Goodreads: The drizzle had broken into patches as they walked. As Drina scooped up the pale sand, Kate found herself standing in the smudge of shadow cast by the deadfall. She had never before noticed the way shadows gave things weight, made them look heavy and real and connected to the ground. Without hers…
She edged into the light.
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. It was just an uneasy little change, like the half-felt movement of a boat that slowly induces a great sickness.
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 talismans are so fine that some even call her “witch-blade”: a dangerous nickname in a country where witches are hunted and burned in the square.
For Kate and her village have fallen on hard times. Kate’s father has died, leaving her alone in the world. And a mysterious fog now covers the countryside, ruining crops and spreading fear of hunger and sickness. The townspeople are looking for someone to blame, and their eyes have fallen on Kate.
Enter Linay, a stranger with a proposition: In exchange for her shadow, he’ll give Kate the means to escape the angry town, and what’s more, he’ll grant her heart’s wish. It’s a chance for her to start over, to find a home, a family, a place to belong. But Kate soon realizes she can’t live shadowless forever — and that Linay’s designs are darker than she ever dreamed.
Words cannot describe the feelings I have for Plain Kate. Erin Bow gave me a gift, she gave all who read Plain Kate a gift. It’s the gift of a perfectly written story without all of the cliche’s that are hounding young adult literature at the moment. There is no love story for Kate, therefore no epic love triangle. Kate is a self aware heroine, she knows her faults and accepts them. Therefore there is no self depreciating lead character. Plain Kate is a book that you will continue to not only think about but to feel long after you have read it.
It’s hard for me to review Plain Kate. I almost thought about making this a blog post instead. I was afraid that if I praise the book and the author too much that it will read as hype, but I realized Plain Kate is not about hype, it is just about phenomenal story telling and that will show through even my rambling thoughts.
We begin with Kate being fanatically happy with her life. Her father is a Master Carver and has promised to take Kate on as his apprentice when she is old enough. The mother has long since past and Kate never knew her making the relationship with her father all the more important. Kate has strange colored eyes and isn’t much to look at so they dub her Plain Kate in the town. Kate is accepted, even though she is strange by her father’s tremendously positive reputation in the town.
Everyone is afraid of anyone who looks, talks or walks like a witch and when Kate’s father succumbs to witch’s fever, Kate has some growing up to do, and quickly! She is not old enough to take over his position so a new carver is sent to town, she is alone, homeless and missing her father but she does not whine. Kate picks herself up by her bootstraps and simply survives. It is then she meets a set of kittens and raises them. Two abandon her but one stays loyal and on the day the beautiful man in white comes to town, well that is the day Plain Kate’s adventure begins.
We are then taken on a magical journey of Gypsies, new scenery, magic, and heartbreak. Through-out Plain Kate I laughed and cried and was so invested in so many of the characters I became completely conflicted with myself. Erin Bow is simply a masterful story teller. Sometimes it takes a simple fairy tale to show you what you have been missing in your reading for so long. I strongly urge any fairy tale or fantasy lover to pick up a copy of Plain Kate. I assure you that you will immensely enjoy yourself.
In which Erin Bow reads Plain Kate and shows off her stripper pole!
I received a copy of Plain Kate from the Publisher. It was an ARC therefore holds no monetary value. So there you have it FTC.
Jessica Day George has once again taken a beloved and not so over told fairy tale and fleshed out the details to give us a full feature story with all the great elements needed to make one wish to read the tale. Lass (or Pika) is unloved by her mother and is refused a name. Everyone in the village knows an unnamed child is bound to be claimed at some point by the trolls, so Pika’s father tries to appease the beasts by laying out the families precious food and sweets for the troll’s as a way to keep his Pika.
Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow takes through Pika’s young life and tells us the secret story of the Ice Castle and the Polar Bear Prince who inhabits it.
Lass is given the chance to go live in a castle with the bear for a set amount of time, her family will be well taken care of and things will be much easier on the. The Mother who never cared for her sends her off with the bear as her father is left to worry about his Lass.
Now the twists and turns of the book start, this tale is fairy tale standard, dark turns and sunny happy outcomes are marred by the morals of the story. If you love a good fairy tale and one longer and more fleshed out than most you will enjoy this book immensely as I have.
Let me start off by saying normally I wouldn’t bother reading a rewrite of a fairy tale. I like originality and most of the time you do not find that in a revised story. I did however find “Princess of the Midnight Ball” to be interesting enough to try. Jessica Day George is an author that was completely off my radar until this book came to my attention, and I am apt to research and read more of her novels after having read her rewrite of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses”, originally a Brothers Grimm fairy tale in German. You can read the Grimm Brothers version of the story here. As most Grimm stories its a small short story with a dark ending. In Grimm’s version, the princesses were naughty girls going off to dance with princes underground each night until their shoes were worn out completely. The King of the realm put out a notice that anyone who can solve the mystery picks his bride and is the King of the realm after his death. An old soldier is coming home from war when stopped by an old woman, he tells her he fancies being king, and she tells him how. He ultimately wins the crown and the hand of the eldest daughter.
In George’s story, the princesses were forced to dance each night because of a deal their mother made with the “King Under Stone”. They don’t want to fool anyone and instead of drugging them to sleep like in the original story, An enchantment falls over all in the princesses rooms, to sleep until they are safe in bed again.
Another thing the author changed was the princesses all had names of flowers that their mother had given them. Flowers that had grown in her country, and flowers that could be found in the garden the King made for his Queen.
The old soldier turns into a handsome young soldier and passes an old woman on his way to town who tells him how to win, but not what he is up against. He is trying to find his family in the town, and his uncle happens to be the King’s gardener, he takes the boy to the castle to work on the garden. There he meets Rose the oldest daughter.
He quickly figures out all is not right with the princesses. The stories of shoes being ruined each night. Of course Rose can tell him nothing, part of the enchantment. An old gardener helps him along his way with herbs and ideas.
Eventually every prince in the realm has tried to figure out the secret and went home and was found dead within a week. The princesses were under suspicion of witch craft and the church comes down hard on the King and his daughters. The young solder turns gardner then asks the King if he may have a go at finding out what the princesses are doing and is granted his wish. The old gardner gave him some herbs to ward off evil and enchantment and he is able to follow the princesses.
George kept the part of silver trees in the underworld from the original story but told how they came to be there, a tidbit I won’t share with you. Of course it’s a fairy tale so everything in the end is okay, but there are some really dark twists and turns along the way.
To me this is a truly amazing retelling of one of my favorite childhood stories. The Brothers Grimm were favorites of mine as I always had a lust for the dark side of stories. I love the way George’s story is fleshed out and makes all the minute details of the original come to life. I really felt I was stuck dancing my nights away reading this book. I strongly suggest picking it up if you like a dark fairy tale.