Plain Kate by Erin Bow: Review

Posted November 2, 2010 by Emily in book review, Uncategorized / 10 Comments

Plain Kate
By: Erin Bow
Copy received from publisher for review

Synopsis: Plain Kate lives in a world of superstitions and curses, where a song can heal a wound and a shadow can work deep magic. As the wood-carver’s daughter, Kate held a carving knife before a spoon, and her wooden talismans are so fine that some even call her “witch-blade”: a dangerous nickname in a country where witches are hunted and burned in the square.

For Kate and her village have fallen on hard times. Kate’s father has died, leaving her alone in the world. And a mysterious fog now covers the countryside, ruining crops and spreading fear of hunger and sickness. The townspeople are looking for someone to blame, and their eyes have fallen on Kate.

Enter Linay, a stranger with a proposition: In exchange for her shadow, he’ll give Kate the means to escape the angry town, and what’s more, he’ll grant her heart’s wish. It’s a chance for her to start over, to find a home, a family, a place to belong. But Kate soon realizes she can’t live shadowless forever — and that Linay’s designs are darker than she ever dreamed.

My Review: Plain Kate will be a book that I will treasure in my house for years to come.  There is no cheesy love story. No love triangles. Just the journey and misfortunes of a sweet girl named Kate.  Oh, and her crochety but loyal cat, Taggle.  But, that’s all this book needs to make it wonderful.

So many of today’s Young Adult and Middle Grade rely on a romantic element to keep readers interested. While I enjoy a fun romantic subplot as much as the next girl, It’s such a delight to read a truly captivating story that stands on its own.

Plain Kate is one of the most endearing female characters that I’ve ever read. Her life is truly heartbreaking.  For most of the book, nothing goes her way. You, the reader, of course know that Kate is not plain, but quite extraordinary.  You want the rest of her village and those who come in contact with her to know just how wonderful Kate is and about her many talents.  But, it seems that Kate is doomed to be misunderstood by those who are afraid and superstitious.

Linay has an equally haunting story.  I loved him as a villain because he could have been good. In fact, he isn’t so much as evil as misguided. He has good intentions, but uses evil methods to achieve his designs, and it ends up consuming him.

I’m a cat lover by nature, so Taggle really tugged at my heart strings. What a perfect companion for Kate.  Taggle added that little bit of dry humor that otherwise would have left the story overly dark.

This would be a perfect book to read aloud to children. Or to curl up by the fire in a blanket and read silently to yourself. Either way, if you enjoy fairy tales, this book is a must-read.

My Rating:


Profanity: None
Sexuality: None
Drugs and Alcohol: None
Violence: None


10 responses to “Plain Kate by Erin Bow: Review

  1. Sounds interesting. Is it MG? You don't see all that many animals in lit featured prominently. Some of course, but it's definitely not overdone. You're right in that they're a good vessel for humor.

  2. Alison: It is on the older end of MG, I'd say. It doesn't have any romance in it, which could possible lead people to categorize it more in MG. But, it had some other pretty adult themes that I think put it in the YA category.

  3. Anonymous

    I've read Plain Kate and loved it. You are right, Erin Bow's writing is so very, very good. Highly recommend this book. As an older reader, I think PK is okay for MG. It is really scary in parts and very graphic in the truth is tells about what happens to innocent people when fear and a mob mentality takes over. Really, it's not so different than the current world in it's xenophobia and casualities
    of natural disaster and war. I read somewhere that Bow said it was okay to take children to the dark side as long as you don't leave them there.


  4. Oh man, I've been dying to get my hands on this book. Unfortunately, my local bookstore isn't carrying it. Looks like I'll have to order it.

Leave a Reply