This was a lovely little fairy tale that had just enough familiar pieces that I thought I knew where everything was going, but just enough originality that I was intrigued throughout and couldn’t put it down, even though I was pretty sure there was sad stuff coming. Plus, two truly excellent secondary characters (I want a Glerk and a Fyrian of my very own – this book should come with a swamp monster and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon).
Once upon a time, there was a sad little town ruled by terrible old men (one percenters, ahem). Every year, the old dudes take the youngest baby in the town and take it to the woods, to be sacrificed to the witch and keep their town safe. Except nobody’s ever seen the witch, and nobody knows why this happens.
Once upon the same time, a kindly old witch called Xan lived in the forest with her swamp monster friend and a Simply Enormous Dragon who never quite grew up. Every year, she makes a trek to the other side of the forest to pick up an abandoned baby and deliver it to the cities scattered around her home on the volcano. She doesn’t know why the babies are abandoned, and she never goes into the town. But the adopted babies grow up happy and healthy, until one year Xan can’t help but fall in love with the baby she rescues. She decides to keep Luna as her own, and she becomes Grandmama.
What follows is not the Chosen One-type tale I expected, but an interestingly layered story where bad people make bad choices, good people make flawed choices, good people make good choices, and you don’t get the total Happily Ever After ending you want. The bad guys are interesting, the good guys are great (I want a whole book about Ethyne, and she doesn’t even show up till the end!), and there is comeuppance and lessons learned and all the typical fairy tale stuff, but all told deftly.
Luna doesn’t quite live up to the high bar of teenage witches that come before her, but I’m sure Tiffany Aching and Hermione Granger would let her tag along on an adventure or two. I wanted a little more detail about some of the magical stuff, but I guess being mysterious is kind of baked into magic. Overall, very delightful, and I can’t decide who to loan it to first!