This is a wondrously dark fantasy which is a symphony of gorgeous story-telling and lyrical imagery which completely entranced me as the magic within unfolded like a kaleidoscope of lightness and darkness.
In the Protectorate, people live in a perpetual state of sorrow with the awful burden of knowing that a child will be sacrificed to the witch in the cursed forest each year in order that their community will be protected for another cycle. What the people don’t know is that the witch is not a child-eater, but saves each of the children from certain death.
Xan, the kind and caring witch of the forest, rescues each child and feeds them starlight to sustain them on the long journey to the Free Cities where they are welcomed and brought up as the Star Children. However, things do not go quite according to plan when she saves Luna, who becomes enmagicked when she is accidentally fed moonlight, a powerful source of magic which is both wonderful and dangerous.
Luna is adopted by Xan and her two companions, Glerk, the wise and gentle Swamp Monster and Fyrian, the humorous Enormous Dragon – who is the size of a dove! All three love and protect Luna, who is mischievous, curious and energetic, and she in turn adores them. But her magic threatens to become such a danger to herself and others that Xan has no choice but to lock her magic deep within her, until she turns 13, when her magic begins to re-emerge …
The narrative has multiple viewpoints, but mainly switches between Luna’s story and Antain’s story. He is the Elder-in-Training who, at the demand of his despicable, power-hungry Uncle, the Grand Elder Gherland, carries Luna into the forest on the Day of Sacrifice, a horror so unbearable that her mother is driven to madness and locked up in the Tower presided over by Sister Ignatius, who has her own secrets and needs. Filled with guilt and determined to stop the cruelty of the sacrifice, Antain begins to dig deeper into life in the Protectorate …
All the elements of this story fit together like the pieces of a glorious, intricate jigsaw puzzle which, once they are brought together, creates a story of so much depth, beauty, pain and release. The themes are deeply rooted and profound: the craving for power at the expense of humanity; the manipulation of the weak by the powerful; the inherent strength in good people to effect change; forces of nature, spirituality and magic; and, the power of hope to overcome grief and sorrow.
I love the way the chapters are named and start with ‘In Which …’ to give a flavour of the content … it’s almost like breadcrumbs are being laid in a trail to entice the reader to follow … should they dare! I also enjoyed the italicised interludes which leant a deeper understanding to the main story.
This is a beautifully dark and intricate story of the deep protective love and loyalty within family, with magic at its heart, which certainly cast a spell over me.