Enna Burning: Rather disturbing for a children’s story

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsEnna Burning by Shannon HaleEnna Burning by Shannon Hale

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.

~Kat Hooper

Enna Burning by Shannon HaleI’m such a fan of The Goose Girl, but this is a very grim tale, and a little too one-note for my taste. Apparently fire-speaking is a really dangerous gift to pursue. Who could have guessed?

There are still some lovely scenes and thought-provoking writing. I also really enjoyed the next book in the series, River Secrets, so don’t give up on the series if you liked Goose Girl but not Enna Burning.

~Tadiana Jones

The Bayern Books — (2003-2009) Young adult. Publisher: She was born with her eyes closed and a word on her tongue, a word she could not taste. Her name was Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, Crown Princess of Kildenree, and she spent the first years of her life listening to her aunt’s stories and learning the language of the birds, especially the swans. And when she was older, she watched as a colt was born, and she heard the first word on his tongue, his name, Falada. From the Grimm’s fairy tale of the princess who became a goose girl before she could become queen, Shannon Hale has woven an incredible, original, and magical tale of a girl who must find her own unusual talents before she can lead the people she has made her own.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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TADIANA JONES, on our staff since July 2015, is an intellectual property lawyer with a BA in English. She inherited her love of classic and hard SF from her father and her love of fantasy and fairy tales from her mother. She lives with her husband and four children in a small town near the mountains in Utah. Tadiana juggles her career, her family, and her love for reading, travel and art, only occasionally dropping balls. She likes complex and layered stories and characters with hidden depths. Favorite authors include Lois McMaster Bujold, Brandon Sanderson, Robin McKinley, Connie Willis, Isaac Asimov, Larry Niven, Megan Whalen Turner, Patricia McKillip, Mary Stewart, Ilona Andrews, and Susanna Clarke.

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  1. I completely agree! And I love her other books so much, so this was disappointing.

  2. Shannon /

    Although I liked the story line and my daughter couldn’t get enough of this book, I was disappointed that there was profanity as well as a near-rape scene. Thankfully I was reading aloud and was able to edit when necessary. I usually trust that Shannon Hale’s books are safe for my 9-year-old to read on her own, but I’m glad she wasn’t reading this one independently. I absolutely adored Goose Girl. I was enthralled by it. I still intend to read the rest of the Bayern books, but Enna Burning is definitely too mature for the audience.

  3. Thanks for the comments, Adele and Shannon. It looks like we are all in agreement on this one.

  4. Amaya /

    Stop shaming a perfectly good book. This book is labeled for young adults, I thought that everyone knew that. I do not know why you would give a NINE-year-old a book such as this. It was definitely not meant for children and so wasn’t goose girl, since both are complex and thick books with lots of confusing words and phrases. I’ve read this book three times already, I think the plot is wonderful. It wasn’t ordinary and scenes like Isi accompanying the soldiers to war was a wonderful development, showing true women’s power.

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