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“A word of encouragement during a failure is worth more than an hour of praise after success.”
Summary: Twelve-year-old Eon is in the running to become the next Dragoneye, the intercessor between man and the energy dragons. Eon has a secret: Eon is actually Eona, a 16-year-old girl forced by qualification to live her life as a boy. Females are forbidden to use Dragon Magic and her consequences would be dire if she were ever discovered. Worse than being female, she is also a cripple, which puts her beneath the other Dragoneye contenders. When the Mirror Dragon chooses her at the ceremony, Eona’s secrets become even more difficult to hide. Now, Eona must hide her femininity and transcend her disability to avoid suspicion, all while being caught in the middle of a political battle for power divided by the emperor and the ruthless Lord Ido. This is the first book in the Eon trilogy. It is a high interest / low readability young adult novel.
Type of Reading: independent reading, read aloud book, reluctant reader
Recommended Age: read together: 10 and Up; read yourself: 12 and Up
Young Reader Reaction: This book was a treat to read. I took my time so I could savor each chapter. I love how Alison Goodman took historical practices in Asian culture and acclimated it into her fantasy world. Those rituals were obviously well researched. I was also intrigued throughout was the exploration of gender and what it truly means to be “masculine” or “feminine.” The story treats sexism with care and realistic representation. The main character is not a traditional superhero. Eona is crippled, not only physically, but also mentally due to the unreachable standards that society has set — to obtain true masculinity.
The only thing I do not care for is the book's length (500 pages). The plot is very drawn-out and could easily be reduced to 400 pages. That said, I respect the author’s choice of drawing the reader in with detailed descriptions. I would recommend this book for ages 14+. This book would be a great gift to anybody interested in high fantasy and genuine female characters.
Adult Reader Reaction: Review pending.
Pros: Asian cultural tradition and a strong female character collide in this fantasy that explores society and belief systems.
Cons: Although written at a fifth grade level, the themes may be too mature for some middle grade students. There are mild sexual themes (including the exploration of gender differences and sexism) and some violence.
Borrow or Buy: Borrow, at least. The book may be long, but readers will get wrapped up in Eona's story quickly.
If You Liked This Book, Try: Graceling by Kristin Cashore; Seraphina by Rachel Hartman; The Winner's Curse (The Winner's Trilogy) by Marie Rutkoski; The Demon King (Seven Realms) by Cinda Williams Chima; Shadow and Bone (The Grisha Trilogy) by Leigh Bardugo WINTERLINGTHE UNWANTEDSUNWHOLLY (Unwind Dystology)
Educational Themes: There is a lot to explore. On the broader spectrum, the book can generate discussions on how we judge others and set societal standards, and what something *really* means. At the character level, Eona opens the door to talk about self worth, self value, limitations, et al.
Notes: A Reading Tub® volunteer submitted this review. They borrowed the book from their local library.
Literary Categories: Fiction - adventure, speculative fiction, fantasy series, young adult series, multicultural, dragons
Date(s) Reviewed: November 2014
Other Reviews: See Critics' Reviews and reader feedback at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.