In Short: adventurous, exciting, romantic
I don't think I need to tell you all what a huge fan of Shannon Hale I am. Book of a Thousand Days is my favorite book of all-time, and Princess Academy is lodged in a special place in my heart. Not to mention that this author is a Janeite, has a cardboard Colin Firth Mr Darcy at her house, and is absolutely amazing to meet in person--she's so down-to-earth, so sweet, and positively hee-larious (as is her husband--these two are a bona-fide comic act together).
With all this in mind, it's hard for me to not like any of her books. They're all special to me in their own ways. However, The Goose Girl, though one of the most beautifully written books written in modern times (imo), was, in my opinion, not quite as good as the others. I heard many say that its follow-up book, Enna Burning, was not as good--that it was quite lackluster and fell flat. I beg to defer. Enna Burning is my favorite, favorite, favorite Book of Bayern, and, though not as good as what Thousand Days did for me, it certainly gives Academy a run for its money in my personal standings.
From the moment I cracked open the spine of my delightfully illustrated copy (as I stated before, mine has Alison Jay's artwork on the front) and read the first few pages, I was in love. The Goose Girl had done the same for me when I first read it--I was absolutely spellbound by its first few lines and pages filled with stunning imagery through lyrical structure. Yet, The Goose Girl was slow. It was long. Don't get me wrong--I don't have anything against long books. But the action came in rather sporadic bursts in the first Bayern book.
Enna? Different story. Instead of a wind-speaker, we have our eponymous heroine. Enna had a few lines in The Goose Girl, and from the moment she steps into the picture in that book, she's a joy to read about. A whole book about her should be absolutely fun, right? Yes, it is...however, we're used to Enna's friendly and teasing nature, but her own book is anything but a joke. Funny lines here and there, yes. But much, much darker. I won't give too much away because if you have read it you don't really need to read this summary (and if you haven't, I'll end up spoiling everything), but unlike its predecessor, Enna begins with action, and said action is constant throughout. Our main character's brother, Leifer, seems to be able to control fire, but this "gift" instantly reveals itself to be a blessing in disguise: Leifer easily loses control of the fire, ultimately ending in his demise early in the book when in a battle between Bayern and the neighboring country of Tira. Thence, Enna discovers about her brother's gift and learns to adopt it herself. Determined to control the fire without letting it control her and eventually burn her up, Enna tries to help the soldiers by secretly practicing her power, only to get so carried away as to get captured by the enemy and held prisoner. While remaining captive, Enna must struggle against giving into not only the fire speech but also the Tiran captain Sileph, who may be trying to lure her into using her gift against her own country.
I simply adored Enna's kick-bum character; the wonderfully charming supporting cast (much of whom we met in TGG--my favorites would include Finn and Razo at the top of the list, and TGG enthusiasts will be delighted to see Isi and Geric hop along for the ride as well); the writing (of COURSE); the storyline; the quotes (TGG had many good quotes, but somehow, EB has more quotes I absolutely love)...I'm pretty sure the list simply goes on. Even if you've never picked up a copy of a Shannon Hale book, I definitely recommend this book. (To be really honest, I highly recommend this to those who've never read one of her novels--huge fans of TGG somehow find themselves more disappointed by EB...well, different strokes for different folks).
Red Flags: Granted, it is darker than TGG. There's more violence (not graphically described), and your usual SH clean romance/quasi-romance (kissing is the max). Nothing to be too concerned about...there have been some Amazon reviewers who claimed that it was much too dark. Characters are drugged, tricked, burned, but nothing too blush-worthy.
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction
Original Release Date: August 26, 2004