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

Welcome, book lovers! 

In this post, I discuss this middle grade cozy fantasy, The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill. If you’d prefer to listen to this review, you can check out the full episode on The Bookmarks ‘n Blankets Podcast on your favorite podcast platform or listen below. (This is a spoiler-free post.)

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The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

Published: August 2016
Genre: Middle Grade Cozy Fantasy
Format: Paperback
My Rating: Read It
My GR Rating: 4/5 ⭐

Book Synopsis: 

Each year, the town of Protectorate sacrifices a child to the witch in the woods, hoping that she spares them from her terror. However, they do not know that the witch is actually a sweet, old lady that doesn’t understand why this town leaves babies in the middle of the woods every year. So, she rescues them and takes the children to nearby towns for couples to adopt them. On her journey, she feeds the babies starlight. But one year, Xan, the witch, accidentally feeds the baby moonlight and causes the baby to be too magical for anyone to adopt. So she raises the baby, calls her Luna, and looks after her with the help of her two companions, who are a tiny dragon and swamp creature. But to keep her safe and the townspeople that they often visit, she subdues Luna’s magic until her thirteenth birthday. Then her magic begins to emerge once more, and now there is a man determined to protect the town of Protectorate even more by killing the witch.

Overall Opinion: 

I enjoyed this story. It was a really, really sweet, cute fairytale. It was whimsical, cozy, and gave me all the warm, fuzzy feelings. It even had some good life lessons without being preachy. The characters were charming and very likable. I wanted to root for everyone involved.

Book Details:

  • Length – A little longer for a middle grade read. I read the paperback version and it was 386 pages. I read it in just a few days. 
  • Writing Style – Easy to read, typical standard middle grade prose
    • POV is from multiple characters, at the peak, we’re in the mind of six characters. It’s not hard to follow along, and it’s not confusing, but there are many storylines to juggle, which got distracting while reading this book.
  • Cover Art – Very cute and fitting of the story. It makes more sense after you’ve read the book.

What I Didn’t Like About It:

  • The book’s middle portion dragged a bit for me and got a tad boring. There are also portions where it felt extremely repetitive. 
  • It was a little long for a middle grade read. It was also pretty dark for young children to read, even though it had some good lessons to learn and themes throughout it. It may have been on the more mature side for little kids. 
  • For all the awards that it won and the praise I saw for it, I thought it was a little overhyped for what it was. It was a nice fantasy story, but not the best I’ve ever read. There are definitely better ones out there. 
  • I didn’t expect this book to have multiple POVs, and it got muddled in spots. There was a lot going on since we were in the heads of so many characters. It was hard to focus on each storyline because there were so many, and it jumped around a lot. 
  • I was disappointed that so many characters were involved because I didn’t get to really connect with any of them, especially Luna, which I thought this story was mainly about her. I was disappointed that it wasn’t just about her and her POV. I wanted to know more about Luna, read her thoughts and feelings, and care about her more than I did. 
  • I wanted to see more interaction of Luna with her newly adopted family. I wanted to see more magic. I wanted to watch Luna grow up and not just skim over the years. 
  • For a cozy fantasy that is supposed to focus on character development and not the plot, it was pretty weak.

What I Liked About It: 

  • I enjoyed the atmosphere of the story because it felt like we were in the middle of a fairytale. We witness this bleak town that’s full of sorrow and fear with a deeply ingrained superstition that has created this disturbing annual event. It’s eerie and kinda creepy. Then we have magical creatures who live in this menacing woods. And, there’s a kingdom that feels like Medival Times. 
  • One of my favorite tropes is miscommunication or misunderstandings, and this story had a huge misunderstanding. The town feared the witch because they thought she would terrorize them, hence why they sacrificed their children to her. However, they didn’t know anything about the witch and that she, in fact, rescues these babies every year and offers them to loving homes. This leads me to how much I enjoyed this spin on the idea of what a witch is. Usually, we think of the stereotypical old hag witch that is evil and hates children and concocts dark magic and potions, but surprise to us is that Xan is a really sweet old lady. She’s thoughtful and kind, and nurturing. She turns out to be the hero of the story, which was quite refreshing. 
  • I really enjoyed the creatures that live with Xan – Glerk, a swamp creature who is grumpy but lovable that likes to philosophize and recite witty poetry, and Fyrian, a sweet, innocent tiny dragon that offers some humor and is the sweetest little creature with such a huge heart. I love how they accept Luna into their family and help raise her with Xan. This definitely has a found family element that is so sweet. 
  • Without giving anything away, I did enjoy the plot twist. This book explores themes of corruption, power struggles, selfishness, kindness, loyalty, and love in a unique way. It also shows us that heroes can be disguised as villains and vice versa. Not all heroes are who you think they are, and the same for the villains.
  • It was also thought-provoking in that it touched on: those in power don’t always have our best interests at heart. The elders of the town invented this witch to keep their people scared because scared people are compliant and subdued people that they can easily manipulate and control. Anyone who speaks out against what is going on is deemed mentally ill and sent away to the towers in the kingdom. But we do watch a character begin to see through this veil of lies and corruption and begin to understand what’s really going on. 
  • I think one of the biggest messages in this book is about feeling secure with who you are and not being afraid to own it. This theme is expressed more with Luna. She is an enmagicked child that becomes too powerful. She’s too young to understand what has happened to her, and she also doesn’t understand how powerful her magic truly is. Xan expresses a lot of fear by suppressing her magic over the years, but when Luna starts to grow into her magic and it begins to surface, she’s confused by it and herself. With the help of Xan and her friends, she begins to see how her magic can be used for good. She doesn’t have to be afraid of it.

Why You Should or Shouldn’t Read It:

If you enjoy wholesome middle grade stories that have the tone of a classic fairytale with very likable characters and lots of life lessons to learn, then you’ll enjoy this book. It’s full of hope and sorrow, love and fear, evil and good, and truth and lies – all mixed together for an enchanting cozy read. 

If you enjoy stories that have a lot of action or world-building, big twists, and lots of politics and excitement, then you probably won’t like this book.

Final Thoughts:

I’m glad I read this book. I wish a little more happened in the story. I wasn’t bored, but I kept hoping something more would happen, there was not a lot of action. Being a cozy fantasy, it is more about the characters and their development than about the plot or action of the story. But overall, I really enjoyed this charming, wholesome book.

If you’re interested in this book, you can purchase it here.

*Please note that I am a participant in the Amazon Associates Program and a member of other affiliate programs. I may receive commissions from qualifying purchases made through links in this article.

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