Eon  - Alison Goodman The day for the Rat Dragoneye apprentice to be chosen is approaching, and candidate, Eon, is nervous. Not only is he nervous about passing the tests and being selected despite his physical infirmity, but he is also afraid that his cover will be blown. Because Eon is actually Eona, a 16 year old girl, and women are forbidden from becoming Dragoneyes. Add a plot to unseat the current Emperor and Eon's life is about to get 10X more difficult.

After reading a particularly abrasive book (for those that are curious what book I am talking about, it's Tempest) that made me despair of the literature available for young adults, I needed something that I was sure to like, something that had made the Goodreads circuit and passed the test. This is the book I turned to.

I've said it before, but my requests are pretty simple (or at least, I think it's not asking too much):

1. Good Characters - This includes having a strong female character or at least one that isn't completely helpless and does something more than feature as a Love Interest

2. Interesting, unique story (or an old story done really well)

3. Good setting (very important for scifi, fantasy or urban fantasy)

4. Good, competent writing

Well, the grades are in, and I'm pleased to report that Eon made a more than passing grade. In fact, it makes out a LOT better than most of its competitors.

A lot of YA books (particularly Urban Fantasy/PNR) have a female "protagonist" whose job is mostly to whine about how awful her wonderful speshul skilz are while stringing along two hawt boys that inexplicably throw themselves at her feet. If this is the type of protagonist you are expecting when reading "Eon", be prepared to be (pleasantly) disappointed! Eon(a) is not that girl. Eona (I'm just gonna call her by the female form of her name, though she mostly goes by "Eon" in the book) strikes that strange balance between a strong, independent woman and a flawed character. She has a disability, which ACTUALLY is a disability and keeps her from doing everything she would like. She is kind to others, she is attentive, she is smart and intelligent (for the most part...). Yes, Eona has flaws, but they only accent how HUMAN she is. And if you expect her to vacillate between two boys...well, again, be prepared for disappointment. For Eona, there is absolutely no love story in this book. Yes, you heard me right; there is NO love story for Eona. Shock, I know, seems like most books have to have some sort of romance instead of just focusing on a great story. But Goodman doesn't succumb to the status quo.

The people Eona interacts with are varied and interesting. Her master is a complex character; he is strict and punishing, but there are such tender moments between him and Eona, it tugged at my heartstrings. Rilla is a devoted servant, diligent even when it could mean danger and death for her. The characters I was REALLY impressed with though were Lady Dela and Ryko. Lady Dela is a Contraine--a man physically but who dresses/acts as a woman--and Ryko is a Moon Shadow--a eunuch of sorts. Both totally twist your idea of gender and sex, and really made me think outside the sex/gender box. Neither was stereotypical in any way; both were great friends to Eona and a joy to read.

Even the villains were well done. We don't see much of General Sethon, and I think that is what really makes him work. So many books/movies want to over-analyze the villain, but sometimes the villain is more creepy if you see only glimpses of him. The other antagonist is Lord Ido, the Rat Dragoneye. Again, this guy really freaked me out--and yet what happens to him at the end TOTALLY threw me for a loop.

One of the things I love best about "Eon" is how it is a hero's journey story, starring a woman. There is the element of Eona posing as a man, and a large part of the story is about finding who you are and embracing that. But that also leads me to my biggest complaint about the book: towards the beginning, something doesn't go quite right. Eona then spends hundreds of pages trying to correct this problem, going hither and thither for the answer, making HUGE mistakes with bad repercussions, when the answer was pretty much staring her in the face from the beginning. When she finally does solve the problem, I wanted to facepalm. We could have saved a lot of time and heartache (and several hundreds of pages) had Eona just talked to her master early on instead of hiding. Of course, in the book's defense, it does drive the overall theme home (even though that theme does at time come across a bit heavy-handed), and it is something that a person like Eona, who is scared for her life because of her deception, might overlook.

The world that Eona lives in has a Chinese/Japanese feel and it is very much welcome in a genre that tends to over-rely on certain fantasy settings (i.e. Tolkien, Martin, etc.). I loved how totally different the world was from any other fantasy setting I had read. Culture, clothes, propriety, myths--all felt very detailed and fresh. And of course, the Dragon elements were VERY awesome, if a little confusing. Hopefully, the second book will flesh out more how the Dragoneyes work and how their power is used.

As for the technical aspects, Goodman is a more than capable writer. No weird, stupid metaphors. No overusing "chagrin" or misusing words. The writing is pretty transparent, which for a book like this, is just what the doctor ordered.

I hadn't even finished "Eon" when I headed out to my bookstore and picked up Eona. Normally, I don't buy the sequels unless I am pretty damn sure I am going to like the series. And that pretty much sums up how I feel about "Eon". Excellent book, great characters, interesting story. But enough from me, I have more important things to do than write more about this book. I've gotta start "Eona"!