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.
My heart is just so full right now. I want to gush and gush about this magical book.
Kelly Barnhill has a natural fairly tale voice, one which pulls you in and envelops you in this magical setting and you can feel, hear, smell, taste and see everything around you. Barnhill built her world with a strong foundation and sturdy walls. The atmosphere in this book is so tangible, I felt like I had moved into the Bog. Or Protectorate. Or the treehouse near the castle ruins. Or the prison in the tower. Or the carpentry studio. Or a home that broke through the fog of sorrow and let the sunshine in.
I wanted to reach up to the moon and pull the tendrils down and drink and drink until, I too, would be enmagicked. I could feel the stars watching me. I could feel the Sorrow Eater coming. I grasped at the whispers of hope.
Even though I wanted to race through to the end to see how it would end, I read a paragraph, and then I read it a few more times. Then a few pages more, I had to stop again, and truly savor the words that danced through my mind like dream.
Each path the story took was one I would walk again and again, and when they converged in the end, I literally almost cheered out loud.
Somehow, I felt I was reading a story written at the beginning of time, but it felt so fresh at the same time. I knew my adult heart – the one who had mothered, had lost my own mother, had my ups and downs with believing – was learning from this story. Was growing and improving.
How amazing will this book be for children then? What an influence for good, without them feeling like they are learning a lesson. Lessons about doubt and hope. Growing up. Letting Go. Bravery and Courage. Love and Loss. But mostly love. These characters in this book give love so freely, but not naively, in such a way that is a good example to children today. To stand up for yourself against evil, but above all to love others and stand up for what is right.
Xan, the woman who had made herself forget important memories, but who loved without boundaries. Luna, the girl who was discovering who she really was. The Madwoman who didn’t let sorrow or what other people thought bring her down. A Glerk, who was a Poet and a kind soul. An impossibly large, but actually tiny dragon who fits in pockets of jackets and hearts. Antain who was already great, but who turned out to be grand, in ways that truly matter.
I have no words to express how much I adore this book, because I’m still floating through the buzz of consuming Barnhill’s lyrical wonder.
There was not one thing I didn’t like about this book, and there are too many things to count that I adored. Instant classic in my home, a wonderful read-aloud, a savory silent-read.
At one point, one of the characters is talking about love (no specifics, don’t want to spoil), and the character says, “My love is boundless. My heart is infinite. And my joy expands and expands.”
As I read, I felt that way. My joy/attachment/love for this story expanded and expanded, and I never want it to end.
I’m linking up to more Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Shannon Messenger’s blog so go check it out!