Author: Kelly Barnhill.
Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the forest, Xan, is kind and gentle. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster named Glerk and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon, Fyrian. Xan rescues the abandoned children and deliver them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey.
One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this enmagicked girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. To keep young Luna safe from her own unwieldy power, Xan locks her magic deep inside her. When Luna approaches her thirteenth birthday, her magic begins to emerge on schedule–but Xan is far away. Meanwhile, a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch. Soon, it is up to Luna to protect those who have protected her–even if it means the end of the loving, safe world she’s always known.
Book length fairy tales are one of my weaknesses. I can’t get enough of them.
No surprise, then, that I absolutely five star loved this middle grade book. Well, it’s shelved as middle grade- but I absolutely think anyone of any age who likes fantasy or fairy tales will enjoy it.
First, there’s the language. That’s what I noticed most on my first read-through. That’s almost what makes it more of a fairy tale than many retellings I’ve enjoyed. From the title to the end, it maintains the limited omniscient of the fairy tale, mixed with some amazing prose and imagery. This style is: savage, but never gory. Beautiful, whimsical, but never too abstract or long-winded. Magical, but grounded in human truth.
The characters are fun and distinct, but it was only on my second read-through that I began to realize the deeper layers going on. The Girl Who Drank the Moon presents an apparently whimsical tale of magic, but the foundation is human nature. The oblivious Elders, in their comfortable homes and mild discomfort over killing children, are unconscious Evil and all the damage it does so quietly. The witch in her forgetfulness and occasional carelessness is kind and caring, but the perfect example of the passer-by – and all the danger of ‘minding your own business’ and just staying away from the cloud of sorrow, instead of investigating and trying to help. There’s motherhood and love and hope, the vicious cycle of pain perpetuated, and the unreliable rumor-mill.
All this wrapped up in a coming-of-age story with a tiny dragon and huge bog-monster and a story-line even a little kid can enjoy.
Sexual Content: None.
Violence: Sacrificial child is snatched from mother, who is bound and imprisoned for fighting. Elders leave infant (and have left many infants in the past) in the forest, thinking that they will die. Character is attacked by magical paper birds who leave fairly deep cuts all over his face that turn into scars. In the past a wizard and dragon plunged into a volcano to stop it up.