Thursday, October 17, 2013

Becky's View: Sorrow's Knot by Erin Bow

Sorrow's Knot by Erin Bow
♦publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
♦release date: October 29th, 2013
♦hardcover, 368 pages
♦intended audience: Young adult
♦source: from publisher via San Francisco Book Review
In the world of SORROW'S KNOT, the dead do not rest easy. Every patch of shadow might be home to something hungry, something deadly. Most of the people of this world live on the sunlit, treeless prairies. But a few carve out an uneasy living in the forest towns, keeping the dead at bay with wards made from magically knotted cords. The women who tie these knots are called binders. And Otter's mother, Willow, is one of the greatest binders her people have ever known.

But Willow does not wish for her daughter to lead the lonely, heavy life of a binder, so she chooses another as her apprentice. Otter is devastated by this choice, and what's more, it leaves her untrained when the village falls under attack. In a moment of desperation, Otter casts her first ward, and the results are disastrous. But now Otter may be her people's only hope against the shadows that threaten them. Will the challenge be too great for her? Or will she find a way to put the dead to rest once and for all?

Review: Sorrow's Knot is my first experience with Erin Bow's work---I somehow missed out on Plain Kate as much as I wanted to read it.  I know I definitely heard great things about it.  After reading Sorrow's Knot, I will definitely go back and try Plain Kate soon, if only to read more of this author's lovely writing. 

In Sorrow's Knot, the world building was subtle but beautiful.  The female-dominated village of Westmost has a very native tribal atmosphere.  They live simply, each woman grows up and is chosen for a specific trade. They have rangers and healers and storytellers---but Otter is a born Binder.  In this land, the dead are part of their daily lives and something they must always look out for.  Different kinds of ghosts pose different kinds of threats to them.  The binders use a magic of tying knots and a complicated "cat's cradle" kind of thing to ward off these spirits. They also use it to bind their dead.  Through Otter's journey to find her place in the village and through the many legends told by the storyteller, Cricket, a really beautiful story unfolds that basically comes down to the human condition of binding our loves ones to us with our grief and sorrow---and the freedom of letting them go. 

I really enjoyed the three main characters, Otter, Cricket, and Kestrel.  Cricket is the only boy in the village and I kept expecting the dynamic between them to shift into something more complicated and predictable, but it thankfully never did.  There was a kind of sweetness and purity to the three of them being so close. The relationship between Otter and her strange mother, Willow, was definitely heavier! Willow often seems on the verge of insanity and it's hard to know if she is threatened by Otter or trying to protect her or just plain crazy---or a little of each.  

The pacing at times seemed a little slow, and other times seemed to fit the solemn journey that Otter faced.  It felt more like a chronicle of Otter discovering the truth about her people and what they've all grown to believe than some action-packed plot with an obvious beginning, middle, end.  For now, I think this is a stand-alone, but with the way it ended I definitely would be interested in what Otter discovers next beyond the village of Westmost!
Find Erin Bow online: Website  • Twitter  •  Facebook

Purchase Sorrow's Knot: Amazon  •  BookDepository  •  Indiebound


  1. It's a shame I'm so busy, because I also got a review request for this book and I had to decline it. I love the sound of the three characters and how it stayed pure :) I like it when books end like they could be stand-alones, but it could also become a series because there is enough to explore.


  2. Even though you make it sound really good, I am not entierly convinced. Lately, I had some very bad experiences with Scholastic books, and I often ended up not finishing the book, or being disappointed.