13 July, 2011

Plain Kate - Review

Plain Kate by Erin Bow
Publication date: 1 September 2010 by Arthur A. Levine Books
ISBN 10/13: 0545166640 | 9780545166645

Category: Young Adult Fantasy
Format: Hardcover (Also available in eBook, Kindle, and audiobook formats)
Keywords: Loss, grief, revenge, superstition, folktales

Alethea's Review:

I didn't really have this book on my radar until I saw the trailer--and hello, people, REALLY? Only 12 people have liked this trailer on Youtube? Sorry to go off on a tangent but I really feel like this is a less well-known book that does deserve much more attention. ;) Before I tell you why, take a look at this trailer:

Did you like it? Give it a thumbs-up!

Plain Kate is a woodcarver's daughter. When her dad passes away, her innate gift with carving wood becomes both a blessing and a curse. Her skill is considered akin to witchcraft, which could be responsible for the sleeping sickness sweeping the countryside. Without her father to protect or provide for her, the town's tongues start to wag. Plain Kate does the best she can all alone, until a stranger comes along one day... and makes everything just that much worse.

Feeling the town's trust (barely there to begin with) begin to dissipate with the morning mist, Plain Kate makes a deal and makes away with the few meager possessions she holds dear, including her cat, Taggle. Hitching her wagon to a band of Travelers provides her with some safety--she makes the first non-feline friend of her life there--but also draws her nearer and nearer to the source of the danger that plagues the whole area.

I really got hooked in by the clever language (some of which you see in the trailer)--the stranger's songs really pop amid the dry, terse narration that tells most of Plain Kate's story. Taggle takes feline behavior to the max and back, with hilarious effect, and provides the little bit of comic relief that I look for in every serious story. Plain Kate's stoic nature and the sad turns her life takes could have made for some unbearably heavy reading without that nip of humor. She's weighted down by grief, betrayal, and stigmas brought on by superstition; but what doesn't kill her does make her stronger--and that's what kept me rooting for her throughout the book.

Fans of romance will be a tad let down--there's a thread of it, but not your average, mass-market, at-first-sight kind of love. It's a deeper emotion that draws the characters to do some crazy things, and not all of them good. Anyone who enjoys the atmosphere of Eastern European folk tales and a balance between drama and comedy will really like this book.

Visit the author online at www.erinbow.com. You can follow her on Twitter @erinbowbooks


  1. I found this book so depressing, just overwhelming greed and cruelty on the part of pretty much every character except for Kate, which really overshadowed the beautiful language and the lighter moments for me. The trailer is cool though.

  2. I was oddly not depressed by all the people around her--I think because Plain Kate's so stoic and doesn't feel all *that* sorry for herself... well, not until the climax/ending of the story. I think that detachment helped me feel the balance a little more. One of my favorite fictional characters right now is Arya Stark, and though she has a little more chutzpah than Plain Kate, they have a similar kind of toughness, and I like that.

  3. Well it was probably also my expectation of a lighter story (I feel like YA is *generally* more upbeat) and personal circumstances: I was already sort of sad and was sensitive to become sadder. I was very impressed with Kate's ability to keep solidering on because I probably would have given up sooner.

  4. This sounds like a wonderful story. I am not looking for depressing, but I love the premise. Thanks for sharing today.

  5. I keep seeing this book pop up here and there but haven't heard anything super great. That trailer is really something cool. It reminds me of another book series I have immensely enjoyed reading. Oh, the power of good advertisement. Thanks, for the review and a chance to see the trailer. I might just have to pick this book up the next time I hit the library.

  6. this sounds like an awesome book. thanks for the review! i'm putting it on my to read list!