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Friday, December 26, 2008

“Eon: Dragoneye Reborn” by Alison Goodman (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)

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Dragons have been a major staple in the world of fantasy for many years. The vast majority of stories tell of creatures that are long extinct or can destroy a wide range of cities in a single swoop of their wings. Alison Goodman’sEon: Dragoneye Reborn” offers readers a different view of dragons…

In an imaginary world laced with Asian culture, there exists twelve Dragoneyes who, along with their apprentices, can touch the power of a certain dragon—if that dragon has chosen them. Eon—a twelve-year-old boy who was a candidate for the Rat Dragon Dragoneye—has reawakened the Mirror Dragon after being dormant for 500 years. With no previous Mirror Dragon Dragoneye available to aid Eon in understanding how to handle the powers that come with being a Mirror Dragon Dragoneye, Eon must explore an unknown world to him. However, Eon is hiding a secret that could mean the death of not only himself, but to all who have had any contact with him: Eon is really Eona, a sixteen-year-old girl who has the unique ability to see all the dragons’ power within her mind’s eye, a power believed to be available only to males.

While Eon is keeping her secret hidden, the emperor's health is failing and although there is a worthy son as heir, his brother, High Lord Sethon, wants the throne for himself. This known rivalry has caused conflict throughout the country with people aligning themselves with the emperor and preparing themselves for the day that they will have to fight Sethon to keep Prince Kygo and his family on the throne. Sethon, who has been planning to take over the throne for years, has befriended the Rat Dragon Dragoneye, Lord Ido, in his pursuit of power. With this powerful force behind him, Sethon may just be able to succeed in his quest to becoming the next ruler.

From here, “Eon: Dragoneye Reborn” takes readers through a classic power struggle between good and evil. Eon, must move through the political world of the Dragoneye council and the courts of the Royal family, while trying to keep the country out of the evil hands of Sethon. At the same time, Eon must find the strength within herself to figure out what awakened the Mirror Dragon and how to harness the dragon's power and use it for the good of the empire…

While not taking place in a real area of China, the world of “Eon: Dragoneye Reborn” is very vivid and obviously influenced by Asian culture. For example, the twelve dragons of the zodiac, the structure of the towns, the traditions of the people, et cetera all possesses an Asian flare. Personally, it was nice to see a book deal with dragons in the eastern area of the world as a lot of fantasy novels seem to take place in Scotland or Ireland.

Alison Goodman not only does an excellent job of describing the world, but also the customs that the characters go through. Each detail of a ceremony is explained to the reader so that one understands why the characters are performing such actions or acting in a certain way. While this was a unique side to the story there was a slight drawback. At times, the book felt as though it was focusing too much on explaining customs and cultural experiences rather than the actual story, and can get a bit repetitive.

As a young adult book, “Eon: Dragoneye Reborn” is told from the first-person point of view of Eon/Eona, that seems to be favored by many YA titles. This is a writing style that rarely holds my interest, but surprisingly I found “Eon: Dragoneye Reborn” to be a page-turner even though the book is close to 600 pages long. The novel does start to slow down after the first fifty pages and can be a bit frustrating at times because of how little action there is compared to all of the ceremonial procedures explained, and how it sometimes feels as though the reader is just going in circles, but Goodman does a good job of keeping these moments few and far between. However, I was disappointed in the book’s lack of action and it is something that could turn away a lot of potential readers. Fortunately, the ending was quite action-packed and I'm hoping that the sequel will be more exciting, since readers will already be familiar with the world and culture.

One major weakness with “Eon: Dragoneye Reborn” was the issue of a girl pretending to be a boy in a world that is so male-dominated. While not supposed to be the main focus of the plot, it was hard to overlook this issue, especially since so much time was spent debating on why Eona was so good at pretending to be a boy. Goodman also went into great detail explaining the process of turning a girl into a boy such as taking drugs to suppress any form of feminism to proving to the courts that Eon was really a boy.

Another aspect that slightly overshadowed the plot was the person Eon befriends once in court, Lady Dela. Lady Dela comes from the islands that oppose Sethon, and is a prestigious member of the emperor's court. However, Lady Dela is actually a man who dresses as a woman and can walk amongst the women as one of them. This is frowned upon in the cities that surround and house the emperor, and Dela is almost viewed as a demon—someone to stay away from. While I'm very open-minded, I was a little shocked at this aspect of the storyline since the marketing age for the book is thirteen-years-old.

Overall, I was impressed with Alison Goodman’sEon: Dragoneye Reborn”, and the flavor that it brought. Granted, there are moments when seasoned readers might find the book predictable, but the author offers enough elements to keep you reading and wanting to know more. I just hope that readers can overlook the book’s lack of action and gender issues, and enjoy the unique look at dragons that “Eon: Dragoneye Reborn” brings to the world of fantasy…

NOTE:Eon: Dragoneye Reborn” was published in the UK on September 11, 2008 under the title, “The Two Pearls of Wisdom”. A UK YA version, called “Eon: Rise of the Dragoneye”, will be published January 1, 2009 via David Fickling Books.

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