Kate is a carver in a world where knives are thought to hold magic. She carves charms, and she carves masterfully, and she insists it has nothing to do with magic, but there are plagues and bad harvests, and people are always eager to find witches to blame, to burn. An attack while she sleeps leads to a deal with a true witch--her shadow for her heart's desire, and Kate winds up with travel supplies, her carving tools, and a talking cat to keep her company. But to not have a shadow, in this world of curses and burning and endless rain, is a dangerous thing, and Kate cannot escape her troubles by roaming.
Oh man, this was good. Taggle, the talking cat? Is exactly what a talking cat would be. And the world, the setting, is rich and alive. It got to me. And also, I love the cover--it's just gorgeous. Loved loved. I'd put the reading level at the upper end of middle grade--it's dark, and just a little adult in spots, though in a way that I doubt younger kids would actually get. I'd say 5th and up for my conservative little service area.