Tuesday, May 24, 2011

ARC Review: Plain Kate by Erin Bow

Title: Plain Kate
Author: Erin Bow | Author’s Website
Available: Now
Reading Level: YA
Genre: Fantasy

Description via Goodreads:

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 talismans are so fine that some even call her “witch-blade”: a dangerous nickname in a country 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 angry town, 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 she can't live shadowless forever -- and that Linay's designs are darker than she ever dreamed.

My thoughts:

Katerina Svetlana is known to most as Plain Kate. Raised by her father after her mother passed away. She has a gift with woodworking and hopes to become a master carver just like her father. When he dies from the witch's fever Kate is left alone. Too young and poor to become an apprentice to the carver taking her father's place in town, she finds herself living in her father's vacant booth in the town square with only a kitten for company. When strange things happen the townsfolk begin to suspect Plain Kate of witchcraft. This sets in motion Kate deciding to trade her shadow for the tools necessary to flee the small town she called home. Kate sets off on an adventure full of both excitement and grief. As her shadow slowly disappears she realizes her secrets won't stay hidden for long. When Kate agreed to the trade she didn't realize how difficult a shadowless life would be.

I'm not sure why I was under the impression Plain Kate was a middle grade novel. It turned out to be much darker than I had anticipated which was actually a good thing. I love books reminiscent of fairy tales, but laced with darker themes. It took me much longer than I would have liked to finish reading, but it wasn't because of the book itself. It was more life getting in the way. I found myself constantly thinking of what trials Kate would face next and eager to slack on responsibilities in order to spend more time reading. All signs of a really good read.

Kate is your classic outcast. Orphaned with an appearance that leads people to make incorrect assumptions. The town seemed to tolerate her until her father's death. After that poor Kate was on her own and struggling for survival. When the unexplainable occurs people search for someone to blame. Kate's "witch eyes" made her an easy target. Kate is the ideal heroine for this genre and fits her role in the story to perfection. There is also a great deal of wonderful secondary characters that Kate meets over the course of her journey. The characters in Plain Kate are exactly what characters in all books should hope to be. Well developed instead of just "filler characters". They felt just as familiar as main character and narrator, Kate. This isn't something that can be said of all books especially fantasy. With so much happening sometimes the secondary characters don't get the attention they deserve. This is not the case with the cast of Plain Kate. There is also a talking cat! As far as I'm concerned cats and fantasy go together like peanut butter and jelly. Give the cat the ability to speak, and I'm one happy reader.

The ending was executed perfectly. I loved that while the conflict was resolved it stayed true to the novels darker tones. I do love a happily ever after, but I also appreciate it when an author doesn't feel the need to insert rainbows and sunshine just to appease readers. Combine all of these elements with an amazing setting and you have a fantasy novel done right! This isn't a book everyone will love, but I think fans of darker fantasy will truly appreciate what Plain Kate has to offer.

My Rating:

Source: Amazon Vine


  1. I love the cover and review...and that rating. IM going to ahve to check it out.

  2. I'm glad to read you enjoyed this one! For a while I thought this was middle grade fiction, too; I think it's the cover that, while really pretty, looks different from most YA novels.