Review: Plain Kate by Erin Bow

October 7, 2012 5 stars, Book Review, Young Adult 10 ★★★★★

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 charms are so fine that some even call her “witch-blade” — a dangerous nickname in a town where witches are hunted and burned in the square.

Delicately somber tale of loss, survival, and love.

Plain Kate is one of those sad stories that will tug on your heart strings, hell maybe even rip them out a bit. It portrays the cruelties that people are capable of to a haunting extreme. I don’t know what is scarier, imagining the evil things an author can conjure in their books or knowing that people really can be that petty and cruel. It was amazingly written.


Though there was a lot of darkness and superstition (throw in a lot of finger pointing, and crying of witch), at the same time Plain Kate renewed my faith in the unexpected kindness of others. Think….what would you do for someone you truly love? I’m not talking about romantic love here.

Kate is a phenomenally gifted wood carver, learning the trade from her father. But he falls ill from the sickness while she is still a child. He dies and leaves her an orphan, and as she isn’t an adult and was never officially apprenticed she can not take over her fathers business, no matter how talented. Thus, Kate is turned out and must fend for herself. She survives by living inside a drawer in their old work booth in the market and selling what little things she can. Unfortunately, she is a target for the town’s superstitious residents. Her character is a sad and lonely but determined survivor. At least she has a cat. I have a soft spot for stories with a cat or dog companion in them.

When a traveling peddler comes to town making trouble for her, in order to pressure her to trade her shadow, she is forced to flee. That is when we really see what she is made of. I don’t want to spoil anything but must say she meets both wonderful and terrible people and experiences such things befitting both. I was amazed this was a debut author as it was crafted so well. This is a book I would read again and recommend to friends!

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• This book was provided by the publisher for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own. Please note that this post also contains affiliate links. To view our full Blog Policy, click here.

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Tabitha (Pabkins)

When I'm in the zone I can flip book pages faster than the eye can see - screaming "More Input!" I'm a book, yarn, & art supply hoarding goblin who loves to draw, make toys and craft all sorts of creepy cute things. My current habit is to listen to audio books while I'm arting it up!
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10 Responses to “Review: Plain Kate by Erin Bow”

    • pabkins

      It definitely was heartbreaking! I hope you decide to read it – it was super quick one day read.

    • pabkins

      Thanks, it was such an unexpected pleasure to read – even though it was very sad at times.

  1. Allyson Rida

    I really like the cover, the little people had a blue scarf that was so eye-catching on her and it really made the title stand out. The title has the word plain in it but the people is not entirely plain, it’s like a contrast on words… Okay, a little far-fetched, I hope you know what I mean.

    Apparently the title con fool you sometimes, just by reading the title, I thought this would be timid coming-of-age contemporary story, instead it involves witches, well, what can I say? Titles can be deceptive 😉

    I am definitely going to check out this book, love the cover, very symbolic!
    Allyson Rida recently posted…Review: The Nine Lives of Chloe King Trilo gy By Liz BraswellMy Profile

  2. Pabkins

    It was definitely very emotional book. And amazingly it was so short!