Thursday, February 12, 2009

Enna Burning Alight With Passion, Intensity

So many reviewers rave about Shannon Hale; after reading two of her novels, I can certainly see why. I loved The Goose Girl for its gentle, poetic telling and its endearing characters. It also had an innocence to it that left me thoroughly charmed. Its sequel, Enna Burning, thrills for the same reasons - lush language and an enjoyable cast - but it's not nearly as innocent as its predecessor. In fact, it's a little dark. And almost ... erotic. Okay, I'm blushing now, but I don't know how else to explain it - this book is passionate, intense and absorbing.

Not surprisingly (given the title), Enna Burning focuses on Enna, Isi's friend from The Goose Girl. After her escapades in the city, Enna has retired to the forest, where she tends house in the place of her dead mother. Although she's glad to care for her brother Leifer, she misses the excitement of the city. Unbeknownst to her, more excitement than she ever dreamed of is about to waltz right through her front door.

When Leifer comes home one night, clutching an old piece of vellum, Enna senses that he has changed. Indeed, the fabric holds the key to fire-speaking, a gift which allows one to command fire. Having witnessed Isi's gifts with wind and animals, Enna is no stranger to such skills, but Leifer's sudden abilities scare her. The fire seems to burn within him so fiercely that he's not exactly himself. When war breaks out in Bayern, Enna witnesses Leifer's powerful skill, a scene that brings about great tragedy. Still, she wants the fire-power for her own. When she can no longer resist the vellum's lure, she devours its secrets. As it burns inside her, she comes alive with a passion she's never before known. The fire takes over - she can barely resist the excitement, the release, the thrill that the blazes bring.

Enna's greatest desire is to carry on Leifer's legacy by aiding the war effort. Knowing she will never be accepted as a soldier, she begins launching secret attacks on the enemy. When she loses control and sets fire to a human being - something she swore to herself she would never do - she realizes she needs help. To her rescue come two loyal forest boys - Razo and Finn. Together, the threesome scour the countryside, setting enemy camps and arms alight. It's not long, though, before Enna sees fear in her friends' eyes - her all-consuming power scares them.

It scares the Tiran as well, so much so that they would do anything to use it in their fight against Bayern. They capture Enna, drug her, and threaten her with death if she will not spill her secrets. As she lays in a stupor, only one shows her kindness - the handsome Sileph. As the days pass and the two grow closer, he urges Enna to teach her the fire-power. Only then, he promises, can she be free. Weary from captivity, Enna must decide - help the Tiran and save herself or rescue her people? She can't forget the fright in the eyes of her friends - do they even want such a monster living among them? Sileph offers her everything - power, acceptance, love - more than any poor forest boy could. She has to make a decision, even as the fire blazes inside her, distracting her with its seductive flame. What can she do? How can she save her friends, herself, before the fire burns her alive?

Enna Burning, as you can see, gives readers plenty of dizzying action. The characters - most of whom we know from The Goose Girl - continue to delight. Hale's writing has a fairy-tale quality that makes her words charming and readable. Together, these elements make for a fast-paced adventure story that is absorbing all on its own. However, it's the whole fire thing that gives Enna Burning that extra somethin' somethin'. I spent the entire novel trying to figure out the metaphor - Is Hale telling us to bridle our passions? That if we step too close to the fire, we're bound to get burned? - then wondering if I was reading way too much into the text. I love this kind of multi-layered story that not only makes me feel, but also makes me think. I adore The Goose Girl for its innocence; I love Enna Burning for its depth. Just what will the great Shannon Hale do next? I can't wait to read River of Secrets and find out.

Grade: A

6 comments:

  1. I have had this on my to read list for a while, you just got it moved to the top of that list. Thanks for the motivation!

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  3. I'm going to read this whole series this year. I can't wait until her new adult novel comes out.

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  4. Hey--what new adult novel?! I haven't heard about a new adult novel!


    Shannon Hale is on my permanent must-read list. I'll read everything she writes. I recommend her constantly. Awesome writer!

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  5. Robin - I thought you read Shannon's blog faithfully. Here's a link to her post about the adult book - http://oinks.squeetus.com/2009/02/the-great-galley-giveaway.html

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