Book Review: “Sleepy Hollow: Creating Heroes, Demons & Monsters” by Tara Bennett and Paul Terry

Let me start my somewhat-biased review by confessing something. I’m a hardcore fan of the FOX television series Sleepy Hollow, and I could not wait to get my hands on the companion volume to the show. As a writer and storyteller, I find it fascinating to see the thought process and storyboards for television and film.

For those who have not yet seen the series, here’s a synopsis of the show, which is now in its third season on FOX:

Resurrected from his grave more than two centuries after he was killed fighting for the Colonial Army in the Civil War, Ichabod Crane partners with Lieutenant Abbie Mills of the Sleepy Hollow Police Department to fight the evil forces that have taken hold of the town.

From the velvet feel of the matte cover to the glossy photos contained within, Tara Bennett and Paul Terry introduce fans to all of the behind-the-scenes production that goes into creating the world inhabited by heroes Ichabod Crane and Abigail Mills.

With a foreword from series executive producer Len Wiseman, the 176-page companion photo and sketch book reveal information that fans rarely have access to, including the original concept of the show and how it evolved into what it is today, how the team creates each monster-of-the-week, and how each of those monsters play into the overall mythology of the series.

Concept sketches depict the show’s interpretation of Washington Irving’s character, Ichabod Crane, brought to life by actor Tom Mison, along with the places that help create the tone of the series. The team behind Sleepy Hollow have taken special care with their version of Irving’s character, making the show much more than simply a tale of a man out of time and instead focusing on Crane’s observations of our modern times through his colonial lens as he comes to accept his role in thwarting the coming apocalypse. If you’ve seen the show, you know how charming Mison is as Crane and how he is completely believable in the role despite the supernatural story the show tells. If you haven’t seen the show, Mison is reason enough to check it out – he’s equal parts adorable and talented, plus he has that lovely British accent that will tickle your ears.

Each of the main characters are featured in one to four-page spreads, including concept art and quotes from makeup artists and costume and set designers. Sprinkled throughout the pages are also pieces of “twistory”, which reveal how the writers have blended American history with the fictional versions of Sleepy Hollow’s denizens.

If you’re interested in sets, props, costumes or makeup design, the detailed concept art, special effect stills and photos from various stages in the production will give you a sense of what goes into each particular piece of the puzzle.

While I enjoyed the book very much, especially reading the creative thought processes of the writers, producers and designers, I have one complaint: the actors were not included in the book at all other than photographs of them behind-the-scenes or stills from the show. Input from the people who bring these characters to life every week would have nicely rounded out the information provided, giving the reader a complete view of the series. After all, a script, costumes and set design can only take a show so far. The actors are the people breathing life into the show, connecting with the viewers each week.

For those fans like myself, who love getting an insider’s look at a show they love and are entertained by, Sleepy Hollow: Creating Heroes, Demons & Monsters is a wonderful companion and interesting perspective on the mythology of the series and its characters. No photos I could take of the book would really do the actual sketches or stills justice, so you’ll simply need to purchase a copy for yourself to get the full and glorious effect.

A copy of the book was provided by the publisher for review and you can purchase a copy here.