Amy’s Marathon of Books: Plain Kate, by Erin Bow

July 17, 2014

Plain KateTitle: Plain Kate
Author: Erin Bow
Publisher: Scholastic
ISBN: 9780545166652
Province: Ontario

Book Source: borrowed from the local library

Synopsis (from Scholastic):

Plain Kate lives in a world of magic and curses, where cats can talk and shadows can bring back the dead. As the wood-carver’s daughter, Kate held a carving knife before a spoon, and her wooden talismans seem to reveal hidden truths about their owners. But she and her village have fallen on hard times: Kate’s father dies, crops fail, and a strange sickness is spreading across the countryside. The village is looking for someone to blame, and for her skill with a knife, Kate is accused of witchcraft. Enter Linay, a stranger with a proposition: If Kate gives him her shadow, he’ll grant her heart’s wish, and he’ll also find a way for her to escape the angry townspeople. Kate reluctantly agrees, not realizing that she’s given a powerful tool to a man driven mad with grief. Aided by new friends and armed with the carving knife that has never failed to show her the truth, Kate must stop Linay in his terrible plan of revenge and become the heroine she knows is within her.


Love. Love, love, love, love, love.

Yeah, it’s that good.

Plain Kate is rich and original and surprising, full of three-dimensional characters with fully-developed histories and agendas. One of these is Taggle, Kate’s cat, who receives the gift of speech as part of the exchange for her shadow. But he’s not just a generic fantasy-genre talking cat, he’s a specific talking cat – an entity with individual traits and behaviours, just like any human character. He’s also frequently hilarious, just one of the reasons he deserves to be a book boyfriend, despite that whole fur thing.

The writing here is beautiful as well. Bow takes clichés like “she sang like a lark” and transforms them into fresh and lovely images: “she… sang like a lark tossing up ribbons of tune into the air.” Ribbons of tune. This is just one example of writing so vivid and lovely, I had several fits of professional jealousy while devouring the book.

If you like Robin McKinley or Juliet Marillier, you need to read Plain Kate.

For more information on Erin Bow and her books, visit her website. I read this book for the 13 Amy's Marathon buttonBook Challenge, part of Amy’s Marathon of Books. Amy’s marathon is designed to raise awareness of the amazing YA books that Canadians are writing, and to raise money to launch a new YA book award. You can donate by clicking the button!

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