four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
40-May-June-2009
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0

Dragoneye Reborn

A-EonEon: Dragoneye Reborn, which won the Aurealis award for Best Young Adult Novel, is Australian writer Alison Goodman’s third novel. Goodman previously published Singing the Dogstar Blues, a science fiction novel, and Killing the Rabbit, a thriller. A sequel to Eon is forthcoming.

The Story: In the Empire of the Celestial Dragons, a land loosely based on Asian cultures, Eon has always dreamed of becoming a Dragoneye, a liaison who works closely with one of the twelve "energy dragons." The only problem: he is a lame, but even worse, he is a she, a 16-year-old-girl named Eona. In the Empire, "women have no place in the world of the dragon magic. It is said they bring corruption to the art." When Eona is chosen as Dragoneye to the long-missing Mirror Dragon, she ascends to one of the most important political roles in the kingdom—and risks death in order to keep her identity a secret.
Viking. 531 pages. $19.99. ISBN: 0670062278

Green Man Review 4 of 5 Stars
"While Alison Goodman’s plotting at first seems mainly concerned with putting her protagonist in as much hot water as possible, through Eon’s (admittedly difficult) struggles, the author explores a world of divisive politics, differing gender expectations, and a unique magic system based on Chinese mythology. … A rich, varied, and exciting first part to Goodman’s duet … [the author] produces a work that builds on the tradition of splendid, adventurous epic fantasies that love world-saving battles on a massive scale, while at the same time maintaining a significant inner conflict in the heart of a realistically rendered protagonist." Elizabeth Vail

Monsters and Critics 4 of 5 Stars
"Written for young adults, this complex, richly envisioned tale will appeal to fantasy lovers of all ages. … A richly developed historical and cultural background combined with turbulent current affairs makes this more than a coming of age tale, this is fantasy writing at its best." Sandy Amazeen

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"Luckily, the dragons in Eon aren’t visible to most people, and the book is a good one. … Quickly paced and full of surprising twists, Eon transcends standard fantasy fare because author Alison Goodman focuses on the intrigue—poison, secret tunnels, rebellious eunuchs—in the lush imperial palace, and on the way this young girl eventually realizes that she must embrace her female self, her ‘Moon energy,’ in order to prevail." Rachel Hartigan Shea

Los Angeles Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Eon: Dragoneye Reborn … is wonderful, with its whirlwind of gender exploration, imperial ambition, dragon lore and dissection of nature versus nurture. While there are many set pieces familiar from previous fantasy series, Goodman has freshened up creaking plot devices to produce a slow-building work that over and over again challenges reader expectations." Gavin J. Grant

Critical Summary

Since J. K. Rowling’s ascendance to the throne of young-adult fantasy (and the recent challenge to the throne waged by Stephanie Meyer and her Twilight series), the genre has made significant inroads into mainstream fiction. In Eon: Dragoneye Reborn, first published in Australia, Alison Goodman takes advantage of that interest, crafting a tale full of the elements that have become familiar to readers—and a few that haven’t, particularly her clever take on gender and identity. Goodman is a fine storyteller, turning what could have been boilerplate fantasy into something engaging and important. Only one critic commented on a lack of tension. Eon will appeal to both adolescents and adults, and readers of both types will certainly clamor for the planned sequel.