Dark seems an appropriate word to describe 'Wood Angel'. The story of a Plain Kate, a girl with the stubbornness to do what it takes to survive, Erin Bow's debut novel is grounded in a fantasy version of the dark ages, with witches and burnings, gypsies, ghosts and revenge.
From the outset, things did not go well for Kate. Her looks and skill as a carver marked her as different, and after her father's death, life became a daily struggle for survival. When a witch coerced her into exchanging her shadow for her heart's desire, things seemed to improve, but then they proceeded to spiral downwards even further.
I was captivated by this story and read it in one sitting, all the time hoping for Kate to find a break, fall in love, or at very least escape the vortex of bad luck she seemed to be stuck inside. Emotional to the point of heart-wrenching, the author certainly made me care about her characters. I could feel the personal pain she had poured into the writing of this novel - evidenced in her dedication to the young sister she had recently lost.
Not really a story for young children as it is unflinching in its description of the death and destruction encountered along the way, but perhaps of interest to teens as a vivid experience of why the dark ages were considered so very dark.