YA Weekend: Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman

Eon: Dragon Eye Reborn by Alison Goodman

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Series: Book 1 of Eon

Publisher: Viking Children’s Books (December 26, 2008)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars 

The world knows our main protagonist as Eon, a twelve-year-old boy training hard to be the next Dragoneye apprentice. To be chosen by one of the twelve revered energy dragons of good fortune is a great honor; each year many boys vie for the position to serve as the conduit between the dragons and the mortal world. But there is more to Eon than meets the eye. In truth, Eon is actually Eona, a sixteen-year-old girl masquerading as a boy because females are prohibited from using dragon magic. If anyone discovered her secret, she would be killed on the spot.

Stories involving girls disguised as boys are certainly nothing new, so what made this one special? Well, I suppose I’ve always enjoyed fantasy inspired by Asian cultures. In the world of Eon: Dragoneye Reborn, the influence of Chinese and Japanese mythological traditions makes itself apparent from the start. There are twelve energy dragons, for example, each associated with an animal of the Chinese zodiac – rat, ox, tiger, etc.

In Chinese philosophy too, the concept of yin and yang is an important one. Used to describe complementary forces rather than opposing ones, it has also been applied to the many natural dualities found in our everyday life — light and dark, fire and water, the sun and the moon, life and death, and so on and so forth. Another one to remember is male and female. What struck me with regards to Eon/Eona’s story is the author’s approach to the concept of masculine and feminine energies, and what that ultimately meant for the character and the dragon that chose her. I was surprised that for a young adult novel, especially one which supposedly is just about a girl pretending to be a boy, the themes in it are surprisingly layered.

But okay, enough waxing philosophical from me. You probably want to know about the juicier bits, like with the magic and the dragons, the action and the epic sword fights. The setting Alison Goodman has created is absolutely gorgeous, with a heavy Far Eastern flavor but also bolstered with her own creative touches, the world’s magical history and dragon lore being one of the many highlights. Many YA novel plots also boast political intrigue, but this is probably one of the few I’ve come across that had delivered on that promise, and better yet, the consequences actually mattered and had a profound impact.

Also, the fact there wasn’t an overt romantic side plot was to me a feature, not a bug. Granted, there is some setup for a possible love interest and romance in the sequel, but this first book is mostly concerned with the main character’s personal journey to find herself and connect with her energy dragon, as well as to come to terms with her own disability (her hip is malformed due to a childhood injury). To be honest, I couldn’t be happier with this. I like romance, but I wouldn’t want to see it come at the expense of character development – or worse, in the form of insta-love or some other form of an awkward, stilted relationship. This way, I thought we got a much better idea of who Eon/Eona is as a person.

I wouldn’t say this book was perfect; the storytelling could have used some tightening up, especially in the middle where the plot wandered and did some meandering. But overall this was probably one of the more entertaining and unique YA novels I’ve read so far this year, featuring characters that have a surprising amount of depth, and that includes the villains too. Plot-wise, the structure and some of the concepts aren’t entirely original, but I don’t know if you should let that stop you. If the Asian inspired world appeals to you, or if you’re looking for a book that portrays dragons in interesting ways, then I would recommend this.

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