The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
For me, The Girl Who Drank the Moon was a fascinating book for many reasons. I’ll do my best to keep this short.

Quick plot summary--In a town known as The Protectorate, sadness is the norm and hope for a happy life is minimal. A fog hovers over the townspeople at all times. Particularly on a certain day each year when someone is forced to leave their baby in the woods, as a sacrifice to a feared witch. The baby is presumed to be taken by this witch and the people feel this sacrifice protects them from harm. They all fear the witch...but they are so wrong.

The witch is actually a kind, giving person who rescues the child each year and takes him or her to a safe family in a town on the other side of the forest. Except one time, with a rescued baby girl named Luna, the witch accidentally feeds her moonlight instead of the usual starlight she uses to nourish the babies as she travels the long journey through the forest. The moonlight bestows a gift of powerful magic upon the baby, setting forth a chain of events that will reveal the true evil living within The Protectorate and give the townspeople a chance to free their lives from the terrible gloom keeping them down.

OK so what was so fascinating?

The characters are magnificent. Luna undergoes a truly magical journey in the early years of her life in the woods with the witch Xan. Luna’s magic is kept from her as a baby, in order to protect her and those around her. But as she nears her 13th birthday, her power becomes too great to contain. Xan, the good witch, is a strong and tough grandmother-type, full of love and wisdom. Luna and Xan’s other companions in the forest are Glerk--a massive swamp beast who is a surprisingly wise, brilliant poet and protector of Luna...and Fyrian--the tiny baby dragon who is Luna’s playmate for now, but in his mind, Fyrian has always been ready for BIGGER things.

From the Protectorate we have Luna’s real mother who was forced to abandon her. Her resulting grief and madness causes her to be imprisoned in a tall tower where her own powers develop and her undying love for Luna keeps her alive. And there’s Antain, a young man who’s never accepted the sorrow and helplessness of The Protectorate and who, when the time comes, will rely on his fiercely loving heart to play a critical part in freeing his townspeople. On the evil side, you have the Grand Elder who reaps benefits from the hopelessness in those around him. And there’s The Sorrow Eater, a truly awful character who prowls with the heart of a dangerous tiger...and who FEEDS on the surrounding despair.

There are more unique characters in the story, major and minor, all of whom are deep, powerful, and memorable.

The atmospheric writing is beautiful and dreamy. Miss Barnhill creates scene after scene that simply drips with sensory details, thrilling and surprising the reader with many magical details. The story winds together the tales of Luna, Xan, Glerk and Fyrian in the forest; with Antain struggling to find his place in The Protectorate; with Luna’s mother--trapped as the madwoman in the tower; with the evil Grand Elder and Sorrow Eater. Plus Miss Barnhill sprinkles in a bit of history of the town, the forest, and how everything came to be. She does all this with skill and attention to detail, mesmerizing our minds.

What’s truly remarkable about all this is--there’s very little action. This is a book about scene, setting, and character. There’s still suspense and a steadily building plot but it doesn’t erupt in a bloody battle with swords and sorcery. The story is subtle and described so well you will find yourself smiling and shaking your head over and over at each small revelation.

The main thing I can say about this is it’s a delight to read aloud. I thoroughly enjoyed sharing this one with our 11 yr old daughter. It was fun to do voices for all the characters and we enjoyed predicting what might happen. Discussing all the magical occurrences and plot twists in the book was a blast as well.

I highly recommend The Girl Who Drank the Moon to all eager readers from age 10 and up. It’s likely best for girls as many of the main characters are female. Again, I must say how fun and delightful this was to read aloud and share with our daughter. This book has no graphic content, no romance, nothing inappropriate. Might be a little bit spooky in parts due to the darker themes resulting from all the grief and sorrow in the Protectorate. But all turns out well in the end and if you enjoy reading this aloud with any youngsters in your life, you can all discuss and enjoy the magic together!

Happy Reading!