Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Plain Kate by Erin Bow

Plain Kate by Erin Bow

Completion Date: January 29, 2011
Reason for Reading: Fun!
The drizzle had broken into patches as they walked. As Drina scooped up the pale sand, Kate found herself standing in the smudge of shadow cast by the deadfall. She had never before noticed the way shadows gave things weight, made them look heavy and real and connected to the ground. Without hers...

She edged into the light.

Her shadow looked strange and thinned. It seemed not cast against the ground, but floating above it, like a fog. What Linay had said was true: No one would notice this, at first. It was just an uneasy little change, like the half-felt movement of a boat that slowly induces a great sickness.

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.
Today is a buddy review with Darren from Bart's Bookshelf. I read the book a while ago now, but I still think about it. I think it might be a book worth rereading at some point, actually. I am going to keep my eyes peeled for my own copy since I originally read it from the library. Anyway, I have the first part of the review and you can visit Darren's blog to read the second half. Enjoy!

D: You of course read the book, where as I listened to the audiobook, so I thought I'd start off talking about Kate's 'voice'. The narrator Cassandra Campbell did a fantastic job with all the characters voices and accents (along with general narration stuff) giving a real feel of an Eastern European/Russian influence to her world. I wondered how this came across through the written word?

K: I am not sure that is something that you think about when you are just reading. I didn’t hear the voices aloud and even when I was hearing them in my head, I never really thought about where they were. I think that is probably why slacker me should listen to more audiobooks. I think I mostly do that with fantasy books. I just think of them taking place elsewhere, so while I pick up on things shown in the book revealing geography from our world, I never think about the accents...

What did you think about Kate as a character?

D: I liked her. I thought she had a realistic inner-strength that comes from the life she’s already lived at the start of the book, and helps her deal with the trials thrown at her during the book. A great female heroine for readers to admire.

Talking of characters, what did you think of the ‘bad-guy’ Linay? He certainly wasn’t your typical villain...

K: I agree. Kate was a great character and something that is needed more of in young adult books. The more I think about her and the book overall, the more I like it. She was a strong character, but believable at the same time. And, she wasn’t obsessed with a certain boy or one of those characters arches that are very popular right now. She was just trying to survive.

As to Linay, I really enjoyed him, too. Just when you think you might have him figured out, something happens to make you question yourself all over again. He was a really interesting villain. He did some terrible things during the course of the novel, but I think I actually liked him and felt bad for him. He had his reasons for doing the things that he was doing. Reasons that, to him, were important. We may not agree that his methods are good, but you have to respect what he was going through.

One thing I am very impressed with is how well this book is sticking with me. I read it a while ago now and have all ready returned it to the library, but I am not having any trouble thinking of something to say about it. Do you think this book will be a lasting read for you?

D: Yeah, Linay, was just such a complex character. His motivations, were clearly at odds with his conscience at times, and whilst they nearly always won out, it made him so much more of a rounded ‘bad-guy’ that some regret was aloud to sneak though.

You know what, I think this is exactly the sort of book where bits will stay with you. You’ll be at some other market in some other world and Kate will sneak on to the page, even if you only spot her carving at her stall out of the corner of your eye. It’s that kind feeling the books leaves you with.

In fact the whole experience for me was the ‘feeling’ the book gave, the world, the atmosphere, the melancholy, mixed with a ‘coming-of-age’ journey for Kate were all such strong elements. What do you think? What’s making it so lasting for you?

K: I think the first thing that makes it so lasting for me is the unconventional nature of the book. When a trend starts, there tends to be lots of books that follow some aspect of the trend. This means that even when you think you are reading something ‘different’, you really aren’t. They find a way to work at least something in and then I get sick of seeing that something over and over again. This book was fresh and I think there needs to be more young adult novels with strong female characters, excellently written villains, and a compelling story. It keeps people excited about reading, and when it happens, it is exciting and sticks with you more than the same ole same over and over again.

Remember, this is just the first part. You can read the second part by visiting Darren's blog!

This book counts for the TwentyEleven Reading Challenge.


  1. thinking about re-reading a book certainly catches my attention. I need to read this one!

  2. *Staci: It was good. :)

  3. Our library didn't have a copy last time I checked. Time to check again and maybe go inter-library loan!

  4. *jenclair: Hope you get a chance to read it!


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