Sunday, 10 October 2010

Erin Bow - Plain Kate - Book Review

This is the first book that I'm going to review out of a lovely box of books from the US that I got some weeks ago.

This is her first book, as her previously published work was an adventure into poetry and won her a number of accolades. This Canadian-dwelling author has put her poetry skills to good use and has magically weaved them into her new YA book, which I really liked. The book takes a different journey than most books to date, and has you intrigued as to the direction the main character is going to take.

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.

The book starts off with a journey of sadness that catches you unexpectedly. It happens so early on that you end up following this grim and sad tale right until the very end - giving it a very realistic touch. Not every book (in my opinion) should end in a happy way - provoking unhappiness stops the story from becoming predictable. In this case the story stirs up many thought provoking images. However, there is a little sparkle of joy through the depiction of Plain Kate, who you follow to the end.

The book has an Eastern European feel; drawing on Russian folklore and culture to draw parts of the plot together. Plain Kate turns out not to be as plain as she thinks, as the loss of her father and the selling of her shadow (to a strange man called Linay) for a wish, colours her life dramatically. She soon finds herself running away from home, after the village she has lived in all her life, turns against her for being a witch. 

The haunting character Linay, enables the atmospheric element of the story to creep upon you like swirling fog coming off the sea. The fear pulls at you - every corner you take,and the out come is filled with a sleepy death. This is brought on by a turn of events which Linay is seeking revenge for and the ultimate trade of death to a whole city.

I maybe said to much about the story inside to say any more apart for the uplifting side you get from the true bond there is between a talking cat Taggle and Plain Kate  it's memorable and had me feeling sad and happy at the same time.

The book is out in the U.S and is published by Arthur A. Levine Books. We do get a U.K outing of this book next year in March by the great publishing group of Chicken House under the different title of "Wood Angel" - the new name and U.K book cover is not a good reflection of this book and should be read without prejadice and will appeal  to more readers in the U.S format.

If you like to read the first chapter click the link. Plain Kate - Chapter One


Unknown said...

I just got this book for my classroom. I think it's a book I'll need to read, so I can booktalk it better to my students.

Anonymous said...

Jill, you are wise to read this book so that you can point out its wonders beyond the plot and even the characters. I think Plain Kate is the best written YA I've read in a long time. The prose is lyrical and lean. Editor Arthur A Levine said that Erin Bow was a master writer. I'd love to be back in the classroom to use this book as a teaching tool for young writers. Rommey