Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Plain Kate Audio

Plain Kate Audio

Erin Bow
For ages 13 and up
Unabridged audiobook (CD)
Performed/read by: Cassandra Campbell
Brilliance Audio, 2010   ISBN: 978-1441821331

Plain Kate has a good life living with her father in his shop and learning how to carve wood. She plans on becoming a master carver herself in the not too distant future. When her father catches a sickness and dies, Kate finds herself all alone in the world. She has to leave the house that she shared with her father because it belongs to the guild, as do all of her father’s tools and supplies. Kate take a few tools that her father gave her, and she goes to live in his stall in the marketplace. It is not a proper building, but Kate manages to squeeze herself into the bottom drawer of the stall’s cabinet, and that is where she sleeps.

The very first night that she lies in the drawer, she discovers that a mother cat has left three little kittens in the smallest drawer of the cabinet. Kate cares for them, and one of them decides to make his home with her. Kate calls the cat Taggle, and when he is grown, he brings her gifts; dead bats, mice, and other small animals. These Kate eats, and together she and Taggle manage to get by.

Then a strange pale man called Linay comes to the town. For a fee, Kate mends his fiddle bow, after which Linay makes Kate an offer; he asks her to sell him her shadow. At first, Kate refuses. She wants nothing to do with witchcraft. She knows that happens to witches if people turn against them. She has heard a dying witch scream in the flames of a fire. Unfortunately, Kate does not know what Linay is like, she does not know how dangerous he is. She does not appreciate that Linay does not accept her refusal. Strange things start to happen when Kate is around, and people begin to whisper that she is a witch. Kate realizes that Linay is manipulating her, and before the townsfolk have the chance to burn her for being a witch, she accepts his offer and trades her shadow for some travel supplies.

Soon after leaving her town, Kate discovers that when he took her shadow, Linay gave her a wish in addition to the travel supplies. It is customary for a witch to give a gift using magic when they take something. Kate’s beloved cat Taggle starts talking, and he is a good companion. It seems as if she has made a good trade.

It is only when she meets and joins a group of Roamers that Kate full begins to appreciate how hard it is going to be to live without her shadow. People will see what she is missing, and they will assume that she is a witch. Kate begins to miss her shadow and she comes to understand that is a vital part of her, a part that she cannot live without. What Kate doesn’t know is that Linay has a plan for her shadow, and his plan will cause many innocent people to die.

This extraordinary and beautifully written story is gripping, exciting, and at times, it is heartbreaking and painful. Magical happenings, a longing for revenge, and Kate’s need to feel that she belongs somewhere are wrapped together to give listeners a story that is unique and memorable.

For this audio title, Cassandra Campbell uses her considerable narration and acting experience to give a powerful performance that will keep listeners captivated for hours.