Author: Alison Goodman
Genre: YA Fantasy
Call number: Y Goodman
Eon is a crippled servant in a world where cripples are untouchable, considered to bring bad luck with them wherever they go. However, Eon’s ambitious master has plans for him still and has spent years training Eon to become a Dragoneye. The Dragoneyes are special men, each chosen by one of the eleven celestial dragons, able to commune with their dragon and use its power on behalf of the emperor. The Rat Dragon is now the ascendent, and Eon is one of several candidates to become the apprentice Rat Dragoneye. He and his master have staked everything on Eon being chosen; if he is not, his master will lose what little political power and wealth he has left. Eon has a rare special gift — he is able to see all of the dragons in the spiritual realm at once — and this is the reason he, a cripple, is allowed to compete. However, Eon has a terrifying secret that only he and his master know — he is really Eona, a girl. Women are forbidden to be Dragoneyes — they are forbidden from most aspects of power — and discovery of this fact will mean instant death for Eon and his master. They have both ruthlessly eradicated all traces of the female in Eon, but it is still a dangerous plan, and one that both does not go as expected and yet exceeds all expectations. Eon is not chosen by the Rat Dragon, but by the Mirror Dragon, the twelfth dragon that has not been seen for hundreds of years. This marvel instantly catapults Eon to Lord status and co-ascendent Dragoneye with the cruel and power-mad Lord Ido, the Rat Dragoneye. Now it is even more important for Eon to hide her sex, as she is quickly immersed in a political power struggle between the current emperor, whose health is failing, and Lord Ido and his brother, High Lord Sethon, who intend to take over the throne.
Alison Goodman really knocks it out of the park for me. Her Asian-inspired world is imaginative and unique (it doesn’t seem like a thinly veiled copy of China, for example) and yet has a lot of research behind it (here she mentions some of her research). Every detail was crystal clear: court protocol; dragon mythology; decorative embellishments on buildings, items, hairpieces; gardens built to harness certain kinds of energy; Story robes that told tales in the weaving; the emphasis on poetry as communication as well as art. Simply amazing.
There are plenty of strong, emotional moments centered around Eon’s internal male/female conflict, but there’s also a lot of magic and sword fighting. Eon is a wonderful character — humble, conflicted, brave, proud, desperate, but not perfect at all. She makes plenty of mistakes and sometimes has less-then noble ideals. But she comes through at the end. The book also has suspenseful, high stakes political intrigue mixed with heart-pounding action, and sometimes the conflicts grew so intense that I found myself racing through paragraphs, almost afraid to know what happened next but needing to know right away. This is how I felt about the ending — I know Goodman is writing the sequel, and I only wish I had it right now.