Goodreads: The Girl Who Drank the Moon
Publication Date: August 9, 2016
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.
The Girl Who Drank the Moon brings readers to a world where moonlight is magic, and too much is dangerous. Yet a girl who sipped more than her fill may be the answer the Protectorate needs to break out of its oppression.
Barnhill tells this story with movingly lyrical prose and an attention to detail that any fantasy author would be proud of. The sense that the world in the novel is real, that it has people and religion and a full history just waiting to be uncovered permeates the tale. Barnhill shows great care in creation but leaves enough to reader’s imagination that the worldbuilding doesn’t distract from the plot.
Richly imagined characters also populate this world, each with their own history and desires and beliefs. Barnhill touches on all the subjects that make us human, including incredibly thoughtful commentary on pregnancy and family–a topic that often doesn’t make it in children’s or YA literature. The downside is that the ostensible main character (you know, “the girl who drank the moon”) is perhaps one of the least interesting people in the novel, but everyone else is so fascinating it’s not a real problem. There’s also a adorable animal sidekick–Fyrian, who basically has Olaf’s personality (of Frozen fame) in a dragon’s body.
The plot intricately weaves the stories of these various characters together, forming a literary tapestry that shows how lives intersect in unexpected ways. Heroes, villains, and ordinary people all come together in one larger story. The result is amazingly beautiful tale.
Recommended for fans of Gail Carson Levine, Shannon Hale, and Natalie Lloyd.