Not Enough Bookshelves: Review: Plain Kate by Erin Bow

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Review: Plain Kate by Erin Bow

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. 

This is one of my favorite books of the year and it doesn’t even have any kissing!!!

Plain Kate is an utterly magical book  it feels like a book that’s been passed down from my Grandma to my Mum to me.  It has that timeless, classic feel. I know it’s a book that I’ll be re-reading, probably in winter. It’s very much a winter book.  It should be read when it’s dark outside and rain is splattering the window. Then you can curl up in front of a fire with a mug of hot choclate crack the book open and let Etin Bow’s simply beautiful prose transport you to Kate’s world.

It reminded me of both Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman and certain fairy tales. There is darkness, horror and loss but also hope, love and laughter and the sense that your actions make your world. It also has one if the most lovely friendships I’ve ever read.

I know I’m always saying you must read this book but Plain Kate is delightful and charming and a must for any story lover.


  1. Arthur Levine of Scholastic set the bar fairly high when he began his remarks about Plain Kate by Erin Bow by saying that because he had a hand in bringing Brian Jacques, Philip Pullman and J.K. Rowling to U.S. audiences, “I’ve been sent a lot of fantasy, some of it quite good. But it’s very rare for a book to stand out for me the way Plain Kate did.”

    The story of a girl who loses her father and is imperiled by suspicions that she is a witch, Levine said Bow’s prose has the “lyrical strength and classic proportions” of master writers. “She is a truly original talent,” Levine said, evidenced by a “breathless e-mail” he got from an associate at the most recent London Book Fair who said Printz Award winner Meg Rosoff had read Plain Kate and couldn’t stop raving about it. Rosoff’s blurb – “anything but plain, full of poetry, magic, sorrow and joy” – will be on the cover,

    I loved Plain Kate and give it five stars!


  2. Forgot to give credit to Publishers' Weekly for the review about Levine's statements about Plain Kate at Book Expo America in NYC in June,


  3. Glad you loved it too! I wish you'd left your name 🙂


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