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  • Writer's pictureAnanya Ak

The Girl Who Drank The Moon Fell Just Short of Awesome

The book, The Girl Who Drank The Moon, kept flat on the grass. To the right is a red origami dragon (Fyrian). Above the book is a yellow house, labeled 'The witch's house'. A brown bird is perched on the roof of the house, labeled 'A swallow, which is actually Xan, the witch'. To the left of the house is a brown blob with eyes and a mouth and hands, labeled 'Glerk, the bog monster, who most certainly doesn't look like this'.

-- In Which A Story Begins --

Yes, of course there is a witch in the woods.

She has been around for many, many years.

She used to demand a sacrifice of children. One every year.

We never knew what happened to the poor babies. We thought maybe she ate them. Or kept them as slaves in her dark home.

Of course we know what happened to the babies now. I have never known such an impatient child. So many questions!

Where was I again?

Ah, yes. The witch.

What we didn’t know then was that the witch was kind. She sent the children off to the Free Cities – gave them to families who loved children. The witch nourished them with starlight during her journey to the Free Cities.

Then, one year, she found a beautiful baby girl and accidentally fed her moonlight instead of starlight.

What’s so wrong about moonlight?

Well, you’d know if you let me talk, wouldn’t you? Such a fidgety child!

There is magic in starlight. Everyone knows this. But the stars are so far away that the magic is feeble – enough to bless; not to enmagic.

Moonlight, however, is a different matter. Moonlight IS magic. Ask anyone you like.

So that is the problem, you see. The child drank so much moonlight that she was filled with extraordinary magic: more than the poor little thing could even handle.

So the witch decided to raise the girl as her own. She called the child Luna.

What I’ll tell you now is the story of Luna, of the older witch, Xan, of their two friends, Fyrian, the Perfectly Tiny Dragon with a Simply Enormous heart, and Glerk, the bog monster who loved poetry. And of course, the story of us.

Yes, child. Us. Everyone in the Protectorate was grieving; fearful that we’d have a baby in our family close to the Day of Sacrifice. That’s when we’d have to sacrifice a child to the witch.

Of course the witch didn’t actually kill the children. Didn’t I say that before? Keep up, child.

But we didn’t know that then, did we?

It is an interesting story, child, but you must not ask questions while I talk. Everything will be answered in due time.

My thoughts

The Girl Who Drank The Moon by Kelly Barnhill is a wholesome book about witches and dragons and magic and a dystopian town. The prose is beautiful and lilting, like the fables of old, narrated as if by a grandmother to a grandchild.

The plot was very promising – a misunderstood witch raising a magic child, who needs to learn how to control her powers? That’s a trope I love. It had all the right ingredients as well – magic, a dystopian village, a dragon, a kind monster…

But it fell short for me. The story shifted between the POVs of the numerous protagonists (the villagers, the witch, Luna…) and the antagonists, and the resulting narration felt fragmented, not allowing me to connect with any of the characters.

Neither the adorable dragon nor the wholesome monster were around much – at least, not nearly as much as I’d have liked. I liked the story as a whole, but without feeling a concrete connection with any of the characters, I wasn’t emotionally invested in the book at all.

It had tremendous potential, but it fell just a little short of amazing.

That said, I’d recommend it to anyone who appreciates beautiful prose.

But if solid character development is something you need in a book, this might not be for you.

About the author

The author, Kelly Barnhill, looking left and smiling widely. She's wearing a denim jacket with flowers embroidered on it.
Kelly Barnhill

Kelly Barnhill is an American author of children’s literature, fantasy, and science fiction. Before finding success as an author, she studied creative writing, worked for the National Park Service, and was trained as a volunteer firefighter. She began writing short stories after the birth of her second child. These stories were then expanded into full-length novels.

She currently stays in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her husband, Ted Barnhill (an architect), and her three children.


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