Sunday, October 3, 2010

Review: Plain Kate by Erin Bow

Plain Kate
Author: Erin Bow
Publication: Arthur A. Levine Books (September 1, 2010)

Description: Plain Kate lives in a world of superstitions and curses, where a song can heal a wound and a shadow can work deep magic. As the wood-carver's daughter, Kate held a carving knife before a spoon, and her wooden charms are so fine that some even call her "witch-blade" -- a dangerous nickname in a town where witches are hunted and burned in the square.

For Kate and her village have fallen on hard times. Kate's father has died, leaving her alone in the world. And a mysterious fog now covers the countryside, ruining crops and spreading fear of hunger and sickness. The townspeople are looking for someone to blame, and their eyes have fallen on Kate.

Enter Linay, a stranger with a proposition: In exchange for her shadow, he'll give Kate the means to escape the town that seems set to burn her, and what's more, he'll grant her heart's wish. It's a chance for her to start over, to find a home, a family, a place to belong. But Kate soon realizes that she can't live shadowless forever -- and that Linay's designs are darker than she ever dreamed.

My Thoughts: What an incredibly amazing book. It was exactly the right book at the right time for me. I loved the fairy tale feel to the book. I loved the wonderful language. The story just flowed so smoothly. Kate was such an amazing character. She was strong. loving, and loyal. She was also tremendously brave.

This is a tale of a hero's journey. And every hero needs companions. Kate's cat Taggle made a great one. Magic made him able to speak but he was still almost all cat. His viewpoint added some humor and lightness to an otherwise dark and frightening story. Here is a brief example from a time when Kate is trying to find a way to defeat Linay:
As you love your life, Linay had said. But she had to see. If there was any chance of getting her shadow back--"I have to try."

"Oooo, you're succeeding." Taggle's claws bared and velveted as he kneaded at the air. "You're talented, I've always said so. Ooooooo..."

"We're not talking about you."

The cat's inner eyelids had been sliding closed. He lifted one, lizardlike. "We're not? Why not?" 
Kate lost her mother at birth and her father before she was old enough to be an apprentice. He had taught her to be a wood carver and she had a gift for it. She lived alone and with few friends after her father died. Life was hard. Then a magician named Linay came and forced her to make a bargain with him. She traded her shadow for her dearest wish. She was forced to flee the town where she was born after being accused of witchcraft and, so, began her journey.

Kate first spent time with the Roamers. She learned their ways, made a friend, and almost had a place until the rumors of witchcraft made them cast her out. Then she connects again with Linay who is an a quest to avenge the death of his sister. 

Kate has to find a way to stop him because his vengeance will cause the deaths of all the people in the city of Lov. But a young wood carver isn't much of a match for a powerful magician.

I thought the book was very well told and very moving. I cried through most of the last two chapters. I highly recommend this book to lovers of fairy tales and fantasies.

Favorite Quote:
She was dry. She was lying on something soft. She was wrapped in quilts. There was a star of light drifting above her, and a smell like an herb garden. Taggle was a long warmth stretched at one side, his chin in her hand, his tail curled over her neck. She thought they might be in heaven.

Taggle farted.
Challenges: RYOB Reading Challenge, Paranormal Reading Challenge, 2010 YA Debut Author Challenge, 2010 YA Reading Challenge


  1. This sounds really good, I've seen it a few times but the it really hasn't sparked my interest in reading it but your review changed my mind, I'm definitely going to add it to my list now. =)

  2. This sounds great - I wish I didn't have so many must read them for review books so I could read this one. I will have to add it to my wish list and then read it after Christmas or so. Love the quote! Have a great weekend.

  3. Nice review! This one seems nothing short of amazing! I can't wait to get my hands on a copy. :)


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