I’ve had such proclivity for books with oriental motifs over the last year; I have no idea where it’s come from! Eon is set in a fictional quasi-oriental universe and tells the story of a 12-year-old crippled boy in training to become a dragoneye apprentice. Except he is actually a 16-year-old she, and that dragoneye business I mentioned just now? It’s actually a lot more dangerous than you’d think…
Author: Alison Goodman
Date published: August 1, 2008
Amazon blurb:Twelve-year old Eon has been studying the ancient art of the Dragoneyes for two years. But he is playing a dangerous game: Eon is actually Eona, 16 years old and a girl. Her true identity must remain hidden at all costs: it is forbidden for women to practise the Art, and to be discovered would be punishable by death.
Let down by her injured leg, it seems that Eon is destined to fail in her quest, until a spectacular twist in events catapults her into the opulent but treacherous world of the Imperial court. Without a master to guide her, Eon must learn to harness her unprecedented natural power, while protecting the secret that could cost her everything . .
This book tells a poignant and enjoyable story about self-acceptance and courage and the female lead really works in the narrative. The absence of a romantic plot thread seems to emphasise the focus on Eon as a woman discovering her own power, an admirable achievement that works pretty well and is rarely done in YA fiction.
The diversity of characters is something this book should really be given a lot of credit for; I think Lady Dela is my favourite example of this .
“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 (Eon by Alison Goodman)
Lady Dela is a biological man who lives as a trans woman observing the rules and behaviours of women including everything from women’s clothing and mannerisms to reading woman’s script.
‘“I do not wear men’s clothing because I am a woman in here,’ she touched her head, ‘and there,’ she touched her heart. ‘You are wrong when you say there is no power in being a woman. When I think of my mother and the women in my tribe, and even the hidden women in the harem. I know there are many types of power in this world.’” – Lady Dela (Eon by Alison Goodman)
Her dialogue makes great points about the world she sees experiences and her take on the gender power struggle is refreshing; drawing valuable conclusions based on the beliefs of different cultures. She is a fascinating character and is written beautifully; a testament to Goodman’s writing skills. Throughout the entire novel she is a reflection of everything our heroine, Eon, needs to achieve. She is true to herself, shows great honour, tells the truth and performs incredible feats of courage and self-sacrifice. Eon’s secrecy, stubbornness and fear are things she gradually has to overcome as the story unfolds and her character development is pretty good in this respect.
Eon’s only really annoying trait is the way she seems to not see information that is so clearly apparent to the reader. The main plot device was embarrassingly apparent in a few key moments (way before she eventually clocks on) and I feel like her realisation of certain things was extremely drawn out in order to keep the story moving and ultimately it dulled the story’s main conflict.
*SPOILERS BEYOND THIS SENTENCE*
I liked the symbolic and literal power Eona gained from embracing her true self in her final battle with Lord Ido; whilst it was a fairly predictable climax the overall point of the story didn’t lose its poignancy because of it and it made an important point about embracing identity in the face of adversity.
However there were some elements that were a little underwhelming. I understood her disability to perhaps be representative of her holding herself back and in that sense its disappearance when she finally bonded with the mirror dragon, symbolically at least, made sense. However, the sudden disappearance of her injury seemed a little awkward and somewhat undermined her struggle with the disability in the first place for me. Our disabled heroine in one moment was lost.
*YOU ARE NOW CLEAR OF THE SPOILER ZONE*
I kind of felt throughout that you could almost take Eon’s disability out of the story completely without losing much plot. For me the only thing it added was a slightly heightened vulnerability before the choosing ceremony and I felt that It could have been used in much more interesting ways. Perhaps I’m wrong on that one, I’d love to hear someone else’s take on it. The only other issue I had with the plot was that the deaths of some ‘major ‘characters didn’t grab me emotionally. Some of the relationships were too underdeveloped to provoke that kind of emotion in me though this might be at least partially dependent on me as a reader as opposed to the author’s writing. There were a few key characters that I really did feel emotionally connected to; Lady Dela and Ryko in particular were fabulous and I found myself really rooting for their success.
That being said it wasn’t just the friendly characters that seem a little unrealistic; an antagonistic character completely switched sides in a very short scene near the end and it just spoiled that moment in the book. The transition was explained briefly as some trick of dragon magic but even so I felt it was the wrong choice for that character and wasn’t really plausible. Perhaps this action will be flipped on its head in the sequel and then maybe I’ll put my hands up and back off.
Goodman’s writing had some really beautiful moments and was consistently pleasant to read. The world in which everything took place was beautifully described and easy to picture. I absolutely loved the allusions to the themes, practices, and traits of Asian culture as opposed to the European ones we are more used to seeing in YA Fantasy fiction. It was a nice change and is a style I’ve recently become a big fan of.
So, to sum up, whilst at times I felt the writing lacked pace – overall I really enjoyed this story and the world Goodman created within it. I feel like there was a lot of set-up back story in the first 300 or so pages of the first book which is maybe why it felt that way. Annoyingly it ends on a cliffhanger but hopefully this means the sequel ‘Eona’ can only be better and I look forward to finding out.
3 out of 5
Find it on Goodreads
If you liked ‘EON’ and its oriental themes you might like ‘Empress Orchid’ by Anchee Min- It’s got a similar writing style. It’s about the last empress of China and the fall of the Dynasty. It doesn’t have the fantasy aspect but it’s surprisingly gripping.
– Cat –