open the pages, read the words, savor the magic
Look at what the Sleepy Hollow season 2 finale made me do: it made me go and pick up a TV tie-in novel because I couldn’t bear the idea of not spending another week with Ichabod Crane and Abigail Mills, two of my current favorite action heroes. So bless Keith R. A. DeCandido for writing this novel, set in between season 1’s “The Golem” and “The Vessel” episodes. (The header photo above comes, in fact, from “The Golem”.)
This timeline is important. For anyone watching the show, they’ll remember how the ‘future’ for Ichabod Crane is often perplexing and disconcerting… and his attitude shows it. In this novel, Sleepy Hollow: Children of the Revolution, Crane is indeed still adjusting to life in the 21st century, so there’s still plenty of discontent on his part about the entire situation. He’s not as assured as he seems in season 2, so if you read this book during or after the season 2 finale, it’s a refreshing reminder that he was once pretty much a fish out of water.
But he’s not the only one – all of the characters are still finding their way in the bizarre new world of demons and monsters. Captain Irving, for example, is struggling with everything from his family situation to Lt. Mills’ and Crane’s role as biblical witnesses. Jenny Mills, on the other hand, has not entirely mended her relationship with Abbie, making for some tense moments during the course of the story. Most interestingly, however, is Abbie’s own point of view about life as she now knows it. Apparently our beloved ‘Lef-tenant’ is struggling to accept her role as much as Crane does with living in the future… and things are not all roses in Team Ichabbie. But more on that later…
The story goes that Crane, when walking in the park one day, receives a vision from his witchy wife Katrina, then still a denizen of Purgatory. Katrina warns him of impending danger, by showing him scenes from the past – including Crane’s own – and tells him to retrieve a medal that was awarded to Crane, but never received because he had already faced the Horseman of Death and ‘died’. Naturally, this warning leads to a foray into American history – most notably General Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River on Christas in 1776 – that is laden with a demonic twist and gruesome scenes of various murders. There is no doubt that DeCandido is an avid watcher of the series, because he managed to construct this case and all of its supernatural entanglements just perfectly as it would be in the show.
The biggest difference between an episode of Sleepy Hollow on TV and this book is how much detail we receive in Children of the Revolution. If this novel were an episode, I would say that this is a double R-rated episode for a Christmas special – perhaps on cable, because it would seem unlikely that the novel’s level of gore and violence is fit for network TV consumption. For me, however, it’s an absolute treat. While Sleepy Hollow contains a huge amount of horror element, it never reaches the ‘freak show’ level of the genre. This book has no problems descending into the darker waters, with plenty of mutilated bodies strewn about, demonic possession in one corner and creepy buildings and places in the other.
Children of the Revolution’s intricate plot is told at an even pace. For a book with so much details to go through, complete with flashback chapters to the 18th century, it doesn’t feel like the story is impossibly stretched out. Towards the end, the ball rolls kind of fast heading for the climax and revelation, but it’s a relatively enjoyable stroll (assuming you like this type of supernatural horror mysteries) for the first two thirds of the book, where you can immerse yourself in scenic Sleepy Hollow and its surrounding neighbourhood, with the occasional visit to ol’ NYC, and the lives of its inhabitants. But with creepiness throughout, it’s not a cushy story like your regular romance novel or YA adventure, so be prepared for a few exciting twists and turns.
Another thing that DeCandido got right is the characterization of Ichabod Crane and Abigail Mills. While the novel provides us shifting perspectives of many key characters, our witness duo remain at the heart of it. What’s interesting here is that Abbie Mills seems to hold some kind of longing, and at times even something resembling resentment, for being forced into fighting demons as a biblical witness. Not getting to join the FBI as she planned to at the beginning of this entire saga is something that gets underlined in Abbie’s part in the novel. She also wishes that she could just do some regular police work without having to worry about being chased by anything otherworldly. And sometimes, she also can’t seem to figure out Crane. At this point in time it’s natural that Abbie would see Crane something of an alien in her life. His speech, his mannerism, his entire being seem terribly odd to this Abbie that DeCandido wrote. And I like that: not only because it’s true to the timeline, but it’s also refreshing to see how unsettled Abbie can be by this man out of time.
On that note, I’m sure shippers will disagree with me or with DeCandido’s depiction of these two characters. I am sympathetic to the Ichabbie shippers – Ichabod and Abbie are awesome together, even if it’s just platonically – but in this novel’s context, anything more than friendship or a close working relationship would be wrong for the story.
Anyway, the reason why I’m highlighting Abbie’s side of the story in this novel is because for me she’s one of this decade’s greatest female characters in a Hollywood product – she is smart, strong, independent and sexy while not at all sexualized by writers/producers/directors. It’s important to me that any writer got Abbie Mills’ character right and I have to say that DeCandido did well in shaping up her character in this tie-in novel.
As it is with all tie-ins, however, no matter how satisfying and how great the story is for fans of the show like me, that greatness might not translate well to non-fans. I have to say that Children of the Revolution is firmly ‘tied’ to the TV show… so much that perhaps some of the things DeCandido included in this story will go right over non-fans’ head. The novel is easy enough to follow, though, so who knows? Maybe this will attract some readers to start watching the show.
Now all I can do is pray that the show is renewed for a third season.