cover of Horseman reads as follows: "Sleepy Hollow is a town of myth, a town of terrifying legend. Cross the town line, enter the legend. Shane and Aimee Lancaster are about to cross the town line."
And this they do, on the fourth page of this YA novel, with immediate results. Golden and Gilmore are not about to make us wait for the plot to kick into action as all manner of supernatural events begin. An old lady is attacked by her dozens of cats. The holy water in the baptismal font in the local church boils, and seven gravestones in the local cemetery crack in two.
And then a fearsome man on horseback starts going around beheading people.
I figure that can't come as a surprise, really, since we're talking about a book whose title is Horseman and which is set in Sleepy Hollow.
What follows is a rather standard kind of mystery as Shane and Aimee, who have moved to Sleepy Hollow from Boston with their father after the death of their mother, try to unravel the truth behind the horrifying events that surround them. They find themselves delving deep into the lore of Sleepy Hollow, going so far as to read the private journals of Washington Irving and learning that Ichabod Crane was, in fact, a real person whose own adventures formed a decidedly non-fictional basis for "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." And all this goes on as Aimee and Shane find themselves continually stalked by the murdering horseman, who predictably is lacking everything from the neck up.
Little that happens in Horseman comes as much of a surprise. We have young kids moving to an unfamiliar town that has a dark past; we have them making questionable friends. We have conflict between them springing from the unresolved emotions of a parent's death. We have the refusal of the adults to recognize the clearly supernatural aspect of the horror that is surrounding the town.
And yet, I found Horseman to be an enjoyable read. Golden and Gilmore handle their characterizations well, never allowing their sullen teens to cross the line into just being irritating, and keeping their internal conflicts believable. It's easy to understand how Aimee and Shane can both love and resent one another; and with a story like this, so much of the effect depends upon whether or not we care about the characters. I did, so even though I was not surprised by any of the actual events of the story, I still reacted as they happened.
The novel is paced fairly quickly, but not too quickly. Horseman is an enjoyable read, although not a particularly demanding one. If you have a reader in the house who is beyond "Goosebumps," but may not yet be ready for, say, Salem's Lot, this might serve as a decent transition novel.
(I should note that this is the first book in a series. I do not know, as of this writing, how many books constitute the entirety of The Hollow. My review copy gave no indication of such.)