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PLAIN KATE by Erin Bow

PLAIN KATE

By Erin Bow

Age Range: 10 & up

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-545-16664-5
Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Bow’s debut novel takes the stuff of Disney (spunky orphaned heroine and talking animal sidekick) and uses it to tell a surprisingly dark fantasy. When Plain Kate, an orphaned woodcarver, trades her shadow to Linay, a wandering stranger, for her heart’s desire, she gets more than expected: The deal draws her (and her now-talking cat) into Linay’s scheme to destroy those who burned his sister as a witch and throws her in with the Roamers (gypsies), who are more tied to Linay than Plain Kate could have guessed. The vaguely medieval, quasi-Eastern European setting works well, especially with the Roamer elements, but the real strength is the characterization; even cold, often cruel Linay evokes sympathy, and Taggle is a truly remarkable feline, especially as the power of speech renders him oddly human. Don’t be fooled by Plain Kate’s youth: This is full of blood magic and unhappy people doing unpleasant things, but there's lots of heart and redemption, too. A haunting, chilling (but never gory or graphic) tale with a fantastic girl at its center. (Fantasy. 10 & up)