Friday, August 12, 2011

Jessi Reviews "Plain Kate"

Title/Author: Plain Kate by Erin Bow
Publisher/Year: Arthur A. Levine Books, 2010
How I Got This: I won it a while ago from Adriana at Loves to Read!
Why I Read It: This had been on my to-read list from the first I heard of it--it sounded so good (and it was)!
Rating: 5 Stars 

Synopsis (from 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.


Okay, so I'm forewarning you all right now--this is totally going to be one of those reviews that rambles and babbles on because there are simply not enough words to convey the love I have for this book.

I remember seeing Plain Kate floating around the blogosphere last year and absolutely itching to read it. I didn't know too much about this book going into it, but looking back, I'm glad I didn't. I had no preconceived ideas about what to expect, except that this was a good book.

I'm going to come right out and say that this is definitely a book for those who love fairy tales and fairy tale retellings. While not a fairy tale or a retelling itself, it's got that dark edginess to it that all of the good fairy tales have. My heart wrenched for Kate throughout this one--from the very beginning to the very end. And yes, the ending made me cry. Oh, the tears! Kate just can't catch a break and she's such an awesome heroine. I was pulling for her the whole time, but it was like obstacle after obstacle kept getting in her way.

I loved basically everything about this book. Erin Bow's style is so fitting for this story. Her writing is simple to the point where, at first, I almost felt like I was reading a middle grade novel. But every so often, a description would just take my breath away--she is one of those authors with ways of describing something that you would have never thought to describe that way. The style fits so perfectly with the setting, too. She never really comes out and says where this is taking place (I mean, there are town names, but I'm assuming they're fictitious). It felt very eastern European to me. So the way Ms. Bow spun her tale made it sound like a fairy tale from the old country. It was awesome. Not to mention, as you read, it's fairly obvious that this was set in the past at some point when people still believed in the "evils of witchcraft" and burning witches at the stake. It made this story seem more believable. I loved the descriptions of the towns and the markets and the countryside and the forests. I loved the concept of the Roamers--this story's version of a band of gypsies. As I mentioned before, Kate was an a-w-e-s-o-m-e protagonist. She's a strong female character, first off. But she also is not without flaws. Yay for realistic characters! Taggle--oh how I love thee, let me count the ways. I've always had a thing for animal characters...especially those that can talk. I loved how snarky he was and how he was so obsessed with food. I felt like my own cat had come to life. Linay was a great antagonist. I still haven't fully decided if I thought he was evil or just guided down the wrong path for the right reasons, and those are my favorite kind of "villians"--the ones you can't help but sympathize with. Even the minor characters like Daj and Stivo and Drina--I had such clear pictures and impressions of them in my mind.

Again, I apologize for the gushing, but I can't get over how much I loved this. I'm kinda bummed that this is a standalone novel only because I loved it so much. I'll be anxiously awaiting whatever Erin Bow writes next!


  1. Another book to add on the TBR list!

  2. I have been wanting to read this for a while, just haven't been able to get my hands on a copy just yet. Thanks for the review, I'm so glad to hear that you liked it! Now I really can't wait to read it...

  3. I loved this one. My favorite was the talking cat!

  4. the idea of this book has always been intriguing to me. that being said, hearing that the writing is lyrical and awesome is bumping this one up my tbr as we speak! or type. whatever.

    lovely review!

  5. I simply love a gushing book review. Keep them coming!

  6. I have heard nothing but praise for this book, so glad you loved it! It's so nice to have a strong female protagonist. YAY for her being a Canadian author too :D

  7. This sounds awesome. I'm glad that you reviewed it because it probably wouldn't have been on my radar. I was sold at the description of "mysterious fog".

  8. This looks really good! I'll definitely have to add this to my tbr list.

  9. You're right to be gushing. I remember reading this for the Cybils and oh wow...


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