December 23, 2012

Review: Eona by Alison Goodman


Eona by Alison Goodman
Published: 2012, Firebird (Originally 2011)
Series: Eon, #2
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Source: Personal book
Contains spoilers for Eon (my review)


I know that love is about power, too. Who gives, who takes. Who is willing to risk showing their true self.



Eona, Dela, and Ryko have barely escaped from High Lord Sethon's forces at the imperial palace with their lives. They plan to meet up with rebel forces and attempt to restore Prince Kygo, the true emperor of the Realm of the Celestial Dragons, to the throne. But Eona is not the battle-ready Dragoneye that her allies wish her to be and lacks all but the most basic skills of a Dragoneye. Although she has learned that she can heal others, the healing comes at a high cost. She cannot easily commune with her dragon because whenever she enters the spirit realm, she is attacked by the ten bereft dragons whose Dragoneyes were so ruthlessly murdered by Lord Ido during Sethon's coup d’├ętat. And whenever she comes into contact with Kygo, she is overwhelmed by the desires and memories of Kinra, her traitorous ancestor. The realm may need dragon power to keep the natural forces and human ones at bay, but Eona cannot fulfill this role alone. As the other surviving Dragoneye, Ido is the only one who can assist Eona in restoring the true heir to the throne. If she and everyone else can learn to work with the man who betrayed their country. 

Although I may find myself in the minority, I actually enjoyed reading Eona even more than Eon. Once again, the story’s focus is on Eona's personal growth during a turbulent time. Whereas Eon focused on constructing one’s identity, however, Eona is all about power dynamics. As one of the last living Dragoneyes, Eona has the power to turn the tide in her country’s upcoming civil war. Unfortunately, Eona struggles not only with controlling this new found power, but also with varying expectations of how she should use her power. Kygo and Sethon's views on Dragoneye power are almost complete opposites, so Eona is left teetering precariously in the middle, unsure whether her powers are a tool for the country or more of a personal right. Even the secondary characters find themselves (in)directly giving Eona their thoughts of how her power should be used. 

This brings us to the love triangle of the story. Yes, technically there is one, which in itself is a bit surprising when one considers how Eon ended. Of Eona's two love interests in the story, one ended Eon hating her for her deception as the Lord Eon, while another wanted to use her powers, both as a Dragoneye and as a female, to take control of all. Neither was willing to accept Eona as a female, or even really as another human being. This unsympathetic and frankly misogynistic view of Eona continues to resonate throughout the second book, even as the competing men try to “win” her over to their sides. 

Goodman continues to excel at crafting nuanced, realistic characters. Our heroine Eona still has a lot to learn about herself, both as a Dragoneye and as a woman. Her list of mentors grows thin, however, as communicating with her dragon risks attack from the ten dragons mourning the deaths of their Dragoneyes, a rightful emperor who wants, first and foremost, to be restored to power, and the other surviving Dragoneye, a traitor. To whom should Eona turn for advice? How can she know what is right? Neither of these questions has easy answers, and, as Eona struggles to figure out what actions and beliefs make up her moral code, she discovers how her every action leads to major consequences. Eona is no heroine to whom everything comes easily, but rather her every move must be a mediation between what she wants and what is right. 


Complementing such a complex protagonist are many strong secondary characters. In the first book, Kygo is portrayed as the rightful heir to the Empire of the Celestial Dragons, but a little uncertain of his rights and not quite ready to take power. Although most of my feelings of goodwill for Kygo dissipate at the end of the first book, it is easier to sympathize with the Kygo of Eona. He is willing to make many difficult decisions and use others to his advantage, but he does truly seem to believe his actions are for the greater good. Ido’s characterization surprised me the most. Going from a twisted character I could easily hate to one I could sympathize with speaks volumes to Goodman’s wonderful characterization. At certain points in the novel I found myself agreeing more with Ido’s point of view than Kygo’s, and the tension between them, with Eona as the focal point, makes complete sense. Dela and Ryko both infuriated me immensely from time to time, but ultimately their abilities to have such an effect on me showed how realistically they, too, are written. In the turbulent time of Eona, no issue is easily solved and there is no single “hero.” 

Goodman fleshes out Eona's world even further in this book. Certain aspects of Eon that were either overlooked or simply taken for granted in the grand scheme of the first novel are now brought to the forefront in the sequel. Instead of simply accepting the symbiotic and powerful relationship between Dragoneyes and their dragons, Eona begins to question its origins. Through the second book, Goodman delves a little into the history of the Empire of the Celestial Dragons. As Eona learns about her ancestor Kinra, she and the readers can see history repeating itself, and how ultimately this civil war is simply part of a much greater struggle.

What distinguishes this battle from former ones is the cast of characters. Will Eona become simply another Kinra, or will she forge her own path? Once again, Goodman challenges her characters and readers with complex questions. Eona is a well-written and satisfying conclusion to Eona’s story. This is one series that I'll definitely come back to time and again. The Eon duology should be required reading for all fantasy fans, young adult and adult alike.
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Amanda

Amanda loves few things better than sitting down with a cup of tea and a book. She frequently stays up far too late, telling herself she just needs to finish one more page. When she's not wrapped up in the stories of others, Amanda works as a children's librarian in a public library.

2 comments:

  1. Actually, most of my friends liked Eona more than they liked Eon. I'm very curious about Ido, there aren't many seccesfully redeemed characters (Froi of the Exiles, Stalker in Ann Aguirre's Outpost and Ido that I can think of right this second). I can't wait to see if Goodman was as successful as Marchetta and Aguirre.

    I just finished Eon days ago and I'm about to start Eona as soon as I find a hole in my reading schedule. The fact that you'll probably reread it is even more promising.

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    1. Oh really? Well, that's good to know. I thought the duology just got better by book two. And I know! I actually haven't read Froi of the Exiles so far because I really, really disliked Froi's character after Finnikin of the Rock. I do need to read it at some point soon! And yay! I do hope that you're able to read Eona soon! I'll be eager to hear your thoughts.

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