Plain Kate by Erin Bow
Brilliance Corporation, September 20, 2010
8 hours and 45 minutes, narrated by Cassandra Campbell
Book Source: Public Library/Overdrive
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 talismans are so fine that some even call her “witch-blade”: a dangerous nickname in a country where witches are hunted and burned in the square.
For Kate and her village have fallen on hard times. Kate’s father has died, leaving her alone in the world. And a mysterious fog now covers the countryside, ruining crops and spreading fear of hunger and sickness. The townspeople are looking for someone to blame, and their eyes have fallen on Kate.
Enter Linay, a stranger with a proposition: In exchange for her shadow, he’ll give Kate the means to escape the angry town, and what’s more, he’ll grant her heart’s wish. It’s a chance for her to start over, to find a home, a family, a place to belong. But Kate soon realizes she can't live shadowless forever -- and that Linay's designs are darker than she ever dreamed.
Judging by the cover...: It's plain, which in this case is good, considering the name of the title character. It's understated, it doesn't give away the depth within.
- Companion of the Year - Taggle was by far my favorite character in this book, and without him, it would have been a much different (not better) story. He sticks by Kate through thick and thin, and proves that he is much more than a cat.
- World Building - Bow has made Plain Kate's surroundings extremely intricate and vastly different from any story I've read before. Everything is believable, including the magic.
Like I said above, Kate's world was built extremely well. As far as fantasy novels go, it was above and beyond many that I've read before. I'll even overlook (for now), the creep factor of the magic rules. The characters were authentic human beings, neither perfectly good or totally evil, and they didn't always do what you'd expect them to. I kept listening, long after I wanted to stop, because I needed to know how the story would play out. Some parts were obvious, and if you've read it, too, you'll know what I mean. But I was kept guessing about how other elements would play out, and I totally did NOT see them coming.
Campbell's voice was a good match for Kate. Though it was sometimes hard to tell her voices apart from each other (there were several moments of confusion when I thought one character was speaking and it was another), there aren't enough different voices for it to have too much of an impact on the story.
That brings us to my like-ability score. Please do not get me wrong; this is a well-written fantasy novel that I'm sure would appeal to a wide variety of people. However, there were a few drawbacks for me. I am not the sort of person who enjoys hearing about bloody scenes. There are several instances of cutting one's skin and blood-letting/spilling, and since descriptions of these usually cause me to pass out, highly frowned upon while operating a motor vehicle, I was not particularly comfortable listening to them. I believe the technical term is "having the willies". This book should also come with a disclaimer on it: Do not read before an important engagement, since this book has been known to cause significantly puffy eyes and red face due to extreme crying.
Recommendation: You've heard the good and the bad, and I'll let you form your own opinions. My own thoughts are to only read this book if you like to have your heart thrown on the ground and trampled on.