I have been sitting on a copy of The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill for a long while. In fact, it has been one of those books that I’ve read, among others, and taken my sweet time to do so. Now, there are two reasons for this:
- I’ve been a bit busy and I’ve been reading way too many books at once
- I do not generally read heavily in this genre and therefore when I do it takes time.
That said, if you are a fantasy buff, then you’ll find a gem in this book. The story is centered around a few characters. There’s Xan, a witch who lives deep in the woods which surround the Protectorate, a small region of land that seems to be a rather dull, lifeless place. There’s Antain who is troubled by the events surrounding the ‘sacrifice’ of young children in the Protectorate and seeks to do something about it before his own child is chosen. There’s Luna, one of the babies left behind who is mistakenly endowed with magic and is adopted by the witch. And there’s the mad woman who is Luna’s mother.
Every year the people of the Protectorate leave a baby in the woods in the hopes of appeasing the evil witch who lives there, and preventing her from doing them harm. However, the witch isn’t evil at all. In fact, the witch cannot understand why someone would leave behind their children and instead she places the babies with loving families in other cities. That is, until Luna. The unusual child left behind is so engaging that without noticing the witch gives the baby too much moonlight, thereby granting her powerful magic with disastrous results. What comes after, seeks to unravel life as these characters know it.
This tale is an interwoven mix of stories. Luna’s is a sort-of coming of age; Antain’s story is about breaking taboos; Xan is coming to terms with her own death while trying to impart much needed knowledge onto her most dearly beloved; Luna’s mother is trying to find hope amidst great sorrow.
The story is well paced, well written and consistent, and has a good ending.
There are a few great quotes from the book:
“Death is always sudden” Glerk said, his eyes had begun to itch “Even when it isn’t.” (p. 80)
“Just because you don’t see something doesn’t mean that it isn’t there. Some of the most wonderful things in the world are invisible. Trusting in invisible things makes them more powerful.” (p. 176)
A story can tell the truth, she knew, but a story can also lie. Stories can bend and twist and obfuscate. Controlling stories is power indeed. (p. 309).
“…Knowledge is powerful, but it is a terrible power when hoarded and hidden.” (p. 312).
…there is no limit to what the heart can carry. (p. 364).
Worth noting is Glerk’s poem at the end of the book (p. 383), and also the symbolism in the birds which feature throughout much of the story.
This is a sweet novel, which was a Texas Bluebonnet nominee this year, and is great read for children ages 10 -14 years. It is appropriate for readers who are looking for a book with very little violence and a story that encourages decision making from a good moral perspective.
For me the book was a hard read because, as I said, fantasy is not generally my favored genre; therefore, this book was long. However, I can see the appeal for those young audiences who would revel in tales of witches, dragons and magic.
Keep an eye out for this one. It has a truly magical cover!