Genre: Fantasy Age Range: MG Star Rating: 4 stars Series: standalone
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.
Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here. Find on Bookshop.org UK, Amazon UK, and the Book Depository (affiliate links.)
THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON reads like a fairy story, with layers of stories and magic overlapping. A town tricked into sacrificing children, a witch trying to save them, a girl with too much magic, a Perfectly Tiny Dragon, a bog monster who’s also a poet, a madwoman in a tower, a carpenter with a scarred faced, and much more. All these different strands gradually pull together to form a single story of grief and hope and magic.
Woven throughout are the stories told to the town’s children about the witch, all with a kernel of truth buried in its heart but twisted around. I like trying to pick apart the story and finding the grain of truth. These stories bring a sense of oral tradition to the book, with these tales told by mother to child over generations.
The story can be quite funny at times, particularly the dragon Fyrian who’s a bit like an excitable toddler. I was giggling a lot at his antics!
The world and story are very large, but feel very intimate at the same time. There’s a world free cities beyond the forest that’s only explored a little, but gives the sense of much more to be explored. At the same time, there’s so much history that’s only hinted at, so many mysteries not yet uncovered. Xan’s history with her mentor comes in snatches of memory that slip away before they can be fully explained. It’s things like make a book’s world feel so real – the sense of more.
It all adds to the enchanting atmosphere. The writing is gorgeous, very fluid and brings its own magic to the story. I’m so glad my friend lent me her copy!
Read my reviews of other books by Kelly Barnhill: