by Shannon Hale
Enna Burning is the second in an unexpected fantasy series that began with an excellent one-off fairy tale adaptation (The Goose Girl), and surprised the writer with more stories to tell.
Enna is a forest girl who worked in the capital city before her mother died. She left the city to take care of her brother who returns one day with a mysterious parchment and the ability to set things on fire. His behavior becomes violent and erratic, and eventually leads to his destruction. Enna has a deep desire to understand her brother, and reads the parchment, learning the language of fire. She thinks she can handle it better than her brother, but the draw of power and destruction begins to consume her.
This is a mediocre book from a great author. The language is beautiful, and Hale is an excellent storyteller, but she only has one note in this book, and she plays it loud. Replace fire with drugs, anger, or power, and you get a fantasy after school special. Enna gets into [fire] because her older brother is doing it, and she wants to understand him. [Fire] kills her older brother. Enna promises that she will not harm anyone with [fire] and feels she can handle it better than him. She begins to use it more and more, and gets addicted to it. [Fire] alienates her from her friends, and its influence is used against her in an abusive relationship. In the end, her friends show her how much they love her and they help her get over it.
Don't get me wrong; her struggle is often fascinating. Hale's description of how to use fire is very tangible: she seeks the heat of living things, draws it into the hollow at the center of her chest, and shoots it out at things that can burn. It is a perfect analogy for the addictiveness of anger. Hale also expertly crafts Enna's self-manipulation, an incisive examination of how we bend our perception of the world to justify our actions.
I am finding it difficult to review YA fiction after my stint of adult fiction. I realize they are not supposed to be as complex as adult fiction, but it is hard for me to tell if its just too simple for me at my age, or too simple for anyone. However, I do know that The Goose Girl, the first in her Books of Bayern series, was more intricate and engaging by far. I only recommend this if you wish to explore the world of Bayern more, and discover what happens to the characters of Goose Girl.
If you liked this book, you may like:
The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
Fairest by Gail Carson Levine