Thursday, August 26, 2010

Plain Kate by Erin Bow

Summary (courtesy of 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.

And here's what I thought:  I had signed up for the ARC tour for this book on Dark Faerie Tales because the description of the story sounded interesting.    What I found in this book was a wonderful story, with interesting characters, and simple, elegant writing.  Bow gives the reader  a sympathetic main character, Kate, who seems to have the odds stacked against her with every turn.  Lucky for her, she has Taggle, her cat, but even he can bring trouble to her.   However, Kate's smart, and has a good head on her shoulders, and can fend pretty well for herself (despite difficult and inhospitable surroundings).   

This story is complex, and dark at times, kind of like a good folk tale, full of dangerous magic, where things don't always end happily (or do they?).   There are characters who have good hearts, and characters who are just bad to the core.    What I found interesting was how Bow created the cultures in this story.  We have the people in Kate's town, who have their own superstitions and traditions, and we have the Roamers, a gypsy-like group who have some of the same superstitions.   The common thread of the fear of witches runs through everything in this story, and it made me think about how vulnerable a girl or woman would be in a place like this.   Anything different about your appearance, or your mannerisms, any small thing, could be cause for someone to point a finger and cry "witch."  If you are accused, how can you prove you're not a witch?  Think about how in the times of Salem, the best way to tell a witch was to tie stones to a woman and throw her in deep water -- if she floated, she was a witch (and got to be burned at a stake); if she didn't float, she was exonerated --- which meant as a reward, she drowned.  Horrifying.    I liked that Bow incorporated that kind of fear and superstition into this story, because it had a huge impact on Kate, and the decisions she made.   Definitely made me think while I was reading this.

I thought this was a well-written, moving story, and one that would be enjoyable to either read aloud, or listen to on audio.     I'm grateful I had the opportunity to read this ARC on the tour.


Katelyn said...

Great review, I've been looking foward to reading this one for a while and have been hearing similar positive reviews around the blogosphere, thanks for the rec!

WonderBunny said...

Sounds interesting. I'll have to keep my eyes open for this. :)

Great review!

Faye( Ramblings of a Teenage Bookworm) said...

Thanks 4 the review!! i've had so many good thigs about this book! can't wait 2 read it!

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