Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Book Review: Plain Kate by Erin Bow

Plain Kate by Erin Bow
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Publication date: September 2010
ISBN: 9780545166645
Source: Library

Plain Kate grew up learning to carve before she could walk.  But, when her father dies and the carver's guild sends a new master to her town, she is forced to leave behind that life.  When even the townspeople turn against her, calling her a witch, she must place her trust - and her life - in a pale stranger who promises to help.  In exchange for something, of course.  Will Plain Kate make the bargain?  And will she be able to deal with the consequences?

Things I Liked:
This was a gorgeous fairy-tale kind of story.  I adored the writing, which flowed smoothly and brought vivid images to mind with every sentence.  I loved Plain Kate - what an interesting character, flawed and vibrant and one who doesn't have all the answers.  She was made more real with each difficult decision she faced.  The dark and wicked story was touched by just the right amount of humor and light to balance it and not leave me depressed.  And Taggle was the best of all.  I'm not even fond of cats, but he sure made me wish I had one just like him.  I was also really glad the ending didn't try to come off too neatly.  She took it where it needed to go and didn't flinch away.  An all around excellent story, beautifully dressed.  Some favorite parts:

He was a dandy with one ear cocked, a gleam on his claw and a glint in his eye.  He sauntered through the market square elegant and tattered, admired and cursed: a highwayman, a gentleman thief.  His name was Taggle.  p 14
The next evening they anchored in a place where the fields of barley and rye came right down to the river, the grain growing among the riverside tangle of bloodtwig and basket rush.  The grain - as Kate had come to dread - was unharvested, and full of feasting starlings.  As the sunset lit, the birds threw themselves into the sky in tongues of dark fire that flashed back and forth across the river.  Linay stood up on the roof of the hold, playing his fiddle.  The skirling notes wove through the rush of wings.  p 226
Things I Didn't Like:
It was very dark, not at all what I expected, particularly from something I thought was a nice middle grade happy-ending fairy tale.  Still, the unexpected in this situation was very welcome.  It made it deeper and richer and more enjoyable to me.  Give this one to your more mature tweens or teens who love dark fairy tales.

A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

The Midwife's Apprentice by Karen Cushman
StarCrossed by Elizabeth Bunce

s-factor: !
maybe one or two

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->->
it does have some frightening, dark stuff

Overall rating: *****

Have you read this?  I feel like this is an under-the-radar awesome book.

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage


  1. This is one I keep looking at but never read. Perhaps I'll give it a go after reading your review. Thanks.

  2. I read the first few chapters of this one when it initially came out, but it didn't grab me and I ended up putting it aside. I may just not have been in the right mood. Maybe I'll go back to it someday -- it sounds like it ended up being a good book!

  3. Erin, I completely understand about moods, because I can totally hate or love a book depending on how I'm feeling. Maybe sometime you'll have time to give it another chance!


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