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"Drowned" Lacks Original Appeal And "The Hollow" ItselfJuly 25 2006
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The premise of the first novel of "The Hollow" series was that shortly after moving into Sleepy Hollow NY, brother and sister Shane and Aimee Lancaster witnessed the old spooky legends and lore of the town come back to life: they witnessed talking trees, an unnaturally large hell-hound by the name of Hizzoner, and the Headless Horsemen himself. While the first book barely spooked the reader, it made up for its shortcomings in spook-factor with mystery and an appealing new approach to the old legends originally written by Washington Irving. But "Drowned", the second novel, ditches those appealing efforts and continues to suffer from the old problems making it a hollow and less exciting Round 2.
The storyline this time around follows Shane and Aimee (including supporting characters) solving mystery and battling paranormal activity in the form of two new types of creatures: imps that lurk in cornfields and beautiful-but-deadly creatures called naiads that disguise themselves as nude women but are really homicidal water nymphs (of sorts). "Drowned" actually accomplishes to feature even less frightening creatures than the original: the imps make a brief but annoying cameo and the naiads become droll and dense as they progress through the novel. And really, how scary is a nude woman if she's portrayed as the most beautiful woman ever? Shane and Aimee also retry looking for a tree that can reveal secrets you're not supposed to know about. However, they ditch the effort within one chapter and move on. Perhaps the characters themselves became tired of lacking a scare?
I'm not convinced Christopher Golden is writing in a tone of horror but more in a tone of mystery with this series. The mystery (or lack of) this time around focuses on the homicidal naiads and why they're committing acts of murder. Their methods are unorthodox: they drown victims without needing ample supplies of water around them (a man is discovered in his bed at home "drowned", researchers at a laboratory suffer the same fate but are surprisingly no where near a body of water, etc). The same type of murders occur with a few more victims but Golden writes too openly to have a good mystery brewing. The original novel was predictable at times, others murky. I had dismissed it because it didn't upset me too much - I guess being confused is better than knowing everything too early. However, book #2 is too obvious and at times intentional making it a sad mystery if it ever was one. If Golden clearly isn't intending full-out horror and is convincing me he's not interested in a mystery, then what exactly is he striving for? Plausibility?!
And what about Sleepy Hollow and it's true legends: the Headless Horseman and Icabod Crane? Well, the novels' answer to that is: Who cares? Golden has seemed to have lost interest in continuing his version of Irving's original story. I had mentioned in my review of the first novel that Golden's take on the lore was darker and more sinister and that's what made the novel appealing when it was feeling weak. In "Drowned", however, that appeal is lost. "Drowned"'s plot doesn't require the lore to play a part and without that appeal the novel suffers. For all I cared, the paranormal events occurring didn't pertain to Sleepy Hollow in any way other than the fact that it is located near the Hudson River. Golden is basically taking the Sleepy Hollow out of "The Hollow". Or is it the other way around?
I had high hopes for the second novel, I really did. The cover was creepier than the first and I figured so too would be the storyline. But no, it's not. In fact, to me, "Drowned" disappointed in every aspect of the original novel. For the most part of the novel Shane, Aimee, and the rest of the hoodlums are either sleuthing slowly or running back and forth with teen angst and mild drama (Is a romance brewing? Are the teens REALLY drinking?!How shocking!).
Which brings up another quick point: while I dismissed it with the last novel, Golden's characters and "voice" are unconvincing. The teens really aren't that believable and their dialogue borderlines on camp. The adults are even worse: they are painted and portrayed with many stereotypes and cliches.
Does this mean I will not continue reading the rest of the series? No, because there's not too many Sleepy Hollow-related books out there. But if Golden continues on a path of stories that really doesn't focus on Sleepy Hollow's unique charm then "yes". The next novel, "Mischief", involves vandalism and crime as the basis for the plot. Oh right, because Sleepy Hollow is the only town suffering from that problem. How unique?
For all its lack of conviction in a good sequel, "Drowned" did succeed in a (very) brief moment: it sent a slight chill up my spine. Aimee, Shane, and Stasia (their friend) are walking through a forest (possibly enchanted) and come upon an abandoned park next to a small lake. Within the lake, they witness a haunting young ghost skating back and forth reaching his arms up for something. A better novel perhaps? That doesn't seem like too much of a stretch.