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{December 11, 2013}   {Review} Severed by Dax Varley

18400224From Goodreads: Katrina’s still haunted by her encounter with the Headless Horseman – the night he beckoned to her. Now he has risen again, slashing heads and terrorizing the quiet countryside.

Her only joy during this dismal darkness comes when Ichabod Crane, a gorgeous young man from Connecticut, moves to Sleepy Hollow and their attraction turns to romance.

When the Horseman marks Ichabod as his next victim, Katrina, despite dangerous efforts to save him, sees no other choice than for them to flee.

But the Horseman awaits. Now it’s up to her to sever the horror and alter the Legend of Sleepy Hollow.


This is a very, very well done take on the classic short story, “Sleepy Hollow.”  In truth, I actually like Severed much more than I like the classic for a number of reasons, two of them being that I can actually connect with the characters and I can fully understand the text!  No offence of Washington Irving, but his story is very dry, whereas this recent rendition is full of characterization, mystery, intrigue, and romance.  Varley does an amazing job staying close to the original story throughout much of her retelling, but adds her own flare near the end, changing the story to a much more sinister and intriguing end, I think, than that of the original.  In fact, as I was reading I pictured the film version with Johnny Depp from 1999, and just like the movie, Daxley creates her very own end that fits perfectly within the storyline.

The story itself kept my attention late into the night, and had my eyes allowed it, I know I would have finished this in one sitting.  Varley definitely knows how to spin a tale, and her characterization was spot on.  I loved Katrina and Ichabod, and loathed Brom and Peter, just, as I imagine, Varley wanted readers too.  In the end, the characters do get their comeuppance, and this twist was really intriguing. I never saw it coming, and truth be told, I think this is an even better ending that the film version.

If you are intrigued by the legend and would like a different approach to the classic, I highly suggest you read this novel. Four stars.

4 stars

Dax Varley was extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

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See my review of Washington Irving’s “The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow” here.


93261From Goodreads: The chief part of the stories, however, turned upon the favorite specter of Sleepy Hollow, the Headless Horseman, who had been heard several times of late, patrolling the country; and, it was said, tethered his horse nightly among the graves in the churchyard. The story was immediately matched by a thrice marvelous adventure of Brom Bones, who made light of the Galloping Hessian as an arrant jockey. He affirmed that on returning one night from the neighboring village of Sing Sing, he had been overtaken by this midnight trooper; that he had offered to race with him for a bowl of punch, and should have won it too, for Daredevil beat the goblin horse all hollow, but just as they came to the church bridge, the Hessian bolted, and vanished in a flash of fire. All these tales, told in that drowsy undertone with which men talk in the dark, the countenances of the listeners only now and then receiving a casual gleam from the glare of a pipe, sank deep in the mind of Ichabod…


If you read the above “synopsis,” you’ll see the basic writing style of Washington Irving.  For his time period, the early 1800s, his writing was easy to understand and was highly interesting, especially as he’s discussing a ghost story.  However, it’s not so easy to follow and understand in today’s time period, and the writing itself is somewhat dry and, for me, boresome, especially with the huge array of novels that now grace the world, allowing readers to be even more so picky with their reads.

This is a novella that follows Ichabod as he learns the story of the Headless Horseman.  It’s an intriguing idea, and I’m sure many of us have heard of it, if not read it—my high school English teacher made me read this in 11th grade and I was a bit lost—but in my opinion, it’s anticlimactic.  Irving sets up this ghost story to lure readers in, and then ends on a bland note, one that made me feel like sitting here and rereading the story wasn’t really worth my time at all.  Likewise, I felt like there was little to no character development, something I’ve come quite accustomed to in my novels, and I felt like Irving was more so telling and not showing.  Again, this worked very well in 1820, but I find it does nothing for me as a 21st century reader.

However, in the last few decades there have been new renditions of this novella that switch up the ending and that take the reader along for a wild ride, such as the novel, Severed, by Dax Varley, and these stories are much more my speed.

Overall, I think that Irving’s short story/novella has the right idea, but just doesn’t captivate today’s audience much anymore.  Two stars.

I own a copy of this novella handed down to me from my parents.

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