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 delivers 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 girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. 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. The acclaimed author of The Witch’s Boy has created another epic coming-of-age fairy tale destined to become a modern classic.
The story is put together fantastically. Each character is amazing in their own right. No one does quite what I expect, even when I thought I had a handle on the way the story was breaking the rules. The family that Luna, Xan, Glerk, and Fyrian make is just adorable. All the people in the Protectorate are dealing with their own issues and making their way through life in ways that are not entirely opposite the norm that I would expectn or entirely the norm either. There’s a part of me that feels like it’s the way all the old stories should have been written, so that everyone has a little agenda and not all converge nor diverge. History isn’t that neat and stories shouldn’t be either. At the same time, it was loads of fun to watch the way these characters were like characters we were already a bit familiar with.
Basically, Barnhill did a fantastic job of “making familiar things new and new things familiar” as are the two great powers of a writer according to William Makepeace Thackery or Samuel Johnson. It’s been attributed to both on different sites, not sure which is accurate. I listened to it on Audible, read by Christina Moore, who was great. I loved her voices for everyone, especially Fyrian.
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