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 deliver 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.
I was so pleasantly surprised by this story and it’s mixed cast of characters. We are following multiple perspectives in this story and the way Barnhill weaves each of those perspectives together is beautifully done. Each character has a purpose and a different journey that they must take which is leading them to the climax of the plot. All of the characters are wonderfully sketched out and easily recognized, at least when talking about the main characters.
The world building and backstory was revealed in bits and pieces, which at times could be frustrating, but in the end all came together. There were definitely points where I wanted a little more, but it’s a wonderful coming of age story that addresses many aspects of mob mentality, fear and other difficult topics. The fantastical setting helps to soften these subjects and make them more digestible to a younger audience.