By Alison Goodman
Sequel to one of the most hyped-up books of 2008, Eon, this book was no disappointment. For those of you not familiar with the first, I can offer a short synopsis. Eon is a slave on a brutal salt farm in a fictional world loosely modeled on medieval China and feudal japan, taking the myths and beliefs of both. The world is ruled over by the ruthless Pearl Emperor, his limitless power and divine image reinforced by the twelve Dragoneye Lords in his feudal government. They control the heavenly dragons residing in the invisible energy world, and with these perform miraculous feats of divine power. The empire is divided into districts, each being controlled by their respective Dragoneyes. I should add that there are twelve dragoneyes- each divided by the directions of a compass and the signs of the Zodiac. The Horse Dragoneye, for example, is strongest in the region of South by Southeast and the keeper of insight. Each Dragoneye is allotted a reign of twelve years, one of them as the Ascendant Dragoneye (following the Zodiac), and twelve years of training an apprentice who will "Ascend" at the next year of Ascension for that dragon to the status of a full Dragoneye. All dragons are currently present at court, with the notable exception of the Mirror Dragon, otherwise known as the Dragon Dragon, who has been missing for 500 years.
Eon's master has been cultivating Eon as a candidate for the rigorous testing for Dragoneye power and control of a dragon. Despite sporting a lame leg, Eon arrives to the testing only to be ignored by the Ascendant Dragon in favor of one of the other competitors. In the end, it doesn't much matter; the Mirror Dragon roars back into the world after 500 years and chooses Eon, who now has to take the Mirror Dragoneye's place in court.
Thing is, she's a girl. Girls have no place in the rigidly chauvinistic imperial society, and to be found out will mean certain death for her- not even for the lying; for the crime of being a woman controlling a dragon and a position of power in the Emperor's government.
To make a long story short, she is unable to control or even call her dragon; normally, dragons will tell their lords their names. The mirror dragon is quiet, absent even, after their first contact, leaving Eon to deal with the Imperial intrigue by herself. She eventually realizes an even bigger surprise: her dragon, Eona, is female. She is the Queen of the Imperial Dragons and the only dragon to pass her power down a hereditary line: Eon's. At this point, the ruthless Lord Ido, Rat Dragoneye, executes a seamless coup and revolution with High Lord Sethon, who becomes the new emperor, at least in name. The Pearl Emperor is killed, and his heir escapes into the wilderness with Eona (by this point "out" to him and having changed her name to Eona) and a few royal guards and their friends. End book one.
Eona takes place a short time after Eon, and it follows Eona's path to controlling and using her power. She discovers that she has both the power to heal grievous wounds with the Mirror Dragon and the power to completely take over the minds of people she has thus healed. She and the new Pearl Emperor, Kygo, form a plan to take back his throne with the rebel armies hidden around the land, but first, Eona must control her power. To this end, they liberate the betrayed-and-tortured Lord Ido so he can teach Eona about her power. As the plot progresses, she is increasingly caught between Kygo and Lord Ido- romantically, and idealistically. As she is forced to make her choices, she risks being lost at every step to Sethon's armies, rogue Imperial dragons, and the dark hua (life force) of all that is twisted and corrupt.
I strongly recommend this book to those who have read Eon... and I recommend both books to those who haven't yet. It is amazingly written, has a superbly evocative setting, and doesn't hesitate to cross the line in a way that modern fantasies all too often don't attempt. Warnings, though, to the faint of heart; this book is violent and has sensual content.
I'm not in the mood for an outside-of-the-box review right now- it's a 5, take it or leave it.