Keith R.A. DeCandido, our faithful Tor.com Deep Space 9 Rewatcher, has had a long and fabulous career writing SFF. In addition to original work like The Klingon Art of War and Dragon Precinct, he has written tie-in novels for shows including Star Trek, Buffy, Supernatural, Doctor Who. This week he adds to his fictional family with the first Sleepy Hollow tie-in novel: Children of the Revolution.
The narrative travels from Sleepy Hollow to the Astor Court of the Met, from Fort Ticonderoga to the Bronx. It ranges over New York’s history from 1776 all the way up to last January, and fills in some great bits of Ichabod’s backstory, as well as giving us a more emotional portrait of Ichabod, Abbie, Capt. Irving, and Jenny. But, most important, there’s a new mystery, and it involves Irving’s past!
We begin with Crane walking in Patriot’s Park, where he meets a young hipsterish girl who admires his coat. This is great, because we immediately see how Crane interacts with strangers—his exquisite manners, which are simply second nature to him, charm the people around him. I was also pleased with the reverent bow to Crane’s coat. But Crane’s life can’t all be meet-cutes and sartorial flourishes—he quickly gets swept up in a vision of his past, and hears a dire warning from Katrina. DeCandido really captures the show’s voice, making Katrina’s instructions every bit as cryptic as they are on TV. Luckily, Crane has some help from Abbie and Irving in decrypting everything, and it soon becomes clear that we haven’t seen the last of Serilda of Abaddon.
The witch, whose coven featured prominently in the Sleepy Hollow episode “Blood Moon,” is now gunning for yet another resurrection. The last remnants of her cult need only to gather a series of Congressional Crosses, awarded to certain heroes of the Revolution by George Washington, to enact an incredibly powerful spell and bring her back to the mortal plane. But guess who just happened to be one of those heroic patriots? Why, our Mr. Crane, of course, who was too busy being dead to collect his! So the team goes on a chase to find the Crosses before Serilda’s coven can get their witchy hands on them.
Irving quickly calls in his ex-partner, now working as an insurance investigator for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Abbie brings Jenny in for some occult research expertise. The Crosses are scattered across several museums and historical sites, which make for a great excuse for multiple road trips. It’s fantastic to see Crane outside of his natural habitat, especially when he’s on the road playing pedantic passenger to Abbie’s annoyed driver. We also get a bit more detail about Irving’s past with the NYPD, his relationship with his daughter, Macey, and the seemingly bottomless guilt he feels toward his family. Early in the novel, Irving takes his daughter on a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and we are painstakingly shown how Macey’s life was changed by the accident, as she navigates the museum and its visitors in her chair, and how much her father blames himself.
DeCandido details several of the witches’ supernatural heists, and he also embraces Sleepy Hollow’s status as a horror story, and gives us gore on a level that Fox won’t allow. The action is twisty and fun, with our Witnesses and their team facing off against invisible assassins, snarky witches, and their own hallucinations. There are also multiple flashbacks to George Washington’s original skirmish with Serilda and her minions, which adds to the book’s greatest strength: DeCandido’s mastery of the history of this period, and his dedication to detail, really emphasize the interrelatedness of the fight. As Washington and Crane fought Serilda and her coven back in the 18th Century, so Abbie, Jenny, and Irving have to battle the followers’ descendants today.
DeCandido’s narrative also spends time with the museum workers and cops who get unknowingly swept up into the mystery, which adds a wonderful element to the book that the show unfortunately glosses over. People who would just be background dressing—seen from the perspective of Mills and Crane as (possibly headless) victims—are now given backstory to set against the cosmic war they don’t even know exists. While I love the show, it doesn’t really slow down long enough for us to understand just how high the stakes are. Seeing more of the people infected by Pestilence in “John Doe,” or seeing the families of the murdered Masons in “The Midnight Ride” would give us a better sense of the war’s vast scale. In the novel, we get the sense that even the tertiary the characters are dealing with the consequences of this fight, not just Crane and the Mills sisters.
DeCandido’s decision to jump through multiple points of view also strengthens the sense of an expansive community centered around the war. We get some wonderful emotional depth from Irving, more details on Jenny and Abbie’s history with Sheriff Corbin, and, best of all, we get Crane’s highly formal thought processes. We also get to see the coven from the inside out, which leads to some hilarious scenes where the more, shall we say, hardcore Serildans clash with women who really just want to be empowered feminist neo-pagans. DeCandido also drops in some great in-jokes for fans of supernatural fiction, with references to Ghostbusters and Mulder and Scully, and there’s plenty for New York history buffs to love, too, as the characters visit Fort Ticonderoga, the Museum of the City of New York, and the Met.
Children of the Revolution takes place between the tenth episode, “The Golem,” and the eleventh, “The Vessel.” DeCandido fills in enough backstory that even a newcomer to the characters can follow along, however, and he doesn’t drop too many hints about what’s coming up in the second season.
Children of the Revolution is available now from Crown Publishing.