Enna Burning is one of Shannon Hale’s BAYERN books — a set of four “companion” books set in the fictional country of Bayern. Each book can stand alone, but they have overlapping characters. I was glad I had read The Goose Girl, the first BAYERN book, before reading Enna Burning because I was already familiar with the world and its inhabitants.
Readers who’ve read The Goose Girl will remember Enna, best friend of Princess Isi. In Enna Burning, Enna acquires the power of fire starting. This dark power is seductive and though Enna hopes to use it to save her country from an aggressive neighbor, she struggles to keep from being pulled to the dark side. She deals with secrets, guilt, and jealousy, learns how lies can ruin relationships, and discovers that the path to destruction is a slippery slope.
It’s hard to like Enna in this story. Even though Isi (who we fell in love with in The Goose Girl) doesn’t get much stage time in Enna Burning, she still overshadows Enna throughout the story. Another problem is that the sense of place and time isn’t handled well. Characters seem to jump from scene to scene (e.g. castle to battle) without any feeling that they really worked to get there. Dialogue is simplistic and some of the plot is difficult to believe — especially when Princess Isi is allowed to accompany the soldiers to war.
There are a couple of romances in Enna Burning. One was sweet, but the other was really creepy. I thought The Goose Girl was a little dark for its target audience (ages 9-12) but Enna Burning is even darker. In fact, I’d call it rather disturbing for a children’s book and I wouldn’t offer it to a sensitive child.
Still, even with all my complaints, it was nice to see these characters again and to see how they’ve changed. I have a lot of faith in Shannon Hale and I won’t hesitate to try the next BAYERN book, River Secrets.
I listened to the audio version produced by Full Cast Audio and read by Cynthia Bishop. It was nicely done.