Monday, January 27, 2014

Review: Plain Kate

Plain Kate, by Erin Bow. The GoodReads summary:
Plain Kate lives in a world of superstitions and curses, where a song can heal a wound and a shadow can work deep magic. When Kate's village falls on hard times - crops fail, and even Kate's father falls victim to a deadly fever - the townspeople look for someone to blame, and their eyes fall on Kate.

Enter Linay, a stranger with a proposition: In exchange for her shadow, he'll give Kate the means to escape the town that seems set to burn her, 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 that she can't live shadowless forever -- and that Linay's designs are darker than she ever dreamed.
I’m not usually much of one for middle-grade books. Admittedly, this was an older middle grade, but still, I thought at the beginning it wouldn’t end up being for me. Because middle grades don’t usually grab me—I don’t usually feel that level of investment and involvement that I want to feel when I read a book. And because this book takes a little while to get going, I thought it was going to stay that way, and honestly, if I hadn’t been reading this for book club, I probably wouldn’t have finished it.

But. Once I hit the part where Kate runs away with the Roamers (aka Gypsies), I was sucked in. Seriously. I hardly even came up for air. Because Kate has it rough. Every single time you think she might find a bit of happiness, it gets taken from her. But Kate is strong and Kate is resilient, and she overcomes. And I couldn’t help wanting to be with her every step of the way in hopes that by the end she’d finally, finally find a place to belong.

And here’s the other thing about this book: Taggle. I love cats. Everyone knows this. But Taggle takes cats to a whole new level. He’s loyal and fierce while still maintaining that haughty, disdainful bit of quintessential cat-ness. Plus, he can talk. And anyone who’s ever read “Sabriel,” by Garth Nix, knows that talking cats are a very good thing.

Overall, a strong book, once you get past the slow beginning. It’s not a happy book, even at the ending. I mean, it made me cry, which doesn’t happen that often. But it’s not depressing either—rather it’s a bittersweet that leaves you feeling that, like Kate, you’ve been on a journey and come out the stronger for it.

Rating: 4 / 5


  1. I'm nearly done with this and I feel so bad for Kate! I still love the cat, though. He's my favorite part of the book. :)

  2. I actually don't mind middle grade books so much. Sometimes they're better for me than YA as they contain much less angst. Kate sounds like a great heroine.


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