By Erin Bow
Copywrite 2010, Arthur A. Levine Books
This is going to be really hard. But when you think about Plain Kate, I suppose that's what most things are and it's fitting in such. Kate is just a carvers daughter. Her mother is dead and she lives in a small town where her father is the main carver. He makes charms for people to wear to ward of evil or bring good luck, he makes grave markers and all sorts of things. Kate learns his skills and is a gifted carver in her own right. Her father falls ill and even when a beautiful woman sings to help heal him, it fails and he dies. Now, alone with nowhere to live and no one to belong to Kate finds herself asleep in a drawer in the town stall her father owned. When her town is struck with poor times she is looked at as a witch - the cause of evil and something to be disposed of. With only a battered marriage quilt to use as a coat, her faithful cat - Taggle - and her carving knife Kate strikes a deal with Linay, a witchy man himself who wants her shadow. For the means to get out of town before they take her life an uneasy Kate makes the deal and prepares to hit the road.
This is kind of the basis for the story. Plain Kate who belongs to no one and is wanted by no one, constantly on the run with her cat. Her cat that can talk...part of the spell the witch does in payment for her shadow. Awkward yet endearing. I kept thinking about how cool it would be if Stella (my kitteh) could talk to me! Anyway, Kate does get introduced to a group of Roamers and is taken in momentarily by their group. I loved the dynamic of the Roamers. I thought the gypsy-like travelers were a good place for Kate, she needed other outsiders who used their gifts to obtain their goods. There's even a horse trainer who seems like the strong but gentle type, and as the ever romantic I am - I found myself hoping for a hook up. But I digress. The story is deeper than a love story. The desire to be loved, wanted, needed maybe- but not just lust love. Bow even uses words from the Roamers language throughout the book and it helps bring a certain feeling of desire. At least thats what I felt. Every time Kate called Mother Daj, Daj, I felt like she was fitting in more and more and that was a fate that I thought she deserved. But of course, not every thing can be hunky-dory, right?
Kate is turned from the Roamers in a horrible way - they try to kill her. They even try to kill her cat...NOT COOL. Kate and Taggle however, escape. She's scarred physically and mentally. She runs to a river for safety. When she opens her eyes she's most certain she's dead but what - who's that? Linay! The witch who bought her shadow! Here's the part where the "book reader" me says: Ohhh Fall in Looooove! Kiss! Guess what doesn't happen? Whatev, there's still time left, I'm sure there will be many twists and turns and eventually a kiss. So it turns out that Linay is only half evil. He wants to do the right thing, but he wants to do it in such a wrong way that it makes him dark. But his cause is valiant, avenging the death of his sister. How could you fight that? Well, Kate spends a good deal of the book wondering the same thing, while Taggle worries about food and convincing Kate to kill Linay in his sleep.
I really didn't know how I was feeling about the story and to be honest, I'm not sure I know even now. Don't get me wrong, it's got good writing and a plot and the characters all make sense - even the little details of them seem to come full circle in the end, which is awesome! I would not say this was a bad book. I will say this: there is a lot of death, a couple resurrections, and absolutely NO KISSING. hmmpfh. As a cat lover there are graphic descriptions that bothered me pretty badly, again because I was picturing my baby in the same predicaments and it hurt my heart, but at least I was connected to the story! I called for the book to redeem itself with about 20 pages to go and I didn't think it would be able to, but it did...mostly... :)