Eon: Dragoneye Reborn (Eon #1) by Alison Goodman
Publication: Viking Juvenile (December 26, 2008), Hardback, 544 pages / ISBN 0670062278
Genre: YA/Teen, Fantasy
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Challenges: Support Your Local Library Challenge (#22)
First sentence: I let the tips of both my swords dig into the sandy arena floor.
In one sentence: Interesting fantasy world, but disappointing and frustrating main character.
I really wanted to like this book. It’s got dragons, it’s got an alternate Asian world (a la Avatar: The Last Airbender), it’s got a female protagonist, it’s got…other stuff. But unfortunately, I was continuously frustrated with Eon(a), the main character, the people around her, and especially the ending.
Summary from Amazon:
Eon has been studying the ancient art of Dragon Magic for four years, hoping he’ll be able to apprentice to one of the twelve energy dragons of good fortune. But he also has a dark secret. He is actually Eona, a sixteen-year-old girl who has been living a dangerous lie for the chance to become a Dragon-eye, the human link to an energy dragon’s power. It is forbidden for females to practice the Dragon Magic and, if discovered, Eon faces a terrible death. After a dazzling sword ceremony, Eon’s affinity with the twelve dragons catapults him into the treacherous world of the Imperial court, where he makes a powerful enemy, Lord Ido. As tension builds and Eon’s desperate lie comes to light, readers won’t be able to stop turning the pages…
See, here’s the thing. Throughout the book Eon(a) is constantly bombarded with people telling her that women are bad, weak, useless creatures show can’t do anything but maybe make food and babies. It fits with the time period and the place– somewhat ancient China, I think– and it’s a pretty typical mindset besides. However. I do not agree with the decision to make Eon(a) actually agree with that mindset and continue to agree with it for the majority of the book. It wasn’t until, literally, the very end that she finally even admitted that she was a woman, and only then because she was going to die if she didn’t. And still she thinks she’s worthless, even though she just kicked a lot of butt! Eon(a) has no self-confidence, and it got really tiring reading about her panicking about, oh, everything every single page.
I feel that for a fantasy book like this to work, the main character has to be strong and be willing to change, and I don’t feel that Eon(a) was. It was very disheartening, and though I can understand what Ms. Goodman was trying to do– showing how a potentially awesome person gets beaten down through the world around her– I didn’t feel like there was a spark of rebellion anywhere in Eon(a)’s character, and I do think that’s an important thing to have in any character, let alone one who is constantly beaten down and degraded. It’s the willingness to be better than people say you can be that’s needed in a book like this.
I’m not sure if I’m entirely putting that the way I want it, but hopefully you get my drift. As for the ending– it was…meh. Bad guys got off too lightly, good guys were either missing, nearly dead, or blundering around stupidly, and the entire thing was left dangling over a very big, very steep cliff. Obviously it’s going to be continued in the second book, but the way the end of book one was left hanging, it seemed more like something was accidentally left off at the printers.
There were some interesting and enjoyable things in Eon (though they tended to be overshadowed by my frustration with Eon(a)). For instance, there’s a cute little romance between a eunuch and a transsexual courtier (the only character I DID like) that I wanted more of. The dragon-style fighting was interesting, as was the bits with Eon(a) and the prince that made me think it could blossom into a romance (yay). I liked the idea of the world itself, and the descriptions of it were lovely (if a little long).
But otherwise I spent most of my time reading Eon with a headache and a big load of disappointment, and I don’t think I’ll be reading the second book. I’m pretty sensitive to injustices, though, in that I have a really hard time reading about them when I know they can’t be corrected (I can’t even read Dickens!). If you have no such problems, and if you like YA fantasy with a bit of an edge, then you might like Eon: Dragoneye Reborn.