Flannery's Reviews > Plain Kate

Plain Kate by Erin Bow
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really liked it
bookshelves: swords-and-lasers, kcls, read-in-2011, young-adult-teen, reviewed-2011, wishlist-for-dtbs-to-keep
Recommended for: Fans of Tamora Pierce

I cannot believe this is Erin Bow's first novel. In the acknowledgments she mentions that she worked on this book for six years--it shows. From the first page, the author drops you into the story and there honestly was no drag throughout the entire book. We are introduced to Kate and her father, both woodcarvers who live in Similae. The surrounding communities have been plagued with death, torrential rains, and crop damage and the people of Kate's town, as well as other towns, are on the lookout for witches who could be causing the troubles. After Kate's father passes away, she is left quite alone in the world. This book follows her in her journey to survive and, geez, does Kate have it rough.

The ease and accessibility of reading this book, as well as Kate's age indicate that this is more of a middle reader book. However, the themes of this book are very dark--murder, hanging witches, raising the dead. death. dying. just tons of dying. *sigh* But Kate is one of the most upbeat and scrappy characters I've ever read. She stands up for herself and is loyal to her friends. Speaking of friends, Kate has a speaking cat, Taggle, who is a total highlight of this work. He is hilarious and their friendship seems more realistic than many human friendships I've read as of late. There is really no romance to speak of and I'm glad of it--it would feel inappropriate in this case and the story supports itself without a romantic element.

Erin Bow's writing style is lovely--informative and descriptive without bogging the story down. (like when you think about reading Tolkien and then decide that you'd like to actually get somewhere on the journey instead of reading a description of a mossy rock for a whole page. Fine, you caught me, I'm exaggerating, but you get my point!) I will definitely read anything she writes in the future. I hope she makes the jump up to YA or even to adult fantasy.
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Reading Progress

January 30, 2011 – Shelved
March 13, 2011 – Started Reading
March 13, 2011 –
page 115
March 14, 2011 –
page 202
March 16, 2011 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-18 of 18 (18 new)

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Tatiana How is it for you, Flannery?

message 2: by Flannery (last edited May 15, 2011 07:56PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Flannery Great! I'm really enjoying it. I'll probably finish it tonight--I've been feeling kind of funky. Now I need to read your other favorites, though:) My library pile is seriously out of control right now.

I agree about Bow's writing and that I hope she writes something more upper-age YA or even adult fantasy. Also, I am so happy that the cover of this actually depicts what Kate could look like. And I'm wondering how the heck big the drawer in the stall was that she could fit in it...

I feel so awful for her from (view spoiler) I wish the ages of people were differentiated a little more--I keep wondering how old everyone is.

Tatiana Kate's sleeping in that stall, all alone was sooo sad. And when she was (view spoiler).

True. Very confusing about the ages. The only way I pinned Kate for somewhere around 13 was because she (view spoiler). Otherwise it's impossible to tell.

message 4: by Nomes (new)

Nomes LOL about the Tolkien reference! haha. I love his 2+ pages descriptions of objects.

I'm adding it to the TBR, mate!

Flannery It's a quick read, Nomes. Two or three sittings, tops:-)

Janina You had me at the cat :). I LOVE cats ... Also, this looks like a stand-alone. Is that even possible?! I thought stand-alones were extinct in fantasy ...

The paperback looks totally different from the hardcover, it even has a new title:

Wood Angel by Erin Bow

Don't really like it. It looks so fairy-romancy. And I'm finding the title really silly. But maybe it makes more sense if you've read the book?

Flannery It's true that she does woodcarving but there's nothing to do with angels or fairies at all. I really don't like that cover. Any why change it at all? The name Kate is well-known all over the place and I'm positive that Plain Kate could translate just fine:-(

message 8: by Janina (last edited Mar 17, 2011 03:08AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Janina Ugh, it seems like one of these cases where they want it to 'appeal to a larger audience', but end up driving away the people who are actually into the genre. If I saw the 'Wood Angel' edition in a bookstore without knowing anything about it, I certainly wouldn't pick it up. The title and cover make it seem ordinary in a way - and are kind of misleading about the content. The 'Plain Kate' one definitely looks more appealing to me.

message 9: by ~Tina~ (new)

~Tina~ I have this sitting here so I'm glad you liked this one:) Great review babe!

Tatiana Janina wrote: "You had me at the cat :). I LOVE cats ... Also, this looks like a stand-alone. Is that even possible?! I thought stand-alones were extinct in fantasy ...

The paperback looks totally different from..."

I think this new paperback cover is for the UK edition.

oliviasbooks I had this on my wishlist for eons, but the mentioning of Pierce and talking cats did me in. I just ordered the kitschy paperback edition.

message 12: by jesse (last edited Mar 18, 2011 07:52AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

jesse Actually the mossy rock example is no exaggeration at all (LOTR). I got the same impression, but kept reading despite all that because I thought I should read it at least once. (Which is why I gave it 1-2stars)

message 13: by Heather (new)

Heather I liked this review but it didn't sound like you! Since when do you use words like "quite" and "lovely"? You must have really liked this b/c you weren't snarky at all!

Flannery LOL, I know. I keep looking at my pile and thinking I should read a book that I won't like that much so I can snark it up.

message 15: by Heather (new)

Heather ha. Yeah, I'm happy for you that you're reading books that are good, but I myself do benefit more from the ones you don't like, b/c the reviews are much funnier! : )

message 16: by AH (new) - added it

AH This really sounds interesting. It's nice to hear that an author took their time to put out a good quality book.

Stacey I agree, I would love to see her write a YA novel, this girls knows how to write!

message 18: by Erin (last edited Apr 11, 2015 07:23AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Erin Woo Yeah, I honestly wasn't expecting it to be this dark. Look at the cover, and you see a girl walking on a roof with a cat. It looks whimsical! Cheerful! Playful! But instead, what you get is incredibly heartbreaking. The roof-walking scene – much, much scarier than the cover made it appear. The cover, I think, failed to foreshadow the impending deaths . . . but I digress. I really, really felt for Kate throughout the whole book. She was so little and so tough, but not in the Katniss look-I-just-shot-a-deer kind of bravado way. If I had to continue the Hunger Games analogy, I'd say she's like Rue, but somehow even sadder. Also, Drina's character – she was so frustrating at times, but she meant well, and I liked how Ms. Bow let Kate think that Drina was selfish and spoiled when she'd really gone through so much. To be honest, everyone had gone through so much. Even Linay, who had such an incredibly complex character. His history with his sister Lenore and the way he did seem to come to care for Kate – he was really hard to hate, and by the end I think I felt more bad for him than anything. So much tragedy.

And before I ramble on for too long, let me mention the writing – it felt like a fairytale in the way it was so taut and poetic. Some books stretch and sag near the middle when the story slows down. Plain Kate never slows down.

Oh and Erin Bow is publishing a new book! It's called The Scorpion Rules, and she's said it'll be more like YA than Plain Kate or Sorrow's Knot is.

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