Thursday, July 7, 2011

Plain Kate is simple & wonderful (review)

Plain Kate is an orphaned girl, talented with the carving knife, and cursed with witch eyes (two different colors) living alone in a town where being different is met with suspicion. When her unusual carving talent draws the wrong kind of attention she's left with a choice: Leave the only home she knows or wait and probably burn in the town square.

An albino stranger, an actual witch, comes along and makes a bargain for Kate's shadow, taking away any semblance of a choice. She must leave immediately or be burned as a witch. The book follows Kate's adventures as she makes her way across the increasingly dark and foggy landscape. This is the story of how a lonely girl, with only her talking cat (a gift from the witch), goes from victim to reluctant hero.

Kate is a likable main character. She's overly innocent and allows herself to be used by the witch. I find her naiveté believable, especially considering the time frame the novel is set. She's just a small girl caught up in a plot thats so much bigger than her. When she finally realizes the role she's playing its nearly too late. Kate isn't a weak MC, just young, vulnerable and lost.

The book is a little bit like fairytale with more of an Eastern European vibe than most stories. It's told in the simple language of a village girl. The simplicity is beautiful, helping the reader really understand Plain Kate. I think overly flowery language would have been a disservice to this story.
Her shadow looked strange and thinned. It seemed not cast against the ground, but floating above it, like a fog. What Linay had said was true: No one would notice this at first.
Plain Kate is younger than a lot of YA without being juvenile. It could easily be classified as Middle Grade or YA and I think it's a good book for both audiences. I heard someone on Goodreads compare it to Tamora Pierce, but without the romance. Those who enjoy Tamora Pierce's Tortall series will probably like Plain Kate, though I feel I need to say that Kate is less Alanna and more Daine as far as characters ago. It's a nice divergence from the mopey or snarky teenagers populating the genre, it's got the feel of a much older but timeless story.

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