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A long time ago, in a market town by a looping river, there lived an orphan girl called Plain Kate. She was called this because her father had introduced her to the new butcher, saying, ‘This is my beloved Katerina Svetlana, after her mother who died giving birth to her and God rest her soul, but I call her just plain Kate.’ And the butcher, swinging a cleaver, answered, ‘That’s right enough, Plain Kate she is, plain as a stick.’ A man who treasured humour, especially his own, the butcher repeated this to everyone. After that, she was called Plain Kate. But her father called her Kate, My Star. Plain Kate’s father Poitr was a wood-carver.

About the book

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 soon becomes part of a terrifying plan, darker than she could ever have 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.

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Press reviews

“Truly, madly, deeply felt loss saturates the novel, scarring its characters … demonstrates a mature, haunting artistry ... Kate’s adolescent struggles for acceptance, companionship, love and vocation are achingly, believably familiar and real ... ”


“... a refreshing, complex, lovely and satisfying novel that explores sacrifice, identity, belonging, and more in a lyrical and enchanting style.”


“... a dark and complex tale, full of violence ... Kate is undeniably a sympathetic character deserving of happiness...”


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