June 4th 2013
Eon+Eona by Alison Goodman
I usually don't do this, but considering I read and complete both these books within days of each other, I decided to just review them together.
Eon focused on a very captivating, however prejudice world. I can tell that it was inspired mainly by East Asian culture(specifically Chinese and Japanese), but there were hints of other cultures in there as well. In "The Empire of Celestial Dragons", you better be an able-bodied man,otherwise the shame of being anything else will haunt you. Eon is a 12 year old crippled boy whom has the ability to see dragons. In their world, this is a revered trait. Dragons bond with humans(ones they call Dragoneyes)and are granted extraordinary power. Based on the Chinese astrologic system, each year has an appropriate dragon. Only the Mirror Dragon(Which is the "Dragon" Dragon) hasnt been seen in over 500 years.
Since Eon is not likely to be a "real" candidate, as a person with a disability is seen as a bad omen. If only this were Eon's real problem. Eon is actually Eona, a 16 year old girl whom can see the dragons. No one is sure why, but her master invests his entire estate in her becoming an apprentice to the Ascendant Dragoneye(each year a different dragoneye ascends e,i. Year of the Rat , Year of the Pig,etc.). Her ability to see the dragons is enough to give her a fighting chance in becoming one of the candidates.
I will admit, i was skeptical of the opening. My sister had read this book a year prior, and she mentioned that the pacing took too long to get into the action driven plot of the book. I have to disagree. While it does take close to 100 pages to get to the juicy parts, those 100 pages did set up the story and world building well without spending 17 paragraphs merely describing backgrounds.
"Eon" gets chosen but not by the Ascendant dragon. The Mirror Dragon whom has not been seen for 500 years returns and chooses Eon, and that is where a lot of the mystery begins. Why has the Mirror Dragon ascended? What does that mean for the Ascendant Dragoneye? Who will train her, since there are no Dragon eyes to become apprenticed to? All these become factors, and "Eon" gets more than he bargained for. Eona not only becomes a Lord Dragoneye, she realizes she can not call her dragon, because she would not reveal her true name. The Mirror Dragon in their society embodies the royal family, and she soon finds out the Dragoneye's are divided in their council. One side for the dying Emperor and the opposing force, the military, whom just happens to be run by the Emperor's younger brother.
Eon is instantly becoming a symbol that the empire can be renewed, but she gains many enemies, including Lord Ido, the Rat Dragoneye whom is forced to share his Ascendancy with her. Eon had excellent world building, a strong plot and storyline, and I could never guess what was about to happen.
The characters were brilliantly depicted. I'd have to say my favorite was Lady Dela, a Contraire. In their society, this is a man with a shared soul of a woman. While every part of her was physically male, she was very much female. She was hilarious and written very elegantly. Each flick of her fan seemed effortless, as if she were a true noble woman in our society. There was not only conflict for Eon's story, but also a lot of internal conflict. Eon is the main character but her problems werent the only ones depicted in the story. It provided alot of backstory(as much as Eon is willing to give)and understanding for the world and how the characters dealt with the situations they were forced into.
The grammar was terrific. I wont say it was 100% because even professional editors cant catch everything, but the small amounts of mistakes I saw, I've already forgotten. The POV was clear, and the balance between beats and dialogue made the story move smoothly.
The diversity was clearly there, although what I will say it was difficult to decipher what Eon or Ido were for me. This is obviously because of the world, and depicting race may be different for their world than our own. But opening minimal descriptions about appearance kind of opens the door to the reader assuming everyone is white. I pictured Eon to be Asian in appearance, because come on, the culture is a clear picture of Asian culture on our Earth. But Ido, sometimes I pictured him Asian, sometimes I pictured him Eurasian, sometimes I pictured him white based on how vile he was being depicted at the time. Writing someone as dark skin does not make them Black,because dark is defined differently to the individual, but Eon is pale. A great amount of Asian women are pale, but so are a great amount of Caucasian women. I think it's a little unfair to highlight Asian culture but to imagine it in the eyes of someone non-Asian, so I did picture alot of race related diversity, but im not sure how many other people might.
Transgender identity. Where do I start. Lady Dela was the ultimate heroine and a great role model for the transgender community. Im not transgender, and Im not admitting to understanding it 100% but I love the idea of being free to be whom you are, no matter what society thinks. Her depiction seemed effortless.
I saw a little reference to the seven Chakras which are specific points in the body according to Hindu and Buddhist cultures. Not sure if anyone caught that,but considering I've always considered taking up Buddhism, I noticed that right away. I see a lot of the research the author put in, and it paid off. It didn't build the self esteem for Eon to really be a woman, but I will defend that by stating that the storyline is based on a girl living a lie.
Miscellaneous wise it has a great cover(though the foreign covers are much better.), the title is appropriate, and while the names of the characters are hard to follow at times, their unique and the more you see them the more they grow on you.
Im not sure how exactly accurate my dreamcasting will be, but these are just how I pictured the character who stuck out to me.
I pictured Eon/a to be mixed race, because it was never truly clear what features she favored, so Katie Chang was who I pictured.
Lady Dela was easy. I pictured Jin Xing, a trans actress and dancer, most well known for her role in Tony Jaa's "The Protector."
Justin Nozuka is typically my go-to hot Asian guy for anything that explicitly a specific culture. Even though he's Libby's celebrity crush, I tend to picture him as a lot of characters, so naturally he was my Prince Kygo.
Ido was the hardest. I pictured him different races based on his depictions. When he was evil, I pictured him White. When he was an ok guy, I pictured him Asian(especially when he had a beard). I dont know how to go about him!
Warning: Spoiler Alert
Eona follows where Eona left off. Like the first book, I have to take off a quarter point for unclear descriptions of the characters. I cant stress it enough, as despite the world building being EPIC, the people were borderline impossible to assume what race they were, leaving the door open to picture them Caucasian.
Mind you, in a fantasy world, having a Caucasian female wielding a sword wouldn't be unrealistic in an Asian setting. But there are so few women of color in books as the main characters, it would've been nice to know that the author had a female of color in mind as her Eona. Because too much are people fascinated with different cultures, but only if white faces lead their stories, which is alright, but it is something that needs to start changing.
That being said, the pacing left off where Eon did. Lord Eon is now Lord Eona and she is forced to be the face of hope for the "The Empire of Celestial Dragons" universe. Despite being one of two remaining Dragoneyes, she has had little training, and being a woman, she's still not able to gain the trust of those in power. Even on her side of the revolution.
The story had a consistent back story to why the Dragons are weaker, and what needed to happen. It was at a great cost,and the decisions Eona were forced to make, in my opinion made her stronger. Some may disagree. But I will say this. Men in her world were so afraid to let go of power. At times, even she feared what life would be like if she weren't Lady Eona. But choosing to be powerful, and choosing to do the right thing despite the consequences, to me, made her a better heroine. We all struggle to do what's right as opposed to what is fun or we will enjoy more. As human beings we fail miserably at this. Eona had to decide for herself that she would rather do what was right, as opposed to be powerful, and dont we all wish we were better people enough to do that?
I could never figure out the Dragoneye history, and why the Dragons were suffering until it was actually told to me. That was one of the things I figured would be predictable, but I was pleasantly surprised. And Ido. Ido. Ido. Ido. Let me just say I wanted to like him. I wanted him to change. He showed such great promise, and while his actions in the end didn't surprise me, I was hoping he would. So in a way, I assumed he would change, but didn't expect it, so I really couldn't say this book was too predictable.
The conflict was plenty, but what I will say is, I never really say a true love triangle. I didn't expect Eona to choose Ido, or want him deep down. He was nice to look at, and while I liked him better than Kygo, I always knew Kygo was better for her. Kygo was the one I really pictured being Asian, so Im glad it turned out that Ido was no good for Eona. Asian men almost never get the girl in books, so while I did like Ido's personality better, he was not the kind of man you bring home to mother.
The story is definitely unique. I think I love stories told in different worlds, because when it's in a world I know, it limits what I see. With "The Empire of Celestial Dragons", I could imagine this extraordinary world full of Sakura's, Swords, and Swordswomen, without limitations.
The grammar was a high point too. I did notice a few mistakes, but the more you read, the more you see it happens in every book, not just Indie books. The author's writing style was consistent, and she had a clear POV for Eona. She blended beats and dialogue well, as well. It obviously had a good editor.
Like the first book, a lot of research had to have been constructed to get this right. Having a female main character and a transgender woman wasn't forced, but I would've like better descriptions. If it was a diverse book as far as race, color or ethnic origin(which technically in their world people were from different regions) I couldn't tell. Being a woman or transgender still wasn't something that was uplifter, which I have to take a quarter point off for.
The American cover was nice, but I liked the UK better. I love her positioning, but it leaves it open to assume she's not of color. The title matched the first book's cover, so i enjoyed that. The character names were.....confusing. Im going to give it the point, because they were unique. I will give them that. But some names were so similar, or these characters with similar names weren't consistent in the story to remember them, so at times, I felt like a new character was being introduced, when that wasn't the case.