Book Review: ‘The Girl Who Drank the Moon’, bringing magic to life.

“Moonlight is Magic. Ask anyone you like.”

Book Title: The Girl Who Drank The Moon

Author: Kelly Barnhill

Publisher: Piccadilly Press

Language: English

I truly believe that when we need inspiration, we should pick a children’s fiction. I am a fan of reading children’s fiction and fantasy books. They always present a new perspective, and often they are more spontaneous in sketching the emotions involved in relationships than many of the modern adult fictions. ‘The Girl Who Drank the Moon’ is one such book. 

The story begins with a story, where a mother tells a child about the witch who lives in the woods. Every year a newly born baby has to be left for the witch in the forest as a sacrifice, so that the lives of people in the Protectorate can be saved from her. On the Day of Sacrifice, the members of the Council of Elders take the newborn child to a small hollow in the forest surrounded by five ancient trees, leave it there and return to the Protectorate.

Nobody knows what happens to the child. In reality, Xan, the witch who lives in the forest, is a kind hearted one. She takes the children to the Free Cities at the other side of the forest and gives them to caring families. On her way, she feeds the children the light from the stars to nourish them.

One year, she accidentally feeds one child the light from the moon, and moonlight is supposed to contain powerful magic. Therefore, the witch keeps the ‘enmagicked’ child with herself and decides to raise her as her own granddaughter.

Xan names the child Luna. She grows up in the company of Glerk, the swamp monster and Fyrian, the tiny dragon who thinks he is an enormous one.

Luna is bursting with magic and has no control over it. By the time she is five, her magic is creating chaos all around. For safety’s sake, Xan uses her own magic to keep Luna’s magic sealed inside her until she turns thirteen, but Xan has to pay the price for this concealment.

Meanwhile, in the Protectorate, soft-hearted Antain struggles to cope with the duties as a trainee in the Council of Elders under the supervision of his uncle Grand Elder Gherland. Luna’s mother has lost her mental balance after losing her child and has been imprisoned in the Tower of the Sisters of the Stars, watched by Sister Ignatia. The Protectorate remains shrouded in fog, like the sorrow that fills the hearts of its inhabitants, who do not know that their children, who were given away as sacrifice, are still alive.

As the stories of different lives come together, there are secrets to be revealed, mysteries to be unearthed and challenges to be overcome.

“He could feel the pulse and undulation of those great waves of magic, surging inside the child, never finding their way to shore.”

Numerous books have been written about magic, but in this book, magic has come alive with its own personality. Magic leads, magic heals, magic gives hope, magic gives power and magic takes away power. I loved the way magic undergoes change as the characters of the magical people develop. Luna’s silver and blue magic comes from moonlight, which remains trapped inside her until she is thirteen. When she is nearly thirteen, her powerful magic begins to spill out of her, bit by bit. 

Xan’s magic is wise and healing, but slowly it weakens and drains her as she ages. The madwoman’s magic gives her hope and faith, yet it is fragmented like the thoughts in her mind. Magic can be seen and felt throughout the book.

“Memory was a slippery thing–slick moss on an unstable slope–and it was ever so easy to lose one’s footing and fall.”

The memories of each of the characters play vital roles in bringing about the events. In this book, memories are keys to unlock the mysteries. They come in bits and pieces along with the story, and keep connecting with each other, reaching a culmination that leaves you in a state of wonder.

The character development has been wonderfully done. Luna grows from a mischievous child to a curious and brave girl. Xan’s heart is full of love for all children, but Luna takes a special place in it. Xan makes life-changing decisions for the sake of Luna, and takes actions she had never taken before.

Luna’s mother is initially shattered after losing her child, but she slowly rises from her sorrow with determination and hope. Antain turns into a responsible and caring family man from a timid boy. Even Fyrian, the little dragon goes through an unexpected change.

Bonds of love and friendship seem stronger than any sorcery. There are moments that warm your heart, and break it at the same time. I often had tears in my eyes while reading the book, especially towards the end. This is a book which makes you pity the evil characters too. 

“Hope, her heart said.

Hope, the sky said.

Hope, said the bird in the young man’s hand and the look in his eye.”

While reading this book, as you find sorrow, you find hope too. As you find evil, there is more than enough good. The book will take you through a magical journey. Much like a Studio Ghibli film, it will fill your heart with an unexplainable mix of feelings. When you finish the book, amidst all those feelings, hope will be the strongest. I highly recommend this book to readers of all ages.

Published by Ria Banerjee

In love with books, literature and writing.

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