27 May 2009

"Dragon whips tail."

Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman (Viking, 2008).

Eon is the first book in a fantasy duology, The Two Pearls of Wisdom, from Alison Goodman, an Australian novelist previously only known to me as the author of ALA Best Book Singing the Dogstar Blues. I picked Eon up seeking relief from Burmese Days and more than willing to follow a plucky teenage heroine into danger. I've always had a weakness for plucky teenage heroines, you know.

Eon tells the story of a young student who has spent years training to be selected to become the next Dragoneye -- a position of great power and wealth. Eon, alas, carries two great burdens to the testing grounds. First, he is a cripple -- this carries a great stigma in his society and he is considered unlucky to be around. Secondly, he is a she -- females are forbidden to study magic and Eona will be quite brutally executed if the truth is known. Eon must hide her secret and cope with her deformity while picking her way through dangerous snarls of Court etiquette and thwarting a plot to overthrow the Emperor!

I liked this novel so much I stayed up until three in the morning to finish reading it. Yes, the plucky heroine sucked me in, but the soul-searching and world-building held me fast. Set in a mythical land reminiscent of ancient China, Goodman has created a unique and compelling novel. Fans of Tamora Pierce's Alanna or Sherwood Smith's Crown and Court Duel or Lian Hearn's Tales of the Otoro series will probably like this book, as well as anyone interested in Eastern cultures. Or dragons. Or plucky heroines. I look forward to reading the next book in the duology, Eona: The Last Dragoneye.

(That said, I have to admit that the sexual overtones in Ido's possession of Eon gave me the creeps and I'm not sure I would recommend this novel to readers under 14).