Night of the Fifth Moon, by Anna Ciddor

Every day Ket raced around doing all the tasks that Faelan bid him. He picked nettles till his arms stung with pain from the pricking of the thorns. He clambered up the highest trees and crawled on swaying, brittle branches to fetch feathers from the birds’ nests for the druid’s cloaks. he stood for hours in freezing mountain streams trapping fish with his bare hands, while his legs turned to ice and leeches sucked his blood.
And every day he watched for a sign from the druid. For he knew that one day the druid would make him an assistant – an anruth. One day he would learn the druid’s secrets and take part in the mystic ceremonies. One day…

Set in early, pagan Ireland, Night of the Fifth Moon is an adventure. It tells of a time when druids were more powerful than warriors. Ket is one of six foster-children in the camp of the druid. They are surprised when Faelan, the druid, tells them that only one will become an anruth, a druid’s assistant. Each full moon, one of them will be sent away until only one remains. On the fifth moon, the final two will attempt to read a message written in ogham, the secret code of the druids. Ket is desperate to become a druid, but each moon he feels sure he will be the one sent away. He listens to the land, watches the birds and insects, learns as much as he can. But with each new moon he holds his breath, lest he be the one sent away.

Night of the Fifth Moon gives a fascinating picture of a society which appears simple yet is governed by quite sophisticated rules. Sacrifices and offerings are made to ensure the moon will return each month and spring will follow the long winter. Law is supported by brehons, who arbitrate disputes. Druids are revered as having power over the elements and the ability to predict the outcome of battles. Ket discovers the responsibility that comes with power and what can happen when power is used unwisely. Other themes include bullying, definitions of strength and the power of observation. There are strong male and female role models. Girls are as capable as boys and the same opportunities are available to them. Recommended for upper-primary to early-secondary readers.

Night of the Fifth Moon , byAnna Ciddor
Allen & Unwin 2007
ISBN: 9781741148145