Debut author Erin Bow’s Plain Kateis a joy. Kate is a likeable, charming girl whose plight pulls at your heartstrings and whose courage inspires you. Even though she’s faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles, she remains resolute and steadfast in her determination to keep moving forward in hopes of finding a place to belong.
Plain Kate is the only child of her town’s master carver; she’s held a blade since before she could walk and her skill with carving sometimes earns the suspicion of her town. They say she’s got a “witch’s blade” and her charms and carvings are magic. That’s a dangerous rumor in Kate’s world, where superstition, magic, and being different from the rest can easily land a woman in the dungeon, or worse, tied to a stake for burning. When Kate’s father dies and the new carver arrives, she’s forced out of the only home she’s ever known. Her village, and the surrounding countryside, have fallen on hard times and a sleeping sickness is creeping along the river, wiping out whole villages as it passes. Then a real witch, Linay, comes to town and forces Kate into an offer she can’t refuse: in exchange for her shadow, he’ll give her her heart’s desire and the means to escape the threat of the stake. Poignantly, her heart’s wish turns out to be someone to talk to and so her cat, Taggle, can now speak and accompanies Kate as she leaves her home village. Kate is tentatively accepted into a caravan of “Roamers,” and it soon becomes clear that Linay took her shadow for evil purposes. It’s up to Kate and Taggle to set things right, even if the cost is more than they can bear.
This is a delightful, complex, well-written story about grief, courage, and loyalty. Kate rightly earns both the reader’s sympathy and admiration, and Taggle will certainly be a favorite with his sharp wit and heroism. Plain Kate sets the stage for either more adventures with Kate and Taggle or, perhaps even better, future works from a talented new voice.
- Posted by Cori