Fantasy / Young Adult
Sixteen-year-old Eon has a dream, and a mission. For years, he’s been studying sword-work and magic, toward one end. He and his master hope that he will be chosen as a Dragoneye – an apprentice to one of the twelve energy dragons of good fortune.
But Eon has a dangerous secret. He is actually Eona, a sixteen-year-old girl who has been masquerading as a twelve-year-old boy. Females are forbidden to use Dragon Magic; if anyone discovers she has been hiding in plain sight, her death is assured.
When Eon’s secret threatens to come to light, she and her allies are plunged into grave danger and a deadly struggle for the Imperial throne. Eon must find the strength and inner power to battle those who want to take her magic… and her life.
Rating: 4 / 5
About time I read fantasies other than European-influenced epics, right? Eon, written by Australian author Alison Goodman, caught my eye a few months ago with its Asian-inspired universe and its story of a girl-disguised-as-a-boy to achieve a forbidden goal. This turned out to be a great first foray from the norm – and a last-moment party-crasher on my Favorites Reads of 2014 list when I finished the book on December 29th!
Eon combines Chinese dragon mythology and elements from Chinese and Japanese cultures with magic, action, and intrigue. The result is a fascinating world teeming with ancient traditions and dangerous struggles of gender equality and political power. Eona (charading as a boy named Eon) has been training to win a Dragoneye apprenticeship. She then quakes her country’s political landscape when she’s selected not as an apprentice, but as the new Mirror Dragoneye, channeling the power of a dragon that’s been inexplicably missing for centuries. With a flurry of questions surrounding her powers and the Mirror Dragon’s return, Eona must navigate her rapidly shifting circumstances – and learn how to channel her dragon’s powers before time runs out and her secret’s revealed.
The world-building in Eon absolutely rocks. I was completely engrossed in the universe Goodman created, from the brilliantly colorful outfits and ethereal settings, to the customs and religious beliefs of Eona’s people. It’s not China or any specific Asian country, but the balance of vibrancy and zen brings a distinct Oriental flavor to the fold. The magic system contributes to this as well – and OH, did I love Goodman’s dragon magic! She draws from the Chinese zodiac, sword-fighting, and medical meridians (similar to the seven chakras of Indian / Ayervedic practices) to flesh out the Dragoneyes’ abilities. I have a soft spot for “new age” elements, so perhaps my opinion is biased. Nevertheless, this system is portrayed as intrinsically spiritual and powerful, and opens readers’ eyes to a refreshing delivery of magic.
At 531 pages, Eon is mammoth for a YA fantasy, and it takes its time unfolding. This approach has its pros and cons. The most obvious benefit is character development. I had plenty of time to connect with a number of supporting characters, particularly Ryko and Lady Dela, the latter of whom is intriguing because of her struggle with gender identity. And while Lord Ido is a rather one-dimensional antagonist, OOOOOH did he ever get under my skin after a particular scene. I won’t give away spoilers, but he had me cringing with fear for Eona’s safety.
On the other hand, Eon’s slow pace made it hard to get into at first. That, along with the lengthy chapters, often led to me feeling like a tortoise trying to run a marathon. Even though the writing was evocative and visceral, I needed to put the book after each chapter or two to give myself a breather. Then, somewhere after the halfway mark – around that point I mentioned earlier with Lord Ido – BAM! The pacing speeds up, the stakes climb higher and higher, and the tension becomes electric. Because of this, most of the action (which can be graphic at times) is reserved for the book’s final chapters instead of sprinkled evenly throughout. But since the preceding buildup is political and emotional in nature, the payoff is still there in the end, and it’s an exhilarating release.
So, yes, Eon may be an exercise in patience, but believe me when I say it’s worth it. You’ll lose yourself in the richly textured, deeply developed world while cheering for Eona’s successes and gripping the book cover as her conflicts escalate. And while gender inequality may be a common fantasy trope, Goodman puts an empowering twist on the concept that some readers may see coming (I did after a while) but will relish nonetheless. The ending does leave things hanging wide open for a sequel. That’s where the follow-up Eona will come in, I assume. Do I plan on reading it? After the gorgeous first half known as Eon, you betcha.
Have you read Eon? What did you think of it? If you haven’t read it yet, do you think you might check it out based on what you’ve read above? Let me know by commenting below or visiting the same review at Amazon or Goodreads.