Sunday, 11 May 2014

Review || Eon by Alison Goodman

Eon (Eon #1) by Alison Goodman ★★★☆☆
Twelve-year-old Eon has been in training for years. His intensive study of Dragon Magic, based on East Asian astrology, involves two kinds of skills: sword-work and magical aptitude. He and his master hope that he will be chosen as a Dragoneye--an apprentice to one of the twelve energy dragons of good fortune.

But Eon has a dangerous secret. He is actually Eona, a sixteen-year-old girl who has been masquerading as a boy for the chance to become a Dragoneye. Females are forbidden to use Dragon Magic; if anyone discovers she has been hiding in plain sight, her death is assured.

When Eon's secret threatens to come to light, she and her allies are plunged into grave danger and a deadly struggle for the Imperial throne. Eon must find the strength and inner power to battle those who want to take her magic...and her life.

If you're craving some good fantasy with unique worldbuilding, than do yourself a favour and pick this up immediately.

After having been on my tbr for some time, I picked Eon up on a whim the other night and found myself having to pace myself so I could enjoy it for longer. The world is rich and complex, full of interesting characters and problems. Seasoned fantasy readers will not be put off by the "info dumping" at the beginning--I found it was well balanced with the plot and kept me interested.

Eon(a) is an interesting character. Weighed down by the pressures and expectations of those around her, she struggles to maintain her boyish facade. She has to form alliances and make decisions with very little experience. And she doesn't always choose correctly.

While none of the major plot points or twists were terribly unpredictable, the narrative still held my interest. Court politics and intrigue are something that I'm very much into, and Eon delivered in that regard--especially with the threats simmering just below the surface.

Eon is also host to some refreshingly different characters. Eon's friend Chart is severely physically disabled--and though many of the supporting cast look down upon him or treat him with contempt, Eon considers him a close friend and does much to support him and his mother later in the book. Eon herself has been crippled and pushes herself through obstacle after obstacle to compete on equal standing next to her able bodied peers. (Though, I will admit it was not as much of a barrier as I would've liked. Eon's disability sort of gets lost in all the other plot related shenanigans and then sort of gets deus ex machina-ed away at the end. Which is disappointing.)

Eon's inner circle consists of a eunuch guard and a transwoman advisor. Both characters are compelling in their own right, especially as you learn more about them. There are a lot of gender politics at play here, not surprisingly, considering one of the main conflicts of the book is Eon's identity. I've seen some reviews that take issues with some of Goodman's more heavy handed approach to some of this, and while I don't disagree with some of the criticisms, I still find it refreshing to see a story in which the main character must embrace her femininity in order to succeed.

All in all, a great read. Though, be warned, this is definitely just the set up. Eon is not a book that stands on its own, and if you enjoy it, you'll want to have the sequel Eona close at hand.