I wanted something light and fun to read after The Great Gatsby and The Great Hunt. Something fantastical with a strong female protagonist. I considered returning to my first love, the Song of the Lioness quartet by Tamora Pierce, but I was tired of re-reading. I wanted to discover something new. As always, whenever I consider searching for a new book (meaning never yet read and not familiar with the author), trepidation overwhelms me and I cast around for reasons to remain in the comfort zone of those I’m familiar with. I love comfort. I hate disruption and surprises (most times). I like knowing what to expect. My greatest bibliophilic fear—reading a book I don’t like. I like to finish what I read but pushing through a story that I do not like is a torture that I would not inflict on anyone. Recently, I’ve started to come to terms with leaving a book half done if I can’t bear to continue with it. It’s great to step out of my comfort zone once in a while, though. Reading reviews of books, getting recommendations, and cover art help me to do so. Yes, cover art. Cover arts are tricksters. They pull you to the book and if they are really good, they trick you into believing that the story will be great as well. That’s what happened with Alison Goodman’s Eon. But the story was not horrid; it was good.
Eon is about a girl masquerading as boy so that she can train in the arts of dragon magic. Set in a culture similar to the Chinese, Eon must work to become apprentice to one of the eleven Dragoneyes (masters) that are connected to the dragons: Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig, Rat. There are twelve dragons, each for a particular cardinal point, but the Dragon dragon has not been seen for several years and is believed to have disappeared. There is no Dragoneye for the Dragon dragon. Only males are allowed to train to become an apprentice and gain the title of Dragoneye, hence Eon’s disguise as a boy. At the time when Eon decides to compete for the position of apprentice, the Rat dragon is in ascendant. This occurs at the beginning of the year and the Dragoneye connected to the ascending dragon will be most powerful for that entire year. As luck would have it, Eon is almost picked as apprentice for the Rat dragon but things do not go as planned and something unexpected occurs.
Eon starts out okay. I was not totally drawn in but I was intrigued because I was not too familiar with the culture in which the story is set. I was also drawn to the story’s similarity to Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness series, what with a girl posing as a boy to do something that’s forbidden to females. That always pulls me to a story. I love a strong female protagonist that pushes against the constraints imposed on her femininity. Though Eon trains to become an apprentice, I wondered what was her motivation for doing so other than her simply having the ability to see all the dragons (a rare ability, most times the boys can only see the dragon that they are connected to) and her master’s desire that he succeeds at training a child suitable to be chosen as an apprentice. I liked that the protagonist is challenging the standards set against her femininity, but I did not like that she seemed not to have a strong purpose for doing so.
The story is pretty fast-paced. I say “pretty” because it starts off steady, slowly building up, but then it flat-lines in the middle. I think that’s because Goodman gave away too much too quickly so by the middle of the novel, the reader already knows what needs to happen and what will occur next. However, Goodman stalls at getting to the point, which annoyed me because I had already figured out the mystery. It’s like when someone asks you what she has behind her back. You already know and you tell her the right answer but she stalls for effect, which only annoys you because you want to move on.
Despite this, I would recommend this book to others. It’s a good story. I like it for its components: the Chinese cultural influence (it was not as strong as I would have liked, but I think it’s used to give a twist to YA fantasy and also to emphasize the distinctions between the men and women in the story); the dragons (they are different from those I’m used to because they seem more spiritual); Eon’s battle with her identity (I like that she appears weak at the beginning when she denies her femininity and becomes strong as she embraces it).
Eon—an okay story. Still, I look forward to Eona, the second book in the series.
Quotes from the book:
” ‘I found power in accepting the truth of who I am. It may not be a truth that others can accept, but I cannot live any other way.’ ” — Lady Dela, a transwoman.
“There was a saying that a man’s true character was revealed in defeat. I thought it was also revealed in victory”