Title: Plain Kate
Author: Erin Bow
Release Date: September 2010
Published By: Scholastic
Goodreads Rating: 3.73 stars
Review: Plain Kate lives in a world of superstitions and curses, where a song can heal a wound and a shadow can work dark magic. As the wood-carver's daughter, she's been holding a knife since she was a little girl, and the charms she creates are so fine that some suspect her of being a witch - a dangerous crime to be accused of. When Linay convinces her to sell her shadow, she's plunged into a darker world than she ever knew of, and there's only way to get out.
From the cover alone, I initially had the impression that PLAIN KATE was a somewhat light-hearted fantasy aimed at approximately a middle grade audience. And oh, how wrong I was. While this book definitely can reach a huge variety of audiences, this is no light-hearted book, despite the funny cracks made by Taggle, Kate's cat who, yes, can talk. There is a much darker storyline weaved together here, and this, combined with several hard-hitting emotional scenes, makes this book truly a work of art.
Possibly my favorite aspect of this was the incredible character development. Even the minor characters had full-fledged personalities and three-dimensionality, but of course, I particularly enjoyed reading about Kate, Taggle, and Linay. Kate is an independent-minded girl whose strength only increases as she battles her way through obstacles, and it was easy to feel related to her. Taggle as well is a character that will make many favorites lists because of his humorous remarks and his intense loyalty.
Linay, on the other hand, was more of an interesting character rather than a likeable one. Villains, especially in the fantasy genre, tend to be rather flat and straight-up easy to despise, but Linay was different. While his actions were of course reprehensible and no one in their right mind would want to be his best friend, he had a back-story that did certainly make readers much more sympathetic towards him. He's not an evil man by any means, just someone blinded by grief who turned to evil methods in his desperation.
All in all, PLAIN KATE is a must-read, even if you, like me, don't consider yourself the hugest fan of fantasy. The characters are amazing, the writing is gorgeous, and the book is ridiculously difficult to put down. The cover is lovely, but don't let it make you think this is only for an MG audience: this book is for everyone.