I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Sorrow's Knot by Erin Bow
Also by this author: Plain Kate
Published by Scholastic Inc. on 2013-10-29
Genres: Death & Dying, Fantasy & Magic, Girls & Women, Social Issues, Young Adult
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From the acclaimed author of PLAIN KATE, a new novel about what lurks in the shadows, and how to put it to rest... In the world of SORROW'S KNOT, the dead do not rest easy. Every patch of shadow might be home to something hungry, something deadly. Most of the people of this world live on the sunlit, treeless prairies. But a few carve out an uneasy living in the forest towns, keeping the dead at bay with wards made from magically knotted cords. The women who tie these knots are called binders. And Otter's mother, Willow, is one of the greatest binders her people have ever known. But Willow does not wish for her daughter to lead the lonely, heavy life of a binder, so she chooses another as her apprentice. Otter is devastated by this choice, and what's more, it leaves her untrained when the village falls under attack. In a moment of desperation, Otter casts her first ward, and the results are disastrous. But now Otter may be her people's only hope against the shadows that threaten them. Will the challenge be too great for her? Or will she find a way to put the dead to rest once and for all?
I picked up Sorrow’s Knot by Erin Bow because I loved, loved, LOVED Plain Kate, Bow’s debut novel. I had all the feels for Taggle and Kate and was hopeful that I would have all of the feels during this go around. Further, I had obtained a copy of Sorrow’s Knot at BEA, only to wind up receiving a second copy in the mail from Scholastic. So, I had all this weird guilt about not having read the book quite yet. I mean, jeez I felt like I needed to read this book or else my pile would start to yell at me. And so, I chose Sorrow’s Knot to be on my Winter 2013 Seasonal TBR list for Top Ten Tuesday and picked it up, but then ended up having to set it aside. After a break of about a month or so, I have finally finished Sorrow’s Knot and I can tell you guys that I liked it okay but it won’t be making my favorites list due to a combination of factors.
Erin Bow’s Sorrow’s Knot is a fantasy book set in indigenous North America. The author’s note states that her book is not based on any specific tribe. In the book, main character Otter has been raised to be a Binder, meaning that she ties magical knots. Her mother, Willow, is a binder and Otter shows talent for this task as well. Otter has two best friends, Kestrel, who is a fighter and Cricket, who is a storyteller, even though he’s a boy and boys don’t really play a huge role in this Pinch (that’s what the communities are called). When the senior Binder named Tamarack dies, Otter’s mother Willow becomes unhinged. She invites this new girl, Fawn to be the second Binder instead of Otter and so, Otter is lost. Unfortunately, tragedy after tragedy strikes and the Dead will not leave the Pinch alone. This culminates in Otter having to face down a White Hand who used to be a Binder named Mad Spider with her best friends by her side. Sorrow’s Knot is a tragic book about death, really, and the power of friendship and love.
I don’t quite want to call Sorrow’s Knot simple because it is anything but simple. However, the characterization has this simple sort of feel to it. By that I mean, yes, they have complex motivations and are not shallow underdeveloped characters. However, the characters seem kind of transparent and direct. It did not take me the entire book to feel out the characters and to figure out their motivations. Otter is sort of the leader and she is so devoted to her friends and family. Kestrel is strong and loyal. Cricket is brave and devoted to Kestrel. Willow, she’s complicated, but you can tell that she loves Otter so much and wants to protect her from a life of pain and sorrow.
As for the world building, I think this book has a unique feel to it. In Bow’s world, women are powerful. The society of the Pinch is a matriarchy. The women protect the men and children. Each person in the Pinch has a special task and job and belongs to a group called a Cord. Each Cord has it’s secrets. The dead are Bound by knots. There is a mythology in this book that fascinates me. I really liked the bits where the Storytellers told their legends and such. I liked the magic of Sorrow’s Knot.
With all this praise, you might be wondering why I gave this book 3.5 stars instead of 5. Well, I will tell you that for me, the pacing was really slow. I had to force myself to read this book some nights and when I was reading, I could not do more than a chapter at a time. I had the worst time getting into this book. However, I want to chalk some of that up to some personal things that I had going on. This is not the book to read when you are under pressure and stress. It’s not the book to read if you just want something light and to tear through. I was expected feels like Plain Kate and I did not quite get them. I’ll admit, there were some great aspects, like the friendship and the world building, yet that did not entirely win me over. I just never connected with this book the way that I wanted to. I’ll put some of that on me and how I was feeling and doing and some of it on the book which held me at a distance.