Plain Kate by Erin Bow

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Plain Kate by Erin Bow is about a girl named Kate who is an amazing wood carver like her father. She is happy working with her father and they lead a good life together... until he dies of a terrible epidemic that has been sweeping their superstitious country. Suddenly, people are being burned as witches and accusations are flying. While living in extreme poverty, a stranger begins making deals with her... but they lead her to be accused of witchcraft herself. Soon Plain Kate is on a journey to stop the stranger and see if there is anywhere she can be loved.

I am not usually a fan of middle grade fiction. There are a few novels I have loved, but for the most part I haven't been a fan. However, Plain Kate is incredible. I had my doubts about it from the age level it was written for, but honestly, I think anyone who loves fantasy will be swept up in this book. It reminded me of Leigh Bardugo's Shadow and Bone series in setting and Franny Billingsley's Chime in tone (and if you have been reading the blog for a long time you know those are high words of praise).

What did I love about it? First of all, the setting was unique, mystical and dark and absolutely haunting. The world building was so powerful. The magical rules of witchcraft were also fascinating -- witches could do great evil or great good, healing or bringing people back from the dead. Also, witches couldn't lie, which put an interesting spin on everything.

I also loved the characters. They were vivid, complex, and unforgettable. Our heroine is also the cause of much of the destruction in the story. Our villain has moments of great compassion, and his entire enterprise is built out of misled love. Also, there is Taggle, a talking cat, who is amazing. Usually I am annoyed by animals that talk in people books (animals talking in animal books, like Redwall, is different and okay). However, Taggle is hilarious. He isn't a friendly familiar that talks like a human. He is a complete and utter cat, and hearing his voice is delightful. He alone makes Plain Kate worth the read.

If you couldn't tell, I loved this book. It is going on my list of "books I want to own a copy of," because I want my kids to read this book. If you like fantasy at all, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Plain Kate.

4.5 stars

Warnings: Violence and disturbing images

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