Jacket Blurb: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.
Wow, let's start with the cover/design of this book: it's deliciously beautiful. I love the art of Kate and Taggle on the front, and I love how when you open it, it's suddenly a rich blue color on the inside with a butter yellow cover. I totally support buying this hardcover.
Ahem, now on to the story! I've seen several other reviews describe the writing as "lyrical" which is possibly overdoing it, but it's the best description I can come up with too. I HEART the writing style. It's simple and uses one word instead of five, but somehow the meaning and descriptions come across crystal clear and really make you feel like you're there.
The story was a winner for me, especially when I realized it was based on Russian folklore. Ghost stories, magic, folklore, and deliciously ambiguous villains...that combination can't go wrong with me. I was extremely angry when I realized there was a magical cat in the story, but by the end of the book I loved the cat character, so at least it's a WELL-DONE cliche. So if you're sick of the cats too, I say give him a chance.
I also liked the magical system used in the plot. It was complicated enough to be interesting, but also simple enough that I was only confused once: at the climactic use of magic, I'm not entirely sure how that all worked out...but I bet if I read it again it would make more sense, because I was not expecting certain things at the end at all. The magical system IS a bit creepy because it often runs on blood, so if you don't like blood used in that way in fiction, I would steer clear. I got a little squeamish at points.
But my ultimate favorite part of this book, hands down, easy, was Linay. Linay seduced me from his first appearance and I was pretty much always waiting for him to turn up again (there was plenty of him, really, which also helped me love this book). But to be fair, I also loved Plain Kate: she was brave, a little damaged, and very easy to empathize with. I wanted to hug her the entire book, actually.
Last warning: This book is SAD. If you get through the whole book, I guarantee something will hurt you in the heart. If one thing doesn't get you, another thing will. I was doing great until the last page, actually, and then it was like the straw that broke the camel's back....
I gave this five stars out of five for pure awesome in just about every way. I recommend it to EVERYONE, as long as they don't mind a bit of blood and sad faces.