Thursday, August 20, 2009

Review: Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman

Usually when books start talking about magic and dragons, I turn and run in the opposite direction. But, running low on book recommendations, I decided to add this one to my library list after seeing it on the BBYA nominations page.

I am SO GLAD I did.

For one thing, it turns out I already love the author. I picked up Goodman's Singing the Dogstar Blues in galley form way back in the day (I forget if I got it at ALA or if I picked it up at the end of the year at BBYA) and absolutely loved it. Brilliant science fiction, great family relationships, and an absolutely touching storyline about the AIDS quilt. I didn't recognize Goodman's name at first, but I glanced at her author bio once I had the book in my hands and immediately got excited.

Despite this being a monstrous-ly sized book, I absolutely couldn't put it down and finished it in less than two days.

The story follows Eon as she tries to maneuver through a treacherous world of political intrigue, hidden identities, and physical danger. Eon was chosen to train to become a Dragoneye apprentice - one of the few who have the ability to commune with and draw power from 11 ancient dragons. However, life has not made this easy for Eon: for one, she has a crippled leg and is often seen as an evil omen by more able-bodied people, and secondly, she is a 16 year old girl, and in order to become a Dragoneye one must be a 12 year old boy. But Eon has an unheard of gift: even without Dragoneye training, she can see not just one dragon, but all 11, so Master Brannon conspires with the girl to turn her from Eona into Candidate, and hopefully Apprentice, Eon.

But soon, Eon is facing more pressure than just hiding her gender. She is not chosen by the Rat Dragon - the one that is coming to power for the new year - rather, she is chosen by the Mirror Dragon, an ancient dragon that had disappeared 500 years prior. She is now a target, as the Rat Dragoneye has no desire to share the year with a crippled Mirror Dragoneye. Combine this with an aging emperor with a bloodthirsty brother who would do anything to sit on the throne himself, Eon has a lot more to deal with than she signed up for when she agreed to live and train as a boy.

The culture of the book, what Goodman identifies as a fantasy inspired by the legends and culture of China and Japan, is rich and fascinating. Superb worldbuilding here, and it is introduced slowly - there are no big information dumps that wouldn't make sense in the context of the story. The reader is left to piece together the larger parts of the culture through the bits of detailed information that are fed to Eon as she rises in status and enters the imperial court. The action is excellent and fast paced, the political intrigue is filled with tension, and of course there is the constant question: will Eon's identity be discovered?

I absolutely CANNOT WAIT for the sequel to this!
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