16. Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman
Author: Alison Goodman
Series: a sequel is forthcoming
Publisher: HarperCollins in Australia; Viking Children's Books, a division of Penguin, in North America; Bantam Press, an imprint of Transword (adult) and David Fickling Books (YA) in the UK
Publication Date: December 2008 in Canada and the US; January 2009 in the UK
Pages: 531 in the North American hardcover (by which I mean my ARC of the NA hardcover)
Price: $32.99 AUD, $22 CAD or $19.99 USD. The UK has a couple of different price points; the YA edition is £12.99 GBP, while the adult edition is £11.99 GBP.
TBR Status: neutral. I added this after 1 Jan 09.
Review copy provided by the publisher.
Eon has trained for years in the hopes of being chosen as an apprentice Dragoneye, one of his society's elite magic users. His path to prominence is far from smooth. An injured leg restricts his mobility and keeps him from performing many of the ceremonial forms the Dragoneye candidates are required to display. His master is so deeply in debt that the household with fail if the Rat Dragon doesn't choose Eon on New Year's day. And he's really a girl, forbidden from drawing on the magic of the Celestial Dragons.
Eon knows she'll be killed if she's discovered, but backing out will mean her master's ruin. She has no choice but to navigate through the intrigue-laden Imperial Court, where she must politick with the Dragoneyes and their allies even as she works to master her own inconsistent powers.
I found this a very readable book. It was easy to sink into, and Goodman's prose reads up right quick. I whipped right through it, quick as anything, and I enjoyed it a fair bit.
That said, I find that I'm having trouble reviewing it. I enjoyed it. I found it very readable. But the things that really jump out at me, the things I most want to discuss, are the elements that tripped me up and made it tough for me to love it.
But we'll get to those in good time. There were a couple of things I really liked, and I'd prefer to start off with those.
Lady Dela's right at the top of the list. She's physically male, but at no point does Eon refer to her as 'he' or demean her choice to embrace her female nature. She's not universally accepted, and Goodman makes sure we know that she's been persecuted in the past, but she remains true to her inner self. I was, so, so glad to see a trans character in a book marketed at the (North American) YA set, and I was even happier to see Goodman treat her with such honesty. The contrast between her physical sex and her true gender does hint at what Eon herself is going through, but it never becomes the focus of her character. She's a person, first and foremost.
I also liked the mystery surrounding Eon's fleeting grasp on her powers. Other reviewers have mentioned that it's rather predictable, but I don't feel that the book suffers for it. I was still eager to read on in the hopes that Eon would figure it out sooner rather than later. As a reader, I'm always ridiculously satisfied when a character finally learns something I've known for a couple hundred pages. (Unless the author takes a couple hundred more pages for the Big Reveal. Carlos Ruiz Zafon, I'm lookin' at you). And even though it was fairly obvious to me, (and to many of you, if the reviews are anything to go by), it makes sense that Eon wouldn't clue into it right off the bat.
Eon's world also made for a nice change from your standard medievalesque fantasy setting. I will say, however, that a couple of Goodman's word choices threw me. Lady Dela, for example, is called a Contraire. French, anyone? It stood out like a sore thumb in this Asian-inspired world.
Now: the stuff that didn't quite work for me.
EON has a large cast of characters, and Goodman does a fairly good job of limning each of them; however, I had some problems with the ways they all related to one another. Often, I felt like Goodman was telling us how Eon felt about everyone else instead of letting us figure it out for ourselves. Eon's relationship with her master was perhaps the most jarring of all. What Goodman told me about their connection seemed at odds with what she showed me. I felt that she could've delved much deeper into the connections between the characters.
I sometimes had trouble connecting to the action, too. I'd find myself reading back over particular passages to see what it was I'd just read. I'm still not sure if this was because Goodman didn't delve deep enough for me in this area, either, or if my dodgy sense of the characters' interconnections made it tough for me to commit to some of the plot stuff.
Finally - and I recognize that this is a completely personal complaint - the throat piercings really, really, really, really, really, really, really bothered me. REALLY. I'm not an overly squeamish person, but there are a handful of things that bother me no end. Thankfully, EON was hand- and foot-mutilation-free, but the throat piercings just about made up for it. I probably could've stood it if Lady Dela's had been a simple stud or bar or something, but nope. It had to be a dangly piercing that bobbled around.
And I won't say any more about it, because I'm liable to make myself sick if I think about this too much.
All in all, this was a solid, enjoyable read that I couldn't quite love, hard as I tried. I'd still recommend it to those with an interest in Asian-inspired fantasy, but I'd say that those of you who're more heavily invested in character-based stuff should proceed with some caution.
Goodman's pets' names, (Xanderpup and Spikeyboy), make it pretty obvious that she's a Buffy fan. I'm always ridiculously pleased when I stumble across Buffy-loving authors.
(Yes, I'm ridiculously pleased with a lot of things).
999 Challenge - I'm counting this as one of my fantasy picks.
Alas, it's another chunkster that I can't include in the Chunkster Challenge because of its (North American) YA status. Sigh.
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