So if the conflict in The Goose Girl comes about mainly due to outside actions and Ani's own passivity, the second book in the series, Enna Burning, is all about the proactive choices of Enna, Ani's companion from the first book. War is coming to Bayern, and as the best friend of the queen, Enna finds herself in the thick of events. She has plenty to worry about on a personal level as well: her friend Finn is in love with her, Ani (now known as Isi) is having trouble controlling her gift of speaking to the wind, and Enna's own brother has discovered the talent of controlling fire. However, it soon becomes clear that the fire controls him, and when Enna learns the skill as well, she finds out just how difficult it can be. But fire magic is a useful tool in wartime, and Enna struggles with her desires to help Bayern win the war, to stay loyal to her friends, and to give into the urge to burn.
What I like about this second book is that it ups the stakes of the first and shows that actions have consequences and that while fairy tale endings are nice, life doesn't just freeze at the happily ever after. Isi's wind powers helped her reclaim her title in The Goose Girl, but now they have their drawbacks. Enna weighs the pros and cons of learning fire even after seeing how it destroyed her brother, and while she is able to help Bayern greatly, it also brings her tremendous personal suffering. And Enna makes some bad decision, ones that we as readers can see are pretty darn stupid, but the narrative also gives us sympathy for Enna because we see how she's struggling to do what she knows is right in the face of her urges to burn, and also how her view of what is right is being slowly warped even as she struggles.
As usual, Shannon Hale's language is lush and descriptive, painting vivid pictures in your head. The characters are realistic and sympathetic, and there is plenty of action and excitement along with more commonplace moments that provide a breather and characterization. One improvement from The Goose Girl is that Enna Burning kicks off right into the action. While that obviously shows Hale's improvement as a writer, it also speaks for the character of Enna, who is definitely not one to sit around waiting for things to happen. And for the sake of comparison, here is the review I wrote the first time I read this book.
Turns out this one won awards as well. Chalk up one more read for the challenge! And lest you think I'm falling behind, I have a huge backlog of books I've read but have not reviewed. So yeah.