Friday, July 8, 2016

Early Book Review: The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

I received a free eARC of this book from Netgalley and Algonquin Young Readers in exchange for an honest review.

Title: The Girl Who Drank the Moon
Author: Kelly Barnhill
Genre: Middle-grade, Fantasy
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Publication Date: August 9, 2016
Pages: 400
Source: Netgalley

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Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as a 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 delver 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 enmagicked girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. To keep young Luna safe from her own unwieldy power, Xan locks her magic deep inside her. 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. 

My Thoughts:
A baby is left in the forest as a sacrifice to the Witch of the forest every year. The witch, Xan, is not what the village of the Protectorate has portrayed her as though. Instead, she is kind and gentle. She saves the babies from the parents who leave their baby to die in the forest and takes them to the Free Cities after feeding them on starlight where they are known as the Star Children and are loved and cherished. When a beautiful baby with a crescent moon birthmark on her forehead drinks moonlight instead of starlight, Xan decides to keep as her own, knowing that the moonlight has filled her with magic. She names this baby Luna and as she grows, the magic starts to spill out of her, making things dangerous for her and others. Xan locks the magic deep within her knowing that it will one day break free.

Sigh. I'm actually sad that this book is over. I want to read it again.
Also, why are the best books the hardest to write a review for? I can't seem to gather the right words to tell you all how much I loved this book but I will try.

This is such a magical story. I loved everything about it. The Girl Who Drank the Moon reminded me of when I was very young and my grandmother would tell me beautiful made up stories before bed. I always know a story is going to stick with me for a long time when it makes me feel like a kid again;  listening to something entirely new with endless imagination and magic at my fingertips. I've been waiting for this feeling for a long, long time.

Kelly Barnhill has created a middle-grade masterpiece of a fairytale with this book. The writing was gorgeous. It's rare for me to read a book that makes me feel like I'm reading a dream. The lyrical prose was so beautiful and I ended up highlighting many passages from it and I'll be honest when I say that I never do that. Here are a couple that I particularly liked:
"And in her soul, the madwoman felt a thousand birds - birds of paper, birds of feathers, birds of hearts and minds and flesh - leap into the sky and soar over the dreaming trees."
 "Each secret, each unspoken thing was round and hard and heavy and cold, like a stone hung around the necks of both grandmother and girl. Their backs bent under the weight of secrets. "
I haven't seen such beautiful passages in quite some time and there are plenty more I could include.

The worldbuilding is so good! The imagery was  rich. I really felt like I was right there alongside Xan, Luna, Antain, and the others.
The characters are all wonderful. I loved every single one of them excepting maybe Antain's uncle. I was able to sympathize and root for them. We have a few different perspectives in this book and each one brings us closer to the characters and deeper into the beautifully woven plot.

The story has a little of everything. There's adventure, magic, love, insanity, an evil sorrow-eater, a dragon, a monster, an oppressed village, and so much more. The little summary I included at the top of my review is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this story. The plot and perspectives interweave beautifully, taking readers on a real journey of the heart.

After all that, I will mention the cover. It is absolutely stunning. I'm a sucker for a beautiful cover and as a lover of fantasy, covers like this really appeal to me and draw me in. I especially love that it focuses on important bits of the story such as the moon, the girl, the dragon, and the paper birds. This cover was made for this book and it does wonders for portraying the story and hooking readers before they even start reading.

This is one book I will definitely be purchasing after it's release in August so I can re-read it and read it to my children in the future.  This is the first book by this author that I have read but I'm now a big fan and going to seek out her other novels. If they are anything like this (or even just the writing!) I am going to have a few new favorites.

A thousand thank you's to Algonquin and Netgalley for allowing me to read an advanced copy of this lovely story. 

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