Plain Kate by Erin Bow
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Kate (just plain Kate) is the very talented daughter of a woodcarver; when sickness carries him off, a new guild-approved carver takes over his business, leaving her with nothing but her tools and her father's abandoned stall. Deciding to live in the stall, Plain Kate ekes out an existence carving good luck charms and a few other things. She even foster-mothers three cats (one, Taggle, will stay with her while the other two find new homes). Until one day a strange man, Linay, comes to town.
Linay's clearly not there for anything good, and I'm guessing he picked on Plain Kate because she had no one to defend her. Through various means, he gets the town to view her as a witch then offers her escape: her shadow for her dearest wish. Yes, a new twist on the Faustian bargain! In this case, he knows that her lack of shadow will cause no end of problems. Oh, her wish? Taggle talks.
She joins up with a band of Roamers, which I'm assuming is a nice way of saying Gypsies (although I've heard that Rom is the preferred term) but Taggle's talking and her lack of shadow become a serious problem and she again must escape - this time, Linay takes her in. The relationships between the Roamers and Linay are too pat, even though they're presented as coincidence. Ditto her meeting with Drina at the end.
The interesting bits - life with the Roamers, her carving, the superstitions of the country (unnamed, but sounds like something Eastern European) - are glossed over in favor of the witch/shadow/Linay plot. Too bad, because that might have made the book more interesting rather than as window-dressing for the Revenge Story; the glossary wasn't really necessary either, as all the words are explained in the text.
ARC provided by publisher.
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