Just one year ago, Shannon Hale's debut novel in children's literature, "The Goose Girl," was published to wide acclaim. Based on one of the shorter fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, "The Goose Girl" became, under Hale's interpretation, a full-bodied, fascinating novel that both children and adults can enjoy. It has since won several awards to boost its reputation.
Now, Hale, a Salt Lake City native, has finished her second novel, an original story called "Enna Burning" (recommended for ages 10-14). It is a spinoff of a minor character in "The Goose Girl."
Enna's brother, Leifer, brings home a strange piece of vellum from which he learns how to set fires without using a spark. Enna is troubled, not knowing if this power is one she should embrace or if it is something that "should be extinguished forever."
Soon after, the country in which they live, Bayern, goes to war and she discovers that "the warm, life-giving energy of a fire" is also capable of complete destruction so she must try to save herself and her country before fire destroys everything. Most disturbing, Leifer himself is destroyed by what seems his own power of fire, burning from the inside out, "his skin charred black and stiff not a quick death like the others with burned bodies who suffocated on smoke, their skin patchy red and black or just gone. He must have burned slowly, evenly, like a roasted pig."
It is following Leifer's shocking death that Enna learns that "every living thing gives off heat" and that she has "the ability to be a fire speaker." She also learns that a fire within a person can become a flame but to send it out onto something dead "will cause live fire."
Hale has succeeded in creating her own fairy tale with fire as its foundation a soothing, warming, cozy comfort to life or a life-threatening, frightening power that cannot be controlled. Hale tells the story gently, knowingly, as she illustrates both the frustration and excitement Enna and her people feel in the dangerous glow of fire. This is a fairy tale based on a well-known weapon that is often an accidental cause of destruction, and the management of fire becomes the challenge to Enna, to teach her of both the natural elements and the true values of life.
What: Reading and book-signing with Shannon Hale
Where: The King's English Bookstore, 1511 S. 1500 East
When: Saturday, 6 p.m.
How much: free
E-mail: [email protected]