There are a lot of threads in this book moving to create a tapestry of a story. This is definitely a fantasy, as their world is much different than ours. There is a great Bog that takes over a good part of the land. The Bog is dangerous, but there is a town in the middle, the Protectorate. The Protectorate is ruled by the Elders. Every year on the Day of Sacrifice, the youngest baby in the town is sacrificed to the witch, to keep the town safe for another year. But the witch Xan is not as she seems. She is indeed a witch, but when she finds the abandoned baby every year she takes it, feeds it starlight, and brings it to a city outside the Bog to live a life of love and opportunity. One year, a rather special baby is sacrificed, and Xan falls in love, and accidentally feeds the baby moonlight, and so the baby is enmagiced. Xan keeps the baby Luna to raise as her own, with a small dragon and the Bog creature to help her.
We flip between Xan and the Protectorate, where a young man training to be an Elder starts to see the cracks in the shiny veneer the Elders have given their existence. He starts to question the morality of their actions, and events occur that lead him away from leading and into a profession he actually enjoys. We also see Luna’s mother, who has been driven insane, but insanity has its own power. The people within the Protectorate don’t seem to realize what they are being protected from, it seems. The witch is not the problem – the real villains are among them.
I think my favorite part of the plot is one that goes wrong. Luna has so much magic in her that Xan decides to seal it until Luna is old enough to understand how to use it. But something goes awry. The magic is indeed sealed, but with the side effect that Luna cannot see or hear anything involving magic. If someone says the word “magic,” Luna’s mind goes blank. She cannot read the word “magic.” So the grand plan to teach her ultimately fails. This shows how when we try to something to someone “for their own good,” it might not be. It may be for your own good, but not theirs. Xan could have tried to teach Luna the old fashioned way, but she tried to take a shortcut. It would be easier on Xan if Luna were not leaving flowers in her footsteps, but Luna didn’t mind at all. Yes, her magic was a bit dangerous, but children can learn, and learn rapidly when necessary.
There are a few bits that I found confusing. There’s a mother telling her child a story, basically this story, but I was not really sure who the mother was. Maybe I was at the end? And there was some world-building that was not exactly clear to me. There were some turns I was not expecting, and sometimes the story went exactly where I thought it would go. Overall a good read, although I could see some young readers getting a bit confused.
This fulfills the CBR10 Bingo square of “Award Winner,” as this won the Newbery Medal in 2017, as well as a bunch of other stuff!