Thursday, March 10, 2011

REVIEW: Wood Angel by Erin Bow

Plain Kate lives in a time afraid of magic.

She has a gift for carving ‘lucky’ wooden-charms. Known as Witch-Blade, her unusual gift attracts dangerous attention in a place where witches are burned. When her village falls on bad times, suspicion falls on Kate. Scared for her life, she seeks the help of a mysterious stranger.

In exchange for her shadow, the stranger will assist her, but Kate becomes part of a terrifying plan, darker than she ever dreamed.

First published in the USA as Plain Kate, this is the heartfelt story of an orphan ‘witch-child’ and her cat, caught in a time afraid of magic.

Wood Angel by Erin Bow is such a beautiful book. The cover alone would have tempted me to pick up this book, but the writing and the setting and the characters really came along and just stole my heart. This was by far the best book I've read in awhile as I thought the complexity of the characters was superb. A massive, massive thank you to Claire at Chicken House for providing me with this book for review!

It's been awhile since I was swept up into a fantasy world like the one that exists in Wood Angel. It was so comforting that it felt like coming home, reading these pages. Plain Kate lives with her father in a little village and they both have skill as carvers. It is a time when magic is feared and is blamed for a great many things, including the illness that sweeps the country and takes Kate's father away from her.

All on her own, Plain Kate relies on the generosity of her villagers and sleeps in the set of drawers at her father's old work-place. She is very vulnerable and isolated here, with only the company of her cat, Taggle. When a mysterious man arrives in the village, Plain Kate tries to resist the man's offer of a trade. But when the villagers begin to believe that Kate has magic, she is tricked into trading away her shadow to this man, Linay. Plain Kate leaves her village and in a bid to find a place where she belongs, she takes up with a band of Roamers who travel around the country. With the Roamers and a new friend, she begins to realise the extent of what it means to be without a shadow, and she decides to go on this terrible journey in order to set things right.

What I loved so much about Wood Angel is how magical everything is. Erin Bow writes so beautifully, with an almost sad tinge to everything after the loss of Kate's father. I love how all the characters aren't fully on either side of good and evil - but cross-over when it suits them. From a kindly Roamer who does unspeakable things after the loss of his family to Linay, the witch who has stolen Kate's shadow and is planning a great evil. I loved seeing these other sides to the character and with Kate in the middle trying to decide what she would and wouldn't do in order to follow her ideals and beliefs.

Kate's quest to find a place that she belongs and to surround herself with family or 'mira' was heartbreaking to me. She is without a family due to illness and cast out of her village because of the suspicions of being a witch. At every turn in the story I felt like weeping for Plain Kate. I really sympathised with her and wanted desperately for her to find a home. My favourite aspect of the novel by far? Taggle, Kate's cat! But I also really enjoyed the descriptions of Kate's carving.

This is such a beautiful, beautiful book and I will be highly recommending it for a long time to come. Buy it, read it, love it!


  1. The Americans have raved about this book for so long. It sounds so beautiful. I wonder why they changed the name from Plain Kate though.

  2. Yeah, I'm not really sure! But the Americans rave for very good reason, it is BEAUTIFUL! A book that I shall rave about for a long time to come :)

  3. That cover is gorgeous, and the book sounds beautiful. It's definitely jumping up my to read list.

  4. I'm glad you recommend it as my copy turned up today :D It sounds really, really good :D

  5. Liking the sound of this one very much and adding it to my wish list now. Great review - thanks :)

  6. Jenni - Oh, do Jenni! It's wonderful.

    Karen - Hurrah :) I hope you love it like I do!

    One More page- You're welcome :) I hope you're able to find a copy quickly to read it!

  7. Beautiful review! I've been picking it up in the bookshop and then putting it back down for something else, so now I know not to keep passing it! :)

  8. Fab review - it sounds right up my street, I'm now adding it to my wishlist :)

  9. TBO - Oh definitely DO pick it up!!

    Jesse - Thank you, I hope you find a copy soon and love it like I did :)

  10. Sounds lovely. Great review ;)

  11. Yey, someone else who love this! I loved that loss was a central part of this book and it showed just how far people would be willing to go when consumed by grief.

    ComaCalm's Corner

  12. Thank Mariel :)

    ComaCalm - I LOVED this book. Such beauty and sadness.


HI! Thank you for leaving a comment, you've just become my new best friend :)