This book. You guys… this book. This brilliant, beautiful, delightful, heart-breaking, gloriously wonderful book!
That’s me now. Two days ago, I’d never heard of the author prior to reading this selection, and at a glance I thought, “Eh, I’ll try it – but it sounds awfully kiddy to me.”
Not that there’s anything wrong with reading books marketed for children – some of the best books I’ve read as an adult were actually for kiddies – but what with the news of the world being as it has been for the past few months, I’ve just not been able to get into the whole fairy-tale mood. My mother sent me a text asking if I’d ever heard of this book, because the title and cover caught her eye and made her think it would be something I’d enjoy. I looked it up myself, agreed, made the purchase…
And didn’t read it for two months. I’d look at it now and again in my list of books to read and think, “Maybe..?” Then the anxious and angry grown-up feelings would settle in again, and I’d flip past it in favor of historical nonfiction or gritty urban fantasy – or simply to stab things with knitting needles. But in these 380 or so pages, I felt all the feels. All of them. All at once..
The Girl Who Drank the Moon
Author: Kelly Barnhill
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Version: Amazon Kindle
“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 delivers 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 will be up to Luna to protect those who have protected her – even if it means the end of the loving, safe world she has always known.”
On the surface, this is a fairy-tale. And a book for children. Within these pages you will find magic and witches, dragons and monsters, cursed forests and boots that allow their wearer to travel great distances with very little effort. A boy will fall in love with a girl and she with him, a woman will lose her mind and find her power, and along the way everyone will learn a few lessons about the importance of friendship, the interconnection of all things, what defines a family, and, most importantly, that love endures and hope conquers all.
What you won’t find is any indication that life is in any way fair. The Girl Who Drank the Moon is predominantly about causation and consequences, both good and bad. The foundation for our story was laid five-hundred years earlier, and all of the choices made by each character, no matter how small their part may seem, build upon it. Lies told for the right reasons have disastrous results. The refusal of the many to challenge the authority of a few costs them their most beloved treasures – which are then given to those not ruled by fear. Questions left unasked haunt the footsteps of an entire village, as well as the denizens of the forest. And with each rise there must be a fall; one generation grows in strength while the generations that came before diminish and fade into memory. With life comes death. With love, sorrow. With gain, loss.
It is also magnificently told in a narrative style that almost begs to be heard rather than read; I can’t even tell you how many times I read a passage and had to go back and re-read it aloud simply so I could turn the prose loose, the words fluttering around the room like one of the madwoman’s enchanted paper birds. Honestly, some of the passages were so beautifully articulated that they actually brought tears to my eyes.
All in all, this is a simply wonderful addition to any library or e-book collection. If you’re thinking of giving this to a child (let’s say anyone under the age of about eight), I’d recommend that you read it first as it does tackle some fairly weighty issues such as loss, death, and vengeance.
I’m off to begin another fairy-tale style novel that caught my eye from this same author: The Witch’s Boy. But first… I’m going to look for my own Simply Enormous Dragon, especially now that I know there’s a very good chance that he can live in my sock drawer for at least a few years.