I picked up this book based on a brief description I read in my library's Wowbrary newsletter, followed by the glowing review I read about at Cat's book blog, Beyond Books. (Thanks, Cat!)
What an amazing experience this book is! I think it's my favorite fantasy novel that I've read since Kristen Cashore's Graceling. It has an Eastern European, fairy-tale feel to it, with characters you will never forget, a fascinating magical system, and possibly the best cat ever to pad its way through a novel. Taggle will steal your heart.
I hesitate to say too much about the plot, because it is definitely best to just jump in and go with it. I will tell you that the heroine, Plain Kate, is an extraordinarily talented woodcarver, so skilled that, upon the death of her father, the townspeople find her carvings a little too uncanny. When a plague befalls the town, she becomes an easy scapegoat to blame for the misfortune. A stranger to the village singles her out, puts her in a position where she has no choice but to accept his help, paying a price for that help that turns out to have a greater impact than she could possibly imagine. She and her beloved cat, Taggle, set forth on an unforgettable adventure, trying to set matters right.
Although this is marketed as a YA novel, it's one of those that will appeal to fantasy and fairytale lovers of all ages. If you are in a reading slump, Plain Kate will set you back to rights, no doubt about it. This is a powerful tale, beautifully written, and I highly recommend it.
Plain Kate by Erin Bow (Arthur A. Levine Books, 2010)
Also reviewed at:
Beyond Books: "I don’t know who has the power to get books nominated for fancy awards, but I want this book up on every book award nomination list in the world. I want this book to win copious amounts of awards for how brilliant it is."
Bookalicious: "Sometimes it takes a simple fairy tale to show you what you have been missing in your reading for so long."
Lesley's Book Nook: "It’s Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast and Pinocchio and Little Red Riding-Hood as they were meant to be read, long before Disney got to them and wiped them clean of the grim horror that made them such powerful cautionary folk tales."