Book Review: Sorrow's Knot by Erin Bow


Title:  Sorrow's Knot
Series: Standalone
By: Erin Bow
Author Info: Website | Twitter | Goodreads
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre Type: Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance
Publication Date: October 2013
Pages: 368 pages
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.


From the acclaimed author of PLAIN KATE, a new novel about what lurks in the shadows, and how to put it to rest...

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?

Sorrow's Knot is storytelling at its best. With its rich and poetic words, it brings forth a story about dark secrets, magical bindings, and ghosts. Whispered words that tell the story of shadows that hunger for the living and the dead that are bound too tightly. Sorrow's Knot tells the story of a daring young heroine, Otter, and her coming of age story as she faces the dangers lurking in the shadows.

Like the unfurling of a magical cord, author Erin Bow's words unfold in a truly beautiful and magical tale of one heroine's dark journey. Her words are simply brilliant. The story is filled with danger, sorrow, and hope. It is also about the many forms love can take. The love between mother and daughter, the love between friends and even the love that blooms into a romance. At the heart of this story is a dark tale. One filled with horror about the shadows that threaten our young heroine Otter, and her entire village. I was held captivated by this story and did not want to put it down.

A pinch (town) called Westmont

Sorrow's Knot takes place in a fantastical world. A place that is not a place, but feels familiar. In a small remote village called Westmont, near the western edge of known civilization, we meet our heroine Otter and the people of her village known as the Shadow People. The forest, mountains, and traditions are reminiscent of North America and the Native Americans. Yet, it's something completely different with its unique mix of customs and lore from various other indigenous cultures. This is one reason why the story works so well. The world-building is complete, giving the story richness and depth. Highly atmospheric, Sorrow's Knot effortlessly combines dystopian, fantasy and horror, seamlessly blending the genres for one terrific world.

The Girl Who Remade the World

In the world of Sorrow's Knot, the dead do not rest easily and behind every shadow hides the possibility of hungry spirits. Ghosts who must be bound by wards to protect the Shadow People from their deadly touch. Otter comes from a long line of women who are binders, and like her mother Willow, she can banish the dead using magically knotted cords. In this matriarchal society, the women hold powerful positions, and as binders, rangers, and storytellers, they each have the magical ability to bind the dead and worked together to keep their village safe. As the daughter to one of the greatest binders of all, Otter has grown up to believe she will one day take her mother's place. Her heart is broken when her mother tells her that there is something terribly wrong with their bindings that the knots are wrong and that she cannot become a binder.

But when Willow is touched by a White Hand, a deadly ghost that transforms its victims through madness and turns them also into a White Hand, Otter knows she must break the vicious cycle created by the binding and knotting that began with her great ancestor Mad Spider. With no training, Otter along with her best friends, Kestrel and Cricket, a ranger and storyteller, will travel to the fabled city of Dreams, Eyrie, to confront the madness of the White Hands that began with Mad Spider herself. The dangerous journey will bring her great sorrow and pain, but also the possibility of hope and love.

Shadow's Knot is an enthralling read, one that compels you with it poetic words. The pace is easy to follow, but I found myself trying to slow my reading, wanting to absorb the beautiful writing. It's rare to read something that is so sad at times, and even filled with a tinge of horror, yet also filled with such beauty and hope.

The Characters all become dear to you as you read this story. Otter, her mother Willow, her friends Kestrel and Cricket. Even the people of the village. They're all fleshed out, easily finding a soft spot in your heart as their stories intertwine. Otter is a wonderful heroine as she braves danger and terrifying spirits, trying to save her mother and people. I adore her character, and she is one of my favorite heroines to date. Both Kestrel and Cricket add much to the story as Otter's friends. Kestrel, as a ranger, is both tough yet tender-hearted. Her friendship with Otter never waivers, and there are times my heart was breaking for her as much as Otter. Cricket, as the only boy that has been trained as a storyteller, holds a unique viewpoint in a village where women usually hold honored positions. Through his eyes, we see the need for change in the Shadow People, and a foreshadowing of things to come. Willow, Mad Spider, even the White Hands are all additional characters that add so much to the story.

The romance was perfect in every way. There's a special bond between Otter, and her best friends, Kestrel, and Cricket, that I loved. Their romance and love, called the Okishae, so well-done that it is almost fairy tale in quality, destined. Once in a lifetime. The main plot deals with the unfolding of the knots, but the romance that comes later is epic in my opinion. It was subtle and breathtaking.

Sorrow's Knot is my first read by Erin Bow, and I'm amazed. I highly recommend it to both young adults and adults. I want it on my shelf, and I want extra copies to pass to all my reading friends.

My Rating: 5 Stars. I loved it!

PLEASE NOTE: A courtesy review copy of this book was provided by Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic Inc. via NetGalley in exchange for my fair review. Thank you, Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic Inc. for the review opportunity!