Monday, June 22, 2009

Book Review - Shannon Hale's Enna Burning

Enna Burning by Shannon Hale
Published by: Bloomsbury
Publication Date: August 2004
Format: Paperback, 317 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy

Enna Burning is Shannon Hale's follow up to her successful Goose Girl. While Goose Girl does stand fully on its own, the second installment of the Bayern series delves deeper into the surrounding characters and also the consequences of the first book. As we left our cast of characters, Isi had reclaimed her name, stopped a war, met and was going to marry the man of her dreams and had developed the power to hear and coerce the wind. Since then two years have past and we pick up in the forest with one of her fellow animal watchers and her best friend, Enna, the former chicken girl. Enna has left the palace because her mother was ill and has now died and she is helping her older brother Leifer in the forest. She is also seeing a lot of Finn, the son of the woman who took in Isi when she was escaping Selia's masacre. One day her brother Leifer finds a parchment and he gains the ability to talk to fire. The fire starts to consume him and he lashes out in fits of uncontrollable anger, during one outburst Enna is badly burned. Enna at a loss heads to the castle to talk to Isi because with her wind talking she is the only one who might understand what Leifer is going through. But Enna finds a far changed Isi, the wind is wearing her down, she has no rest or respite and does not look as if she can go on. But everything is forgotten because war breaks out with Tira, the country to the South East. The forest born all head to war and Leifer burns, so big and so bright he saves the day, only he dies in the process. Enna is distraught and she finds the parchment on his corpse and she becomes a fire speaker as well.

Enna resolves to not be like Leifer, she will not loose control, she will stick to three key rules: tell no one, kill no one and never submit to the desire to let it consume her. She secretly starts carrying out night raids on her own and setting fire to the Tiran camps, but she is frustrated that the Bayern aren't hearing about this. After killing a man she asks Razo, fellow forest born and scout, for help to keep the final rule she made for herself. With Razo and eventually Finn's help they are able to better target the Tiran from within their own camps. But when they are almost caught Razo and Finn say that they want to stop but Enna hearing of a gallows being erected in own of the towns heads there on her own and is captured by the trap the Tiran's set to get this "fire-witch". After this Enna is drugged and held in the Tiran camp by the charismatic people speaker Sileph. She is conflicted and falls for Sileph, yet when her country is at stake she breaks free and saves Bayern. Only something breaks inside her when she burns that big and that bright.

Isi decides that her and Enna must travel south to find out about the land where fire witches come from, hoping that these desert monks can teach them balance and save Enna from the fever that is killing her from the fire within. They learn that if they each teach the other their gift they could create balance, by both being fire talkers and wind talkers the fire will keep the wind away while the wind will burn off the heat of the fire. Not only is Enna saved but so is Is. With balance restored they all head back to Bayern with a very pregnant Isi and all is well.

The first time I read this book I did no really like it as much as The Goose Girl, but I have since come around. The book delves deeper into the abilities these characters posses and shows that while something may seem great and wonderful there are cons with the pros. I especially liked how the interaction of the wind and fire flows through the entire book yet it is not until the end that we see they must be combined. Also this book is far more psychologically complex, with Enna being a prisoner of war we see first hand Stockholm Syndrome and see how easy it would be to fall for a charismatic tyrant. The fire is also an interesting difference to the wind in the previous book. Fire is so much more of a consuming force, and the feeling to make what was once dead alive again for a brief instant of flame is compelling. You could really see why a pyromaniac might sympathize with Enna's dilemma of need versus restraint and control.


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