Alison Goodman’s Eon: Dragoneye Reborn
Penguin, 2009

“Women have no place in the world of the dragon magic. It is said they bring corruption to the art and do not have the physical strength or depth of character needed to commune with an energy dragon. It is also thought that the female eye, too practiced in gazing at itself, cannot see the truth of the energy world.”

Okay, it’s just possible that I have a thing about dragon books. And I grew up reading a tonne of fantasy novels that more-often-than-not featured boys in the leading role, so my reader’s heart still races when a girl gets to take centre stage, which is just what Eon(a) does, despite the traditional warning and prohibition above. (Yup: Shakespeare + dragons.)

So odds are that I would like this novel — and I did. As have many, many other readers. Check out her site for a list of the nominations and awards that her novel has received.

I have the North American edition, but it’s been published as Eon: Rise of the Dragoneye (UK), The Two Pearls of Wisdom (Australia/UK) and as Eon (Australia). You’ll want to get this straight because if you like a solid helping of girl-power, and if you’ve got a thing for dragon stories too, you’ll want to know when the sequel will be available and even though it seems as though there is a whole series of Eon books now available, it’s really just this one. The sequel already has multiple manifestations as well (although it won’t be available until spring 2011 apparently): Eona, and, in the UK, The Necklace of the Gods.

From a publishing perspective, it seems a little unnecessarily confusing. But maybe that’s appropriate because Eon(a) is marking new territory, crossing boundaries that have been in place for, um, eons. (Sorry, like this needs to be more confusing.)

She has many insecurities and questions. “Was sparking skin a good or bad sign? I couldn’t even tell if the dragon was still with me. I tried to focus inward, but a new fear was dimming my mind’s eye.”

She’s not sure where she fits, and indeed her arrival forces a steep learning curve for many of the characters. “There was something different. A change in my Hua — it was faster, stronger — and an echo of another presence, like a shadow heartbeat.”

“How could I explain that it was not all playacting? That I felt more of the male spirit within me than the female — a fierceness that whittled me down to a sharpened spear of ambition. And as a boy, i was applauded, not punished, for such raw energy. It was not beaten out of me for my own good, or worn away by women’s chores.”

Yup, I did read this with the Once Upon a Time Challenge in mind, but its consideration of gender and social roles and expectations would also make it a great choice for the Women Unbound Reading Challenge.

You can get a glimpse of the author’s inspiration by visiting the Research page on her site. From the Chinese Zodiac to Feng Shui, there is an intriguing combination of elements in this novel.

Nonetheless, as with Suzanne Collins’ novels, the appeal of this novel, for me, rests in Eon(a) herself. It reminded me a lot of another recent reading experience for this age group, which introduced me to Alanna [in “The Song of the Lioness” quartet, beginning with The First Adventure (1983)]: Tamora Pierce’s kick-ass young noble girl who doesn’t want to grow up to be a Proper Wife, so she disguises herself as a boy so she can become a knight.

I wish I’d known about these girls when I was just a girl myself.

Now come on: there must be some closet dragon-lovers here. Share your faves please.