In the first book of her Legends saga, Crane, Stacey Rourke takes on Washington Irving’s unforgettable tale, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. It’s a story we've all seen retold many times – through animation, on the silver screen, and, most recently, for television . It would be easy for anyone handling the story to fall into issues of over-familiarity, but Stacey Rourke manages to bust through that obstacle without a hitch. Instead, she gives readers a mystifying and vastly entertaining reimagining that stays devoted to the nuances of the original characters while taking the legend we thought we knew in a pulse-pounding new direction. Meet Ireland Crane: smart, sassy, and refreshingly original. Newly arrived in Sleepy Hollow, she’s determined to leave her past mistakes behind her and start fresh as a guidance counselor at the local high school – that is, until bodies start piling up and whispers abound that the legendary Headless Horseman has made his return. The situation worsens when a scraggily old hobo shows up in Ireland’s life claiming to be Rip Van Winkle, newly woken from centuries of slumber and tasked with the mission of helping Ireland break the curse that has the horseman running lose and the spirit of Ichabod Crane in turmoil. Throw in a handsome handyman neighbor, a vindictive ex, and an angry spirit with a serious grudge, and Ireland has her work cut out for her.
Rourke counters Ireland’s modern-day plight with chapters that flash back to the days of the Revolutionary War as Ichabod and his friends – Rip Van Winkle and, in charming new fictionalization, Washington Irving – seek their futures in Sleepy Hollow. Once there, quiet Ichabod falls in love with the beautiful Katrina and sparks a chain reaction of trouble. The atmosphere of the historic storyline comes alive under Rourke’s smart writing while the modern scenes spark with wit and style. She manages a superb combination of spooky thrills, intriguing mystery, and wry flashes of humor that makes Crane pure fun and impossible to put down. Her heroine is instantly lovable in her disarming honesty, and the classic characters of Sleepy Hollow - as well as Irving's adjacent character, Rip - are handled with devoted attention. Her inclusion of Washington Irving himself as a character makes the novel feel less like a Sleepy Hollow retelling and more like a journey of immersing ourselves into Irving's whole world. Altogether, Crane is a smart blend of mystery, romance, and darkly comic mischief. It's surely the start of a unique new series that's worth losing your head over getting excited about. (Yes, I went there.)