Plain Kate is good with a carving knife. In fact, she’s so good that when her superstitious village falls on hard times, she gets accused of witchcraft. Just when things are looking really bad, a man named Linay strolls into town and offers her a deal; her shadow for everything she needs to escape the town that now hates her. Kate agrees, and soon realizes that there are consequences to living without her shadow. At the same time she leaves the village, a mysterious fog begins to sweep across the countryside, carrying sickness and death to any living soul who happens to be in its path. It quickly becomes apparent that Linay is behind it, using Kate’s shadow to aid him and his witchcraft. Now Kate must find a way to stop him and regain her shadow, before he can fulfill his dark intentions.
Plain Kate was a wonderful and refreshing coming of age fantasy story for three main reasons. First, Kate is an incredibly realistic and sympathetic character. She’s not pretty, she’s not strong, she’s not gifted with some insanely powerful magical ability. She’s just a girl, alone in the world with her carving knife, hoping that somebody out there will extend a hand and offer a little bit of kindness and a place to belong. Her story is a real tear jerker, and evokes a kind of sadness and loneliness that I’m sure everyone has felt at one point in his or her life and can relate to.
Second, if you’re looking for romance, then you’ll be surprised to hear that Plain Kate doesn’t have any. I know what you’re thinking: “LE GASP, A YA NOVEL WITHOUT ROMANCE? CAN THAT EVEN EXIST?” The answer is yes, it can, and Plain Kate pulls it off with flying colors. To be honest, there’s enough angst in this story without Kate having to worry about the love of her life leaving her or turning her into a vampire. It was a great change of pace.
And third, for those out there that love a complicated villain, you’ll adore Linay. I found myself teetering between hating him and loving him just as much as I loved Kate. His motives are complicated, and his nature is not your typical nasty bad guy evil. Even though he’s using Kate to pull off his wicked plan, it’s clear that he cares about her, and at times he even had me convinced that he is almost a hero. I found this complication exciting because its typical in fantasy novels to have black vs. white dynamics between the protagonists and antagonists. It made reading Kate and Linay's dialogue thought-provoking.
Honestly, I could probably come up with a few more things to praise Plain Kate for, but why waste time reading a longer review when you could be out reading this book?! Plain Kate was a wonderful fantasy, one that will surely capture the heart of any reader.