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Wood Angel
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on 2 May 2014
Loved this book it has everything tragedy hardship adventure and at last happiness reccomend it to all ages will be looking for some more by this author
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on 28 June 2011
There was only ever two books that made me cry - Before I Die by Jenny Downham and the Harry Potter book where Dumbledore dies. Now, there's a third. I'm not sure how to write a review that's fitting for a such an amazing book but heck, I'll try.

Wood Angel is told like a fairy tale and I quickly fell in love with the writing. It's the sort of writing that I lose myself comepletely in and can imagine everthing so easily, it's almost as if I'm there. The story is either set in the past, or in a different world, or both (I'm guessing both), in a world that fears Witchcraft as well as accepting it. Witch burnings are a common thing for Kate, who is accused of being a Witch often, due to her beautiful carvings. Knowing she has to get away from the town where she grows up, she strikes a bargain with a man who will change her life forever.

The Roamers were an interesting bunch and I wish Plain Kate could have stayed with them longer. I particularly liked Drina and Daj, who both warmed to Kate quickly and made her feel at home. Of course, my favourite character was Taggle, who's everything you expect a talking cat to be and more! He's the perfect companion for Kate, getting her out of quite a few scrapes - and getting her in them - all the while with his mind on food. That cat eats a lot.

It was nice to escape for a while into this fantasy world, with no love triangles or messy relationships to worry about. Just a beautiful fairy tale about a girl, a talking cat and many adventures. And carving.

Note: As much as I love you Chicken House, whoever chose the title and cover of this book needs a slap on the wrist. I don't find the cover appealing as it's not very original and I have no idea why the title is called Wood Angel. I actually thought I would end up reading about fairies when I started this. I will be buying Plain Kate, the US edition (with a beautiful cover) when I can!
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on 10 June 2011
This is such a beautiful book and would appeal to readers who have enjoyed Deerskin or[[ASIN:1904233074 Winter Rose.

Plain Kate (so called because of her undesireable appearance) is the daughter of a carver, and herself skilled in the craft. When an illness sweeps through the town, her father passes away and she is left destitute, living alone and unloved with her cat Taggle for company. One day an enigmatic albino stranger comes to town and from hence forward Kate's life changes forever.

The story has elements of folk-tales with Linay a pied piper type character, magic, mystery and of course a wonderful talking cat! Kate's tale is one of loss and sorrow, but also of hope and of friendships found in unlikely places. There is a sense of transformation as she grows in confidence and gains control of her own life.

I loved this book from the first page to the last (which made me cry by the way) and instantly wanted to re-read it once i'd finished. The characters are so well drawn - Kate is a plucky girl who is determined to survive, but nurses the deep sorrow of lonliness and rejection. Linay could be rather sinister and yet I wanted him to be healed of his own pain and loss.And, as for the cat Taggle - I have my own big silver tabby cat who is very much like Taggle - so I loved him.
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on 10 February 2012
This is compelling, lyrical writing in the voice of a professional that belies that this is a debut effort. The story set in England in the days of witch burnings is of a young, female wood-carver, Kate Svetlana or Plain Kate Carver. We see her from childhood to young adulthood, initially in her small town of Samilae.

Her father was her teacher, and called her "Kate, My Star" until he died from the "witch's fever". Because Kate is plain and has mismatched eyes: one brown and one blue, she is soon called a witch, partially because she is a talented carver. "The man looked up at the faces that were so beautiful they seemed sad, the wings that looked both soft and strong, like the wings of swans that could kill a man with one blow."

The origin of her name, Plain Kate, is humorous and well-described. However, I felt the constant use of "plain" reduced her presence; we didn't need to be constantly reminded of her plainness as if the absence of beauty were a vice (that is how it seemed to me). When Kate is turned out of her father's shop by an indentured apprentice, she goes to live in the bottom drawer of her father's stall, taking her tools and leather apron with her although the new apprentice would have them too, saying her father gave them to her.

Kate adopts a grey male kitten, which she calls Taggle. Soon an albino stranger comes to town named Linay. He is "witch-white" and a "Roamer" (how the book refers to gypsies). "He was thin but strong." Although he is a witch, the town does not cast him out as he grants them wishes and sells trinkets; soon the town's folk are eating out of his hand; and eventually turn Kate out as a witch although she is not one.

The "skara rok" hits - "a year of bad weather, hunger and plague." A sleeping sickness also befalls the town, whereby a person sleeps and never wakes up. Kate's stall is destroyed by an unnamed axe-wielding man, and she is driven out of the town by the fear and taunts that she is a witch and in fear of her life because they could burn her like a witch and then drown her.

Friendless and homeless, Linay finds her and asks her again to give him her shadow in exchange for supplies and "her heart's desire". She has turned him down repeatedly until finally hunger and the fear of her town's folk drive her to accept. To cut off her shadow, Linay cuts himself as "blood draws things" then burns the blood: "fire to set loose the spell" and gives her gifts as an exchange. He gives her a huge haul of fish that stay fresh when others' rot - carving supplies and her heart's desire, freedom from loneliness: in the outcome that Taggle speaks.

Roamers come to sell trained horses. The baker buys a horse from a set of twins and when Kate comes to give the baker, her only friend, the objarka he has asked her to carve, he takes her to the Roamers for Kate to join them. She is accepted by them but placed on notice for 6 months. In the Roamer set are the male twins: Behjet and Stivo, their mother, Daj and Stivo's daughter, Drina, who is younger than Kate and becomes her fast friend over time. Stivo's wife, Lenore, Drina's mother, was a witch and healer, who was burnt and drowned in the city of Lov. This is the crux of the story.

Drina notices that Kate is shadow-less and tries her fledgling magic to bring back Kate's shadow. It is from there that things go from bad to worse with the ghost witch creating death and mayhem, until there is illness in the Roamers' camp for which Kate is blame, and a fire in which she burns but escapes and lives.

Linay has extracted Kate's shadow in order to return to life his dead twin, Lenore, and to avenge the death from the city of Lov, and of every townspeople from Samilae to Lov. When Lenore died, Linay used magic to cut a hole in his shadow where his heart is, and brought Lenore to life as a ghost. But he needed a full shadow and daily blood sacrifices to bring her to life as a human. He eventually draws Kate's blood as well as his own.

The glossary at the back of terminology is useful, but as it is not signposted at front, I didn't realise it was there, and could have used it.

There were many dark elements and miseries in this story, which were not leavened by lightness or humor as I would have expected in a book for YA's. However, as witch-burning is not a pleasant topic, the argument against this is that the book is not expected to sugar-coat the depiction. There were not many qualities in Kate other than her carving prowess and her love for her cat. She was quite loveless and friendless until Drina befriended her. I would have expected a fuller drawing of Kate's character and of some good fortune to befall her, in order to have engaged me more fully. I kept reading to the end as the writing is compelling even though I didn't foresee or get either a true twist or a happy ending. It was a realistic ending but not necessarily a completely satisfying one. The depiction of the magic is original.
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on 23 October 2011
I got this book from the local library because I thought after reading the back page that it might be a nice little read. I was wrong it is a fabulous book it made me worry for the main character it made me smile it made me cry in buckets. I read this book in a day and can believe that just a relatively small novel could have such have such impact. You will enjoy this book if you like to read something imaginative, magical, touching and memorable.
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on 1 April 2012
bought this book for my 11 year old who loved it so much i thought i would also give it a go.... i wasnt dissapointed.... excellent read although the cover has nothing to do with the story.... recommend to 10+ age range but need to be confident readers....
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VINE VOICEon 7 March 2011
Plain Kate is an odd child. She has different colour eyes and her skill with a carving knife are unusual for a girl of her age. In a time when magic is feared, any peculiarities in a person can be dangerous but it's not until her father dies of 'witch fever', and she has no one to protect her, that the town starts to turn against her. Then a strange man, Linay, arrives in town and even more odd things start to happen - the blame seeming to fall on Kate. Deciding to escape before she can be persecuted. Trading her shadow with Linay in return for some supplies and her 'deepest wish', which turns out that she just doesn't want to be alone, Kate acquires a talking cat, Taggle, and the two of them head out of town with the Roamers. Eventually though, Kate realises that she needs her shadow if she's going to survive and must get it back from Linay.

Wood Angel is a very unique story and there's something very individual about the style of the writing. It's very atmospheric and magical.The story is very much about how Kate struggles to stay alive. Thankfully she's a fighter but it's not an easy ride for her. Taggle was my all out favourite character in the book providing companionship and advice to Kate and a somewhat light-hearted comical relief for the reader.

A great story with brilliant writing and a feisty if slightly downtrodden protagonist.
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on 2 January 2013
I read this book when it was Plain Kate (US edition) and loved it so much I quoted for the cover. Erin Bow's beautifully written and imagined medieval fantasy has one of literature's finest girl heroes and finest cats as well. Hadn't realized it was released in the UK with a different title, or I would have thrust it on everyone I know. Buy it for a 9-14 year-old who adored Harry Potter but doesn't know what to read next. Highly recommended by a not-easily-satisfied reader.
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on 7 April 2011
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!
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VINE VOICEon 9 March 2011
The narrative has a fairytale feel right from the beginning. I don't mean the Disney fairy-tales either, I mean the dark, dangerous fairy-tales akin to the Brothers Grimm. The prose almost has a poetic, lyrical feel to it.

Visually alluring with emotion sparking descriptions thoroughly sensory/tactile which draw you right into the heart of the events without the slightest protest from your imagination. I usually say immersion but I think on this occasion it was more like total submersion into Kate's world.

Disaster and tragedy seem to follow Kate through her young live, yet her ability to endure and survive was awe inspiring. Her inner strength was enviable, you can understand why she unwittingly sold her shadow. Yet never once did she deter from stopping the nefarious consequences. The use of the third person narrative allows insight into the actions and thoughts of the other characters while maintaining the focus on Kate.

I cannot go through the review without mentioning Taggle, Kate's cat, who through the exchange of the shadow is able to speak. How totally awesome is that - a talking cat. Taggle's narrative voice is everything I imagine a cat would sound like - regal, haughty, majestic. An image of the Cheshire Cat kept popping into my head as I was reading. Taggle has serious Cat-attitude LOL.

The use of unusual words and different dialects emphasises the differences between people in different areas. Highlighting the intolerance that still applies today. How easy different people are blamed for events that are 'out of our hands' so to speak. A glossary at the back of the book is very useful in fully understanding the meaning behind the words used. The Roamers conjured images of the old Romany Gypsies with their painted wooden wagons (nothing like the gypsies that are seen on TV today).

All the plot threads come together beautifully to provide a well rounded conclusion. I would say this book is a modern dark fairytale for the more mature Middle Grader.
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