This is the a book that wasn't formally on my to-read list (ie, my word doc that I use sometimes to get ideas when I run low on books) but it's one that I heard about and was keeping an eye out for at my local library. Sadly it took me a few years to actually find it and remember that I wanted to read it but better late than never! Heck, after reading Shadow and Bones (which I apparently forgot to review, shall need to correct that at some point) I started reading one of the author's reference books on Russia which actually turned out to be a nice compliment to the setting, although strangely for once the setting wasn't my favorite part about this book.
Plain Kate by Erin Bow
Summary: When Kate's father dies she loses her already precarious status in the world and the prejudices people already had against her with her two color eyes and almost supernatural carving abilities are magnified. So when she's presented with an offer, her shadow for her greatest desire and the supplies to leave her town behind she accepts, not knowing what kind of powerful magic can be worked with a person's shadow or how much time she'll have to spend righting that accidental wrong.
The Good: It appears that this book was a nominee for the ALA awards and I can see why, it goes just a bit deeper and a little darker than a lot of light-fantasy YA books I read* and for that hard to describe reason it felt like a better written book than many undeniably good books I've read. What I love most about it is how Kate reacts to this whole situation she finds herself in, she doesn't blame herself over and over for doing something that had consequences beyond anything she could have understood yet because of her character she still tries to right these wrongs. She doesn't have a hero complex but rather a sense of right and wrong that I think is a little less common these days, she doesn't try to save people from this plot because she needs to save people to feel better but because she understands how wrong it is to involve the innocent to punish the guilty and I liked that, it made her a bit more of a complex character and one that was easier to relate to, someone whose whole character and personality aren't changed by just a few events but rather are built upon a life of experience and guidance. And as a side note, I've seen a lot of talking animals in fiction, it's just something that pops up, and I feel that Taggle is the closest to what I feel like a talking (therefore anthropomorphized) cat would be like and even he changes throughout the story which I feel like was a good call.
The Bad: I don't have much to say here actually, I had very few problems with it. I felt like Drina's characterization was a little wobbly but since she's a younger character (the story is a bit vague but no more than 13 I think) so that's understandable. The pacing was also a bit odd in the first third but overall this was a well-written and interesting book.
So, giving this book four out of five stars and would like to buy it someday. I'm looking at Bow's next book and I'm interested by the premise (less by the cover, it looks kinda like people dressed in "generic native american garb", must less nice and polished looking than this lovely cover) and hopefully I'll get to it much sooner than I did here!
*and I'm not saying that darker=better story buuuut I do feel like a lot of people hold that view, knowingly or not