Enna discovers that she has the power to speak the language of Fire and call it to do her bidding, but with this power comes great temptation to destroy and burn everything, including herself. Enna is a Forest born who is great friends with the Queen of Bayern, Isi. In the world where Enna lives, people can be born with the power to speak/persuade people, speak to animals, and speak/control the elements. In a past story, Enna had helped Isi to reclaim a throne that was usurped by a traitor. This story begins with Enna returning home to her Forest dwelling, after she had spent several months with Isi in the the palace and no longer felt useful there.
At her forest home, she takes care of her brother who often goes out into the forest to hunt. One day, her brother returns acting strangely and Enna notices he has a piece of vellum tucked in his shirt. Her brother doesn't reveal his secret until Enna and him get into a fight and suddenly Enna finds herself lit on fire. It turns out her brother has learned the power to speak to and therefore control Fire. Enna is worried that this new power is changing her brother but before there is much time to worry, a new worry surfaces - Bayern is at war with its neighboring, kingdom, Tira. The forest born "hundred-band" fighters are recruited to join the war.
Enna joins Isi at the war camp as the army marches towards the battle. At the battle-site, Enna's brother joins the fray and uses his fire-speaking powers to burn the Tiran soldiers and help ensure Bayern victory. Unfortunately, Enna's brother was unable to control the fire within him and he ended up burning himself up. In shock, Enna finds her brother's body on the battlefield and finds he is carrying the vellum. She eventually reads the vellum and learns the power of Fire speaking herself.
During the time the war camp recuperates from their last battle and settle in for the winter, Enna starts learning about her new-found powers. At first it gives her great pleasure to sense the heat in everything around her and draw the heat inside of her but soon she finds herself compelled to release the heat in the form of fire. She finds she is having trouble keeping the fire at bay and that now the heat from the world around her is seeking her and she has no choice but to release it, burning things around her.
One day, the war captain decides to have an "augury" to foretell who is going to win the war. One of Enna's friends, Finn, volunteers to be the warrior representing Bayern who will fight a Tiran prisoner to the death. The outcome of the fight will be an omen for the outcome of the war. During the fight, Finn is almost overtaken by the Tiran prisoner and Enna, fearing for his life, heats up the Tiran's sword so that he drops it at a crucial moment. Finn ends up winning the fight, however now Enna believes that she has an important role to play in ensuring Bayern's win.
Enna begins by sneaking out in the middle of the night to burn tents and other things in the nearby Tiran camps. Soon, she finds out that another of her friends, Razo, is a scout and entreats Razo to let her join him. Together, the two travel to other villages overtaken by the enemy and Enna causes chaos by burning their supplies. Razo is worried that Enna is having trouble controlling her powers, she he asks Finn to join them to watch Enna and make sure she's in control of herself. One day, the trio are almost caught as the enemy are now aware of Enna as a Fire witch and are on the lookout for her. Razo and Finn don't want Enna to continue her missions anymore, fearing for her safety, but Enna, compelled by the burning need to unleash her fire, refuses to stop.
One night, as Enna is sneaking out to engage in a mission by herself, she is stopped by Isi. Isi has the power of wind and animal-speak. She senses that her friend is not well and tries to stop Enna. But Enna, half-delirious from the Fire raging inside her accidentally burns Isi and flees in shame. Upon arrival at an enemy camp, Enna is finally caught by the a Tiran Captain.
Over the next few days, the Tiran Captain keeps Enna on a special drug that knocks her out and makes it difficult for her to access her powers. Strangely, however, the Tiran Captain, called Sileph, treats her very gently and later on claims that he is fascinated by her and even in love with her. Enna is persuaded by his honeyed-words into believing that her people, the Bayerns, don't appreciate Enna as they aren't trying to save her and are in fact out to assassinate her. One day, Razo and Finn are captured. Sileph claims that they snuck into the camp to try to kill her but Enna finds it hard to believe as she is close friends with the two.
Sileph uses Razo and Finn to threaten Enna into burning things for him. He wants to learn the power of the Fire or, if that fails, he wants to control Enna. He pretends that he is making her burn things so that Enna and him can be together and the Tiran King can leave them alone, feeling at ease that the fire witch is under Tiran control. One day, Isi visits that Tiran camp, disguised as Tiran and tells a story to a bunch of Tiran guards. The story is really directed at Enna and urging Enna to realize that Silpeh has people-speak, the power to persuade people, and that Enna must free herself from his spell.
One night, Sileph, feeling like he can trust Enna to not make a dangerous bid to escape, leaves on a mission. In that moment, Enna frees Razo and Finn and together the trio find their way back to the camp. On the escape, however, Enna uses her Fire powers so much that she is overwhelmed by the heat and falls into a fever. When Enna next awakens, Isi is there and she tries to soothe Enna's fever with her wind power, which seems to cool the fire raging inside of her. Over the next few days, it becomes apparent that Enna is not getting any better so Isi tells her husband the King that she needs to take Enna out to the forest. Once they are in the forest, Isi tells Enna that they have no choice but to journey to a distant kingdom where people are known to have fire powers. There, they can ask the people how they learned to control their powers.
On the journey, Enna and Isi learn that Enna's Fire power and Isi's wind power have a beautiful rapport with each other, one soothing the other. One day, Enna awakens to find that a band of Tirans has found them and have Isi at knife point. Sileph turns out to be the leader of the band. Again, he tries to persuade Enna to join him, however now Enna knows his true intentions. Before she can unleash her powers on him, Finn comes out of nowhere and gets involved in a tussle with the Captain. Then, the Captain's own people show their rebellion against their leader by finishing off the Captain himself, with knives in his back. The band depart to Tira, hoping never to have to see Enna, Isi and Finn again.
The trio continue towards the kingdom of the Fire speakers. During the journey, Enna finally reciprocates Finn's feelings for her. Upon reaching the kingdom of the Fire speakers, however, they learn that Enna is dying from the Fire consuming her. A fire speaker says that normally his people control their fire by also learning the water speech and allowing the two powers to balance each other out. This gives Enna the idea that maybe she can learn Isi's wind speech and Isi can learn Enna's fire speech (so that Isi can control her wind powers which are also wearing her out). Because they already have the bond of friendship so strong between them, the fire speaker claims that it will be easier to pick up on each other's magical languages.
Eventually, Enna will learn wind speech and be able to balance her fire powers.
Best part of story, including ending:
I like Shannon Hale's poetic writing when she describes the feeling of the fire magic welling up inside Enna and burning its way out of her. It was very vividly and creatively described.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene was when Finn wrestles with Sileph and Enna, moved by his bravery finally appreciates him for who he is and the love he offers her.
Opinion about the main character:
I like that Enna is a stubborn but playful character. I wish she had realized Finn's potential as a lover before but I suppose that is adds to the angst of the story.