The people of the ‘Protectorate’ have lived with fear and sorrow all of their lives. For as long as anyone can remember they have had to leave the youngest child of the town out on the hills, as an offering to a wicked Witch who lives nearby. Xan, the witch, is actually a kind and loving person and every year saves these children after they are ‘abandoned’; she then finds homes for them in other towns. In one momentous year everything begins to change when the mother of the sacrificial child objects and is overtaken by her grief. The baby is accidently imbued with magic and Xan decides to look after the child she calls Luna. The book follows Luna as she grows towards adulthood and as she heads towards 13 years things start to come to a head, because there really is a wicked witch but she is hiding in plain sight of the townspeople.
This is a truly beautiful and magical fairy tale that deserves to become a classic in the future. It has already won the Newbery Medal in the USA, something it really deserves and I would like to see it receive recognition in the UK. The author has a lyrical, almost poetic way of writing at times and there are times when it really touches our heartstrings. Although it is told in the third person we are invited to share the thoughts of the main characters and in doing so we gradually begin to know and appreciate them. This story includes all the elements that you would expect from a fairy tale; we have a quest, as well as heroes and villains, a dragon and a poetry loving bog monster. The story is multi-layered but it is about love and hope overcoming sorrow and bitterness. It is also about accepting people for what they are; their personality rather than their looks. I have now read this story twice and it still has the power to make me emotional, I really do recommend this ultimately uplifting book.