book reviews / fairy tale / fantasy

Book Review: Enna Burning

THE BOOKS OF BAYERN #2

Shannon Hale

YA Fantasy

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Enna was a memorable, capable, and loyal best friend from the first book of this series, The Goose Girl. That’s why she’s a natural lead in book 2. Just as Ani (aka Isi the Goose Girl) found the power to speak to wind, now Enna finds the power to speak to fire.

May I first thank Shannon Hale for not making Enna a redhead just because she speaks to fire. It would have been a giveaway, anyway, when Enna is supposed to be undercover.

If Enna’s coiffure is not fiery, her personality is. Fire suits her temperament and the themes of this story just as wind fits Ani’s story in The Goose Girl. When I say “fiery,” I mean to say that Enna is feisty, but I don’t mean to stop there. Hale does a masterful job of exploring other aspects of fire.

When the story opens, Enna is restless, like a flickering fire. She’s bored with the constrictions of her Forest life. Nor does she feel there’s enough to fuel her interest at court, where her best friend-turned-queen Ani would gladly give her a place.

Her kingdom of Bayern, too, is restless. The embers of political unrest threaten to grow in full war with neighboring Tira. It is a war that could consume not only the towns on the border, but the young people who fight for Bayern as well. Including Enna’s brother, her friends Finn and Razo, and Enna herself.

And now Enna’s brother has found a buried scroll that reveals the secrets of fire-speaking. Can they help Bayern win the war?

I was especially fascinated by Hale’s description of how fire-speaking works. It’s not about setting something on fire to destroy it so much as sending the warmth of life into something that doesn’t have it. So you don’t burn a twig to obliterate it, you burn it because something in the twig wants to be alive again.

Enna Burning is a book about power and addiction. Fire can save a life or destroy it, depending on how it is used and how much you have. Enna begins attacking the enemies’ camps with the intention of saving the lives of those she loves. Yet the more she uses her fire-speaking powers, the more the desire to burn again grows. She becomes a fire addict, until the need to use her power compels her to betray the very ones she wanted to protect.

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Ani, too, must find balance or lose her life, as her wind-speaking powers grow out-of-control.

There are three young men to watch in this book. There’s Sileph, a warrior from Tira. True, he’s her captor, but is he also the only person who understands her need to burn, and will love her for it? There’s her childhood friend Razo, short, spunky, and funny. And there’s Finn, a Forest-born friend with a serious and kind nature, but still too much a boy too take seriously. Right?

Is power all-consuming? Is war? Is love? Is addiction? Is passion? Is there a balance?

Hale asks complex questions in this book through a capable, courageous, and flawed heroine.

I give this book 4.25 out of 5 sparks.

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