Hey! You know how I always write very long reviews? Let’s not do that today. Since I’m still knee-deep in The Ballad of Sir Benfro, I’m here to tell you about the first book I read in januari 2020, which turned out to be on of my favourites of the year. It’s short and cute, like dragons. In this case, at least.
The book I am talking about is The Girl who drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill.
The fairy tale hype train
Originally written for children, but please don’t let that stop you! I believe that adults especially would benefit from reading children’s books from time to time. Especially fairytales.
Considering the fairytale-hype that has lived within young adult and fantasy novels for the last decade, I’ve started to feel a kind of over-saturation of the trope.
“It’s this well known story, but DIFFERENT” has become kind of tiring. You could truly line your walls with books whose main concept is adding a different gimmick to a well known story. Not that this is always bad! It can work very well and create great new stories. If you’re into that sort of thing, I would highly recommend Naomi Novik’s Uprooted and Spinning Silver. But I digress.
“Curiosity is the curse of the Clever. Or perhaps cleverness is the curse of the Curious”
The Girl who Drank the Moon felt like a truly new fairy tale to me. If I’d have to compare it to anything, it’d be the courious nature books like The Hobbit evokes, too. Of course there are some tropes involved; tropes make the world go ‘round, after all. But this beautiful story was touching and sweet, tragic and hopeful, exciting and endearing, all on its own. Without throwing clear Ruplestiltskin-a-likes into the mix, or metaphors for glass slippers. Or symbolic apples.
A small teaser
This book is full of very cute and delightful characters, in which much of ‘the unknown’ is actually quite friendly for a change. Every year, the stern religious order in the village demands one baby to be sacrificed by leaving them in the woods for a witch, who they say will threaten the village. The witch in question is very unaware of the threat she supposedly poses, and wonders why she keeps finding babies in the woods. She takes them across the forest, feeding them starlight and finds new families for them there, which is all very wholesome.
One year, the baby the people from the village leave behind is so cute that she is distracted by it, and doesn’t notice she accidentally feeds her moonlight, which infuses the cute baby with magic. She decides to raise the child herself; shenanigans ensue. As the girl, Luna, grows older, more ‘real’ repercussions start to rear their head. Meanwhile, a young member of the order is starting to resist the cruel practices in the village and break free from the fear that grasps the village.
She is doing that on purpose, he thought as he tried to force his own smile away from his wide, damp jaws. She is being adorable as some sort of hideous ruse, to spite me. What a mean baby!-Small spoiler: he fell in love with the baby.-
Do not fall in love with that baby…”
It’s nice to be delighted
What makes this book so charming to me is its genuine nature. A kind simplicity surrounds its characters and the way they strive to see the world. Of course, even in the most fairytale-esque world there is suffering and sadness. I’d say it is a fairytale staple, actually. It’s what makes the good bits so much sweeter.
The lightness that surrounds Luna’s little family will truly warm your heart. I guarantee it. I personally loved the little dragon who believed he was huge, Fyrian, best. Such a lil’ cinnamon bun.
If I could give you any advice for the new year, it is to wander into children’s literature once in a while. It can offer refreshing truths and perspectives, and restore your faith in humanity a little bit.
We can all use some magical moonlight, from time to time.