Review of Plain Kate by Erin Bow

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.

Review of Plain Kate by Erin BowPlain Kate by Erin Bow
Also by this author: Sorrow's Knot
Published by Scholastic Inc. on 2010-09-01
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon

A debut novel that's as sharp as a knife's point. 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

Aside from the whole Stalin thing, Eastern Europe is awesome. From Eastern Europe we get nesting eggs, czars, Anastasia, and Baba Yaga. Upon opening Plain Kate by Erin Bow, I was transported to the old country. Of course my brain went to my most pressing impression of Eastern Europe, If I were a rich man,Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.” You may mock, but Fiddler on the Roof is awesome. Unfortunately, Rev Tevye does not make an appearance in Plain Kate by Erin Bow, but that does not matter since Plain Kate just drips win.

There aren’t a lot of books on the market like Plain Kate by Erin Bow, and while this makes me semi-sad, it also makes me more inclined to stand on my rooftop proclaiming my love for Plain Kate. Plain Kate is a carver, the daughter of Piotr, who calls Plain Kate, Katerina Star of My Heart. Things are going just swimmingly for the pair, minus the ignorant villagers who think Plain Kate’s carving skills makes her a witch. Well, we all know this cannot last, so Plain Kate’s father up and dies. Rudeness abounds, and Plain Kate is forced to live on the streets. Full of despair, she strikes a magical bargain with a male witch named Linay. Linay is pretty much a nutcase. Right-o. So Linay steals Kate’s shadow, Kate gets some supplies to live in the wilderness. Oh, and what’s that! Oh yeah, a talking cat. AWESOME. Sorry guys, but when animals talk I am sold. Anything that evokes the win that comprises Redwall and you can bet I will be plunking down my time on that.

Plain Kate then goes on an adventure wrought with peril and new friends along the way. I just am going to put this out there right now. She comes across these people called Roamers, which of course are modeled after the Roma. Erin Bow, you rock for not using the term gypsy which as well all know is pejorative. I was actually struck by this and quite pleased.

While I am in gush mode, let me continue on about Plain Kate. I keep calling her Plain Kate instead of Kate, because that is what she prefers to be called. Her moniker isn’t an exaggeration, as Plain Kate really is plain. She’s not a beauty and doesn’t become a beauty. However, she has cleverness in spades. Can I just say that I love how this story says you can be a heroine and not be hot. I feel I read a ton of stories where the heroine is pretty much a babe, and smart, and fierce. I mean, that is awesome, hot people can do great things. It’s just nice though, that Plain Kate isn’t one of those, yet she is still shown to have value. I like that her self worth isn’t tied up in her looks. It is a nice lesson to have.

ALSO, there are no love triangles or romantic entanglements in Plain Kate by Erin Bow. It is exactly as promised, a book about an orphan girl facing what seems to be impossible odds. Y’all I gobbled this up. And to be honest, I was not even going to grab this one at BEA, until I heard Erin Bow at a panel mentioning Ursula K. LeGuinn, so of freaking course I had to go wait in line for this book. I am so glad I did. is another book which ultimately make my top twenty of the year.

A few quotes from Plain Kate that made my heart pitter patter in joy:

“The knife may slip. It may follow a grain and spoil the line. There may be a flaw deep in the wood that will snap your work in two. You will want to leave the tail thick and crude; that is safer. A master carver will be brave, and trust the wood. Things will find their shape. Kate, My Star. Lift your knife.” pg. 185 – ARC version

“Give me another reason,” Taggle said, flicking his ears. “Give me a cat’s reason. Keep in mind that we do not,” he harrumphed, “run into burning buildings going ‘bark, bark.'” -pg. 256 ARC version.

I sort of get a kick out of cats making fun of dogs, and the whole bark bark thing makes me snort with laughter.

Other Reviews of Plain Kate by Erin Bow:

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. Natalie (Mindful Musings) says

    This sounds awesome! And to think I was going to pass this one up! I'm putting it on my TBR list now. Thanks so much for the recommendation!

  2. I just added this to my TBR pile. I never really gave it a second thought before, but it sounds so good! Brilliant review πŸ™‚

  3. Michael Antonio Araujo says

    Haha the book sounds awesome. The whole talking cat thing, seems like he's a a dry humored, sarcastic cat. Which I will love. Lucky you for getting an ARC =D

  4. Yay! I'm so glad to see another good review of this book. It was wonderful!

  5. I will be singing songs from Fiddler on the Roof for the rest of the day now.

    This book sounds like my kind of fantasy. I can't wait to read it. πŸ˜€

  6. I like the sound of this book (and the cover's beautiful) but it's your enthusiasm for it that's really got me interested – great review! Is Plain Kate likely to be a series?

  7. Juju at Tales of says

    Sounds amazing! Great review. I <3 your honest frank blog voice.

  8. So glad you liked it! I have it in my pile for sometime this week.

  9. Sheila (Bookjourney) says

    Loved your Fiddler on the Roof impression…. πŸ™‚

  10. E.J. Stevens says

    Oooh, this sounds fabulous. Adding to my tbr list. Great review!

    From the Shadows

  11. Great review! I've already been curious about this and the more I see reviews of it, the more I want it. Seems like a really good, Russian-inspired fantasy book.

  12. I have this really odd, unexplainable fascination with all things Russian and am SO very happy to hear this one ended up being a winner for you. I will most definitely have to track it down now. Thanks for the review!

  13. This sounds *so* good. I especially like that first quote you picked too. Such a great life philosophy.

  14. This looks wonderful! Right up my alley!!

  15. Maria (Serpentine Library) says

    A Plain Kate ARC has been sitting on my shelf since June, I guess I should probably read it soon! So glad to see another glowing review for this book.

  16. I already know that I want this book, but now you have referenced Ursula Le Guin and Redwall in this review it becomes a lusted for object. Also no romance (I like romance but sometimes I want there to be none) and a girl who is not all 'I was terrible looking' and everyone else drools over? So gooood.


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