Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted here @ Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc. Everyone is welcome to join in at any time!
Enna has gone back home. After the escapades of the year before and the marriage of her best friend Isi to the prince, Enna is ready for a measure of normalcy. And she intends to find it among the familiar trees and hollows of home. But fate seems to have a different story in mind for the chicken girl. Just as neighboring Tira flexes its muscles, intent on war with her homeland of Bayern, Enna stumbles upon a frightening ability. Fire laps at her fingertips. With the flick of her wrist she can set whole cottages ablaze. With every good intention in her heart, Enna sets out to do her part in the war effort, spying on Tiran enemy camps and using her new-found power to burn to help her people. She is joined by her old friends Finn and Razo as all three take on new (sometimes uncomfortable) roles in the name of defending their homes. But fire is insatiable. And soon Enna can no longer keep it contained within her own fragile frame. The battle turns inward as the once carefree girl becomes a conduit of flames. And when she is captured by a charismatic captain in the Tiran army, the line between right and wrong blurs amid the swirling smoke and haze.
Everyone loved The Goose Girl. And so did I. How can you not love Isi--the princess who becomes a goose girl and learns how to fight and save her own life? That said, much like Finn, I was even more captivated by Isi's best friend Enna. So naturally Enna Burning became my favorite of the two books. I mean, the title alone . . . Upon subsequent rereadings, I have to say The Goose Girl improved the second time around (and I truly did love it the first time, truly). But Enna Burning, on the other hand, was just as I remembered it. Strong and painful, fiery and deep. Like Enna herself. Razo describes her best,
She hated it when her hair touched her neck. She also hated having dry fingertips, music without drums, and potatoes without salt.For some reason, I just love that description. It tells me everything I need to know, from the voice of a friend who goes way back. I can see, taste, and feel Enna through Razo's words. And she is truly a heroine made for me. She burns. Literally. Enna can set whole armies on fire. And does. Several times. Not perfect and not a princess, she's just a girl. A girl who loves to laugh and fights for her country. And this girl, this girl I would be friends with, goes through a lot of pain before coming to terms with the consequences of burning. But when she does, she comes to terms with a vengeance. And, when she is literally on the brink of losing control and burning herself up, Enna proves her mettle by forcing herself to harness the fire in order to help Isi. It is her friend that reaches her and the two of them risk their lives for each other. This friendship between these two young women is so much of what seals Enna Burning's place in my heart. It's there in the first book, but it comes to fruition here. I remember listening to Ms. Hale speak about these two books and the reactions she got to them. She spoke of how many people who loved The Goose Girl (including her mother!) were disappointed with Enna Burning because Enna makes some big mistakes. She is not always firmly on the side of right. She struggles, is attracted to the fire and the darkness, in short she has layers. As for me, give me protagonists like Enna every day of the week. Because she's like me. Her days are hard. She wants so much. She's reckless and afraid and well-meaning and full of messy, glorious life. It is these wonderful gray areas that explain why the book resides on my Beloved Bookshelf. I love her relationship with Finn. I love how it dances back and forth, how Finn forces Enna to see him, and how she must make the choice in the end. In that way, their friendship echoes Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe to me. I love Sileph and the twisted, painful thing that grows between them and how much Hale made me ache for a character I could just as easily have hated. And she does it in such exquisite words. Hale manages to imbue the tiniest inanimate object with a wealth of emotion and movement, with the result that her worlds feel so tangible and real, you forget they're not. That you don't live there. That you haven't all your life. Every time I return to it, Enna and Finn are there. Razo's hair is spiky as ever. And it is so good to be back.
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The Goose Girl
Retro Friday Roundup
Heidi @ Bunbury in the Stacks reviews Son of the Shadows by Juliet Marillier