young adult book reviews & more

Plain Kate by Erin Bow

Plain KateSamilae is a town of superstitions and suspicion. Though the villagers pay wood-carvers to make objarka, talismans meant to bring good luck or ward off evil, they also fear any skill with the knife. Thus, when a mysterious illness and deadly fog sweep through the land, many fingers start pointing at Plain Kate, a young orphaned wood-carver. Kate knows she cannot stay for fear of being burnt at the stake as a witch. Luckily, it seems, a stranger named Linay offers a proposition: means for Kate’s escape in exchange for her shadow. With no other options, Kate accepts. But even as Kate starts building a new life, she learns the truth of Linay’s evil intentions. Does Plain Kate have the courage to risk her own life if it means saving thousands of others?

Plain Kate is an interesting coming of age story filled with adventure and witchcraft. It’s so common these days that fantasy and paranormal books for young adults are just disguised romances. Thankfully, debut author Bow is here to remind us that romance was never a prerequisite for a good fantasy story. And Bow certainly does present a fascinating tale with Plain Kate. Readers will be swept away with Kate’s hectic journey as she searches for belonging and happiness and instead encounters cruelty and hardship on the way. Kate is realistic and though initially weak, also an ultimately inspiring character. Although I was a little thrown off by the lack of a central romance, I am glad Bow avoided that distraction because it strengthens the rest of the story. Fantastic and sweet, Plain Kate is sure to capture any reader’s heart.

This novel will be enjoyed by readers who also liked Princess Ben by Catherine Gilbert Murdock and Raider’s Ransom by Emily Diamand. I can’t wait to see what Bow has in store next.

Rating: 4.25

Review copy from publisher Scholastic

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