Title: Eon: Dragoneye Reborn (Eon, #1)
Author: Alison Goodman
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Every so often the time will come when you will finally read that elusive novel that has been on your TBR-Shelf for what seems like forever. You know what novel I'm talking about - it's the one all your friends have been recommending to you, time and time again; it's the one the library never has whenever you stop by; it's the one you always forget to pick up from the bookstore; but, it's also the one you just know you're going to love. Needless to say, Eon has been on my shelves for at least the past three years now and while I knew, even before I had cracked open the spine, that I would love this one, nothing could quite prepare me for the masterpiece I would find inside its covers.
In a world where the people rely on the powers of twelve spirit dragons, each of which represent a different animal, to protect them and their land from natural disaster, sixteen-year-old Eona possesses a rare gift - she can see the spirits of all twelve dragons, not just one. Thus, despite the cripple that mars her figure, Eona has been training to become a Dragoneye Apprentice and eventually a Dragoneye, one whose spirit is connected with that of the dragons, and restore her Master to an influential position on the Dragoneye Council. Eona, however, is forced to mask her true nature and live her life as Eon, a boy, for only men are allowed to become Dragoneyes and if her secret were found, it would lead to imminent death. On the day the apprentices are chosen, Eona must display her skills in front of the spirit dragons themselves and to her surprise, she is chosen by the Mirror Dragon, a spirit who has not been seen in over a hundred years. Yet, as she will soon come to learn, her dragon is the seeker of truth and for Eona, whose entire life has been lived as a lie, there will come no greater challenge than accepting the truth within.
In all honesty, the overarching plot of Eon brings nothing new that we haven't seen before in tales such as Mulan or numerous dragon adventures from before; yet, Goodman manages to make her take on this classic story as creative and unique as possible. For one, the world she creates is rich with Japanese and Chinese cultural influences, making it both authentic, real, and original by its own right. While I loved (and greatly appreciated) the research Goodman put into this novel, what truly amazed me was the depth of the world-building. Goodman's descriptions of her world go beyond the landscape, rituals, and overall cultural beliefs, it extends also to the politics of this vibrant nation. I love nothing better than a complex political scheme and the one that Eona found herself in was nothing short of brilliant. It perfectly blended together corruption, greed, and an age-old thirst for power along with fantasy lore, spirit dragons, and, at the heart of it all, societal mores.
Yet, no matter how brilliant the world-building in this story was, what truly shone through about this novel was its depiction of gender and women in society. It is evident from the synopsis itself that the world in which Eon lives is dominated by men, thus, it comes as no surprise that she feels as if she is most in power as Eon, not Eona. In fact, Eona is so taken with this belief that when she meets Lady Dela, Eona's transgender mentor who is a man living as a woman, she cannot understand why Lady Dela would chose a life in which she must succumb to servitude. Nevertheless, as the novel progresses, Eona slowly comes to realize the power that lies in being a woman.
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 the hidden women in the harem, I know there are many types of power in this world...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 (Goodman, 245).While Eon is a diverse novel in its honest appraisal of characters who are eunuchs and transgenders, its true strength lies in Eona's own thoughts as she contemplates how different her life is as a woman and her life spent as a man. I have come to admire Alison Goodman immensely for her deep and provocative portrayal of gender, its differences, and its liabilities through her novel and believe that the messages she brings across and the truths she uncovers are those that deserve to read by everyone.
Nevertheless, for all my praise of Eon, it is, quite unfortunately, not a perfect novel. Throughout the course of the story, Eona struggles to communicate with the Mirror Dragon; consequently, she resorts to a variety of schemes in order to find a way to do so. While Eona is, by no means, an unintelligent character, the solution to her problems is quite obvious to the reader, thus, it is rather frustrating to see Eona try fruitlessly to come up with a way to speak to her dragon. Yet, despite this, I found that I was still cheering on Eona and hoping with all my heart that she succeeded. In Eona, Goodman has created such a complex character that I am confident everyone can find a bit of themselves within her, making it impossible not to love her and admire her bravery and courage as a character.
Overall, Eon is a remarkable adventure filled with rich fantasy lore, intriguing court politics, and compelling gender themes. If that isn't enough to make your fingers itch to get your hands on it, it also contains a kick-ass heroine and an equally heart-pounding adventure. Eon is not only one of the best fantasy novels I've read this year, but it is also one of the most thought-provoking and complex stories as well. I'm not just recommending this novel to you, I am virtually shoving a copy of it into your unsuspecting hands and demanding that you read it - it is simply that that good.