Because tradition dicatates it, each year on a certain day, the council of elders in the Protectorate take an infant and leave it in the woods as a sacrifice to the witch. Bad things will happen to the settlement if they don’t (although no one is really clear what dire consequences there will be, because there has never been a time when they didn’t place a child in the woods). Normally, the grieving family whose child has been selected meekly go along with the council’s edict, but one year, the infant’s mother rages, screams and tries to fight back (can’t say I blame her). She’s locked away in a tower, run by sinister nuns. Antain is a young apprentice elder, and he is deeply discomfited by the whole thing. Eventually, he quits the council and becomes a carpenter instead.
Xan, the witch in the woods, travels to the same spot in the woods each year, to pick up the poor, abandoned child left there. She feeds the babies starlight and finds them good homes in the cities on the other side of the forest, far away from the Protectorate. These star children are always deeply cherished and go on to lead especially successful lives. This one year, she’s a bit late, and flustered, she feeds the baby moonlight instead of starlight. Moonlight gives the recipient magical power, and before Xan has a chance to rectify it, little Luna (as she names the girl) is clearly brimming with magical potential. Because of the accident, Xan can’t give Luna up to another family and takes it upon herself to raise the girl herself. Aided by Glerk, a pessimistic, yet very poetic bog monster and Fyrian, a tiny, hyperactive dragon, she does her best to teach Luna, while hoping that she can prepare her properly for her magical gifts, that are likely to come bursting forth around puberty.
As Luna happily grows older in Xan’s care, her mother sits locked up in a tower in the Protectorate, making elaborate birds from paper she seems to conjure out of nothing, longing for her lost child. Antain, horribly scarred after a meeting with the madwoman, becomes a very successful carpenter, marries and gets his own child. However, the Protectorate tradition has marked his unborn baby the next to be left in the woods. Antain decides he has to track down the witch and stop her once and for all.
Full review on my blog.