The Girl Who Drank the Moon
By Kelly Barnhill
Algonquin Young Readers
The people of the Protectorate live sad lives. Each year the elders take the youngest child to be sacrificed to the witch of the forest, believing that if they don't do this dreadful things will befall them.
Xan is a witch, but not a bad one. She lives in the forest and each year takes the abandoned baby, and finds it a good home in the Free Cities, where they go on to live happy lives.
When the story commences a baby is taken, but not without the mother becoming quite mad with grief at losing her child, resulting in her being kept in the tower where the town's nuns, also their elite fighting force, live, led by Sister Ignatia, who is definitely not what she appears to be.
When Xan takes the baby through the forest, instead of feeding her starlight, as she usually does, she accidentally gives her moonlight, a far more potent substance which causes the child to become 'enmagicked'. Xan names her Luna and keeps her as her own grandchild. When it becomes obvious her magic is completely out of control she casts a spell that prevents Luna remembering anything about magic, until she turns 13.
As this time approaches Xan becomes weaker and knows death is near but must go and fetch the next baby. In the meantime the mad mother, who seems to have a deal of magic herself, escapes and heads to the forest determined to find her child. A carpenter from the town also heads that way, determined to kill the witch, as it is his own child who will be sacrificed next.
Luna is discovering her magic and the land itself is in turmoil as a volcano rumbles and threatens destruction. Most dangerous is the sorrow-eater who intends to destroy them all.
A marvellously magical modern fairy tale, at once full of traditional features, including a very chatty tiny dragon, but also brilliantly original ideas - I loved the paper magic - folded birds which come to life and are both beautiful and with the power to scar and destroy.
This novel won the 2017 Newbery Medal, which had other fine contenders such as Lauren Wolk's Wolf Hollow, another favourite read this year.
NY Times Review
School Library Journal discussion between Kelly Barnhill and Adam Gidwitz, author of one of the Newbery Honor books - The Inquisitor's Tale