The Girl Who Drank the Moon

By Kelly Barnhill

Rating: 4 stars

Every year the people of the Protectorate leave a baby to be sacrificed to the witch of the forest. The witch of the forest, Xan, has no idea why the people of the town keep leaving a baby out every year, but she dutifully collects it and takes it carefully to the other side of the forest to a family who will raise it well. One year, she accidentally feeds the infant moonlight instead of starlight, filling her with magic, which could be dangerous, so she decides to raise the child, who she calls Luna, herself, locking the magic away until she turns thirteen. And as that date nears, everything starts to change.

This is a delightful coming of age story, with a vein of darkness running through it that many children will love. Luna’s story is inevitably interwoven with that of the Protectorate, and we learn more about that unfortunate state as we go. I love a good story about stories, and this is a warning of letting a single person control the stories that a people tells. There are the stories that mothers tell their children, teaching them to spurn hope; there are the stories that Sisters of the Star tell to the madwoman locked away in their tower, and the stories they whisper to each other when their Mother Superior isn’t around. There’s the boy Anatain, who can’t forget the screams of one mother as they took her child, and the love of Luna’s adoptive family – not just Xan, but Glerk the swamp monster and Fyrian, the tiny dragon.

A lot of the history of what’s gone on before to leave the Protectorate in its current state is drip-fed to us slowly over the course of the book, leaving the reader to put it all together to see the magnitude of the crime. It’s cleverly done and leaves you a bit breathless at the end of it.

I kept expecting there to be a big confrontation between Xan and the enemy, where she would break out some awesome magic and prod buttock and chew gum, but it’s not really that sort of book. Xan is an old woman, and that’s not the message of the book. This isn’t a standard Hero’s Journey, but relies much more on love and togetherness. It’s a great message to send to kids.

There are a few things I still didn’t understand – like why Fyrian was so tiny for so long – but the narrative is mostly satisfying and it’s a great story for older children and and adults alike.

Book details

ISBN: 9781848126473

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