We live in a society where the rich and powerful will do anything to remain in power. They don’t mind killing or making the poor slaves, as long as they remain in power. This is clearly illustrated in Kelly Barnhill’s fantasy book “The Girl Who Drank the Moon.” Barnhill tells the story of a girl born to a poor family, but who possesses magic powers. Through the powers, she saves her village, which has been enslaved for long.
It is in a gloomy and cloudy town called the Protectorate, located between a dangerous forest and a fertile, life-giving bog. This forest sits on a restless underground volcano threatening to erupt anytime. In one part of the town, a woman is explaining to her child about the annual Day of Sacrifice. For a long time, the citizens have been forced to sacrifice their infants to an ‘evil’ witch who dwells in the woods, failure to which she will destroy them.
On the Day of Sacrifice, and Elder Gherland is preparing to preside over the ritual. He is the Grand Elder of the Protectorate’s Council of Elders, the ruling body in town. Gherland, with the support of the Sisters of the Star, maintains an imbalanced power equation between the poor and the powerful and wealthy Elders. This ruling body well knows that no evil witch is existing as they have forced the people to believe. They’ve fed them the myth just to keep the impoverished people sorrowful and submissive, for them to remain in power.
Antain, 13, Gherland’s nephew, is a trainee Elder, but is oblivious to the truth about the evil witch. The kind and thoughtful Elder-in-Training always goes with the Elders to collect the offered baby. But one day he gets shocked when, for the first time, he witnesses a mother refusing to give her daughter. In agony, the mother swings wildly from the ceiling of her house while holding her baby, who has a crescent moon birthmark on her forehead. However, she is overpowered by the Sisters of the Star and her infant taken.
They leave the baby in the forest and proceed home as their usual, and the whole incident leaves a deep scar in Antain’s heart. He feels that something should be done to stop the sacrifices. His anger is aroused against the evil witch and of killing her.
Back in the woods, Xan is a kind and gentle elderly witch. Each year, together with her friends Glerk and Fryrian, they travel to the Protectorate to save the babies that are left behind by the Elders. She brings them to where they live and feeds them with Starlight. On the other side of the woods, there are Free Cities where good families live, and this is where Xan takes the babies to grow.
This year, however, is different because the baby she has picked has deep dark eyes like no other she has ever seen before. The baby has a crescent-moon birthmark on her face, and Xan accidentally feeds her moonlight instead of starlight. Unlike the other babies, this one must stay with her because she understands the danger she now poses for a normal family. Xan decides to keep her and names her Luna, who grows into an intelligent girl with unique magic powers.
In the Protectorate, Antain is haunted by that memory of the mother crying from the ceiling. He visits Sister Ignatia, the head Sister of the Sisters of the Star, the one that came up with the stories about the evil Witch. She intended to keep the citizens of the Protectorate under a cloud of sorrow on which she feeds.
Years later, Antain gets married to Ethyne and together they have baby boy, who becomes the next sacrifice. He decides to go and kill the evil witch to prevent this, but Gherland and Sister Ignatia knows well that this is dangerous to their supremacy. To stop the secret from being known, Antain must be killed.
Will Antain succeed in his mission and make the truth be known eventually? Does Luna come to the full realization of her magic powers and use them to find her mother and save the suffering innocent in the Protectorate? Are the grownup children in the Free Cities ever going to unite with their parents?
From the title to the characters to the prose, this is a magical book written by an amazing storyteller. This is a spell-binding fantasy with a suspenseful ending that will keep you hooked to the end. It will be a valuable addition to your middle grader’s list of amazing storybooks.
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