BookBrowse Reviews Eon by Alison Goodman

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Eon

Dragoneye Reborn

by Alison Goodman

Eon by Alison Goodman X
Eon by Alison Goodman
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  • First Published:
    Dec 2008, 544 pages

    Paperback:
    Aug 2010, 560 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Beth Hemke Shapiro
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With its richly detailed setting and engaging characters, the first installment in the Dragoneye series is a riveting read for teens and adults

With its richly detailed setting and engaging characters, the first installment in the Dragoneye series is a riveting read. Detailing an exotic land that brings to mind an ancient Chinese imperial dynasty, author Alison Goodman uses intricate descriptions of clothing, food, and architecture to create extraordinary depth and believability. She illustrates the ornate surroundings with great physicality, as when Eon describes the Portal of the Twelve Heavenly Animals:

I had always thought it was the most beautiful gate in the city - even more graceful than the huge Gate of Supreme Benevolence, the entrance to the Imperial Palace. The portal was a complete circle, the twelve dragon animals carved around it in order of the cycle of ascension… The imperial engineers had set the huge carved circle on a system of pulleys and locks so that on the first day of the New Year, Ascension Day, it could be rotated on position, moving the new Dragon of Ascension to the top of the gateway.

Later, Eon wears a Story Robe - a priceless apparel item passed down from noble fathers to sons - entitled "A Summer Waterfall Brings Harmony to the Soul," which highlights exquisite peacocks, butterflies, flowers, and a waterfall with goldfish all woven into emerald silk. She displays this regalia when attending a special banquet laden with numerous delicacies such as round pea cakes served with ginger, with eleven courses to follow. Meticulous descriptions such as these found throughout the book allow readers to fully immerse themselves in the author's created world.

The key characters in the book will also draw readers in. Like Eon, they often are not what they initially seem to be. Gender identity is blurred, and the seemingly weak are often powerful. The ambiguous sexuality of Lady Dela, an older court attendant, serves as a foil to Eon's own development, as does that of the eunuch Ryko. These elements may be a little sophisticated for younger readers, but many teens will welcome the open discussions of sexuality and gender identity.

As engrossing as the backdrop and characters may be, the book unfortunately contains certain elements which rob it of suspense. To begin with, its very title (the U.S. version of the decidedly more vague Australian title The Two Pearls of Wisdom) serves as somewhat of a plot spoiler, already revealing Eon's future as a dragoneye. Further, the introductory two pages summarize quite succinctly the relationship between the twelve energy dragons and their dragoneyes; in a more sophisticated fashion, Goodman might have unfolded this information bit by bit as part of the story. Even the secret of Eon's disguise as a boy might have been revealed as a surprise to readers rather than having been presented immediately. Finally, the solution to Eon's quandary with the Mirror Dragon will seem obvious to readers long before the hero realizes it herself.

Despite these predictable aspects, the book's cliff-hanger ending will leave readers eagerly awaiting Alison Goodman's promised second volume Eona:The Last Dragoneye, initially to publish in 2010 but now scheduled for April 2011.

Reviewed by Beth Hemke Shapiro

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in February 2009, and has been updated for the September 2010 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

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Beyond the Book:
  The Chinese Zodiac

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