Ron Christiansen's Reviews > Plain Kate

Plain Kate by Erin Bow
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's review
Jul 27, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: fantasy, children-s-lit
Read in July, 2012

A dark fairy tale set in medieval times, Plain Kate is a competent and independent girl in the tradition of strong heroines in fantasy novels like Coraline or in historical fiction like Beetle (Midwife's apprentice). The magic in the novel is much more appealing than the standard Harry Potter type where anything goes: as Linay, the witch, explains he can help her escape persecution, but then she must give him her shadow. The key difference in this world is that magic comes at a cost and therefore doesn't exist somewhere high in the sky unattached to human desire and pain. Magic here is about choices with consequences.

And we get a talking cat, again very similar to Gaiman's black cat in Coraline--both cats are persnickety and blunt and, importantly, still cats instead of simply a human with fur. A great example: when Kate announces that the Roamers, those who gave her safe passage, have turned on her and are going to kill her, the cat, Taggle, responds, “Who? What? And would you please stop that muskrat!” Taggle certainly cares about Kate, but is still ultimately a fierce carnivorous cat.

A wonderful quest story which satisfyingly ends with heartache and surprises.


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