Eon by Alison Goodman | Goodreads
Release Date: August 31, 2010 (pb release)
Published by: Firebird (Penguin)
Quick, very bare bones summary: a sixteen year old girl masquerading as a twelve year old boy must learn how to control her Dragoneye power in order to save the empire.
So, actually, since I filmed that video, I finished reading Eon and its sequel Eona. My original thoughts are much the same. From the very beginning, I felt very captured by the story and its atmosphere. There are so many concrete details about the Chinese & Japanese mythology inspired world; it's easy to feel like you're there with Eon(a). It's more than just building an atmosphere: Kat Kennedy from Cuddlebuggery mentioned the idea of a Cultural Iceberg from Edward T. Hall, and looking at the Iceberg, with no doubt, Eon digs deeper into the water. You understand the religious beliefs, values, notions of self, perceptions, and more. And, as I emphasized in the video, I loved Eon(a) as a character. There are some books where I feel like I'm being very consciously manipulated to like that character - he or she's the one who provides for his/her family; he or she would sacrifice himself/herself to save the younger sibling, etc. This book wasn't one of them. I liked Eon(a) for her personality, for her determination to survive and her cunning. In some sense, she's like Katniss in her pragmatism. But she's also very different because this is a hugely duty and honor bound world, and Eon(a) has been shaped by that. So, in short, from the very beginning, I loved Eon(a) and the world.
I still loved them by the end, and wanted to continue onto the sequel, Eona, actually. I read Eona but will try to keep my thoughts focused on Eon. I loved the relationship between Heuris Brannon and Eon. I loved that there was no moralizing; there are so many fantasy novels where because you don't know the cultural values, you immediately pin your own onto that world, and you immediately demonize a character for something we would consider wrong. And that's because there's a HOLE in the world-building; you have to fill it in yourself. But Eon is not like that at all. So, for instance, as Eon's master, Heuris Brannon, beats Eon when Eon doesn't master things as quickly as Brannon wants. Is that wrong? In our world, probably, but in the world imagined by Alison Goodman, it's very much a part of the master/Dragoneye apprentice relationship. It's also similar to how no one is allowed to touch the Heavenly Emperor on threat of death. But, thankfully, because the world is so well-developed, it's not something where we're told GASP GASP that's wrong that he would threaten to kill someone for touching him! Instead we live it beside the character. And so I thought that the Eon/Brannon relationship was really complex. In Eona, that complex relationship is continued with someone else who I won't name (though I'm less a fan of his ending...). In general, Goodman seems to excel at creating a complex world with characters who are very much SHAPED by that world. They could easily have been character tropes: the orphan boy who has risen in fortune; the cross-dressing girl; etc. They're not.
I also really liked how romance was handled in the duology. Since Eon is actually Eona and Eona is pretending to be a 12 year old boy, there's not much opportunity for romance; if Eon did have a romance with someone at 12, it probably would've been a different book. But the relationships between characters are set for the next book, which then allows for a gradual development of the romance. I loved how gender identity was discussed in Eon. There are a lot of books with cross-dressing girls; rarely is it actually discussed why that girl has to hide herself as a boy and the repercussions of that. Here we got to have Eon(a) unpack how her culture treats her differently as a boy vs. girl, and her own biases about what it means to be female, male, etc. And that's especially challenged in some of the side characters: Ryko, a Shadow Man (aka eunuch) who takes steroids that enhance Sun energy (masculinity), and Lady Dela (a twin soul; a man who dresses as a woman and is accepted to be both - probably simplifying this). It's the rare fantasy that actually discusses the cross-dressing instead of using it to make the character seem more "badass" or give the character the opportunity to have traditionally masculine characteristics.
Wow! This is getting to be long. Okay, well, other things I liked: the cinematic feel of the book (there's a reason why Rites of Passage are what we focus on in so many different books - choosing ceremonies and the like - and man, this book doesn't disappoint on the climax and the dragon choosing ceremony and so many other extremely visual scenes) and the side characters and development of the characters (the emperor can't be touched because of rank; actual development of class rank, and how class rank affects each character! and side characters who have their own stories!). I didn't like the ultimate villain (the quickest way to make a villain is to have them hate difference or be cruel, etc. but the most fascinating villains, to me, are the ones most like the protagonist), the Dillon side plot, and how Eon's disability was handled. But otherwise, wow, I read those books so quickly and just ATE THEM UP.
The Golden Specific by S.E. Grove | Goodreads
Release Date: July 14, 2015
Published by: Viking
my review of The Glass Sentence (book 1) here. You can also read my discussion of Sophia (main character) as a great heroine to follow.
I'm reading this along with Mel at The Daily Prophecy. I've stopped at around page 85. If you haven't read book 1, The Glass Sentence, it's based on the premise of The Great Disruption, a worldwide event that slid the different continents into different ages. We're following Sophia, who lives in New Occident (sort of New England) in the nineteenth century with her explorer uncle, Shadrack, because her parents went on an expedition and never return. Shadrack is kidnapped in The Glass Sentence, and Sophia goes searching after him. In The Golden Specific, Sophia is searching for her parents.
First off, just as Eon had AWESOME world-building and definitely fulfilled the Cultural Iceberg premise, so does The Glass Sentence/The Golden Specific world. SO MANY INVENTIVE DETAILS. For instance, S.E. Grove has created this religion called Nihilimanism (sp.?). Believers think that the world which Sophia and co. live in is the Age of Delusion, and they are trying to restore the Age of Verity, the time from before The Great Disruption. So much love for that creation. In general, I love Grove's discussion of different religions and different ways in which people cope with this HUGE event, and I love how she develops the cultures of each individual place.
I love the characters. Sophia is this wonderful, determined heroine who is often left by herself because the adults around her are dealing with other things or have to work late nights (in The Golden Specific, the latter is true). It actually feels realistic - it's not parents being neglectful, more that jobs can be really demanding and sometimes there isn't time for the kids. So Sophia is forced to be resourceful. The character relationships established from The Glass Sentence are really getting developed in this second book, and the inventive details also apply to the characters. For instance, there's this fixation on a potential villain as having REALLY WHITE TEETH. Has anyone ever seen the episode in Friends with Ross and his white teeth? It's this small detail, yet it's also again something that I think a lot of people would relate to. Teeth can totally creep people out. I don't even know the full details behind the teeth at page 85, and I'm creeped out.
In short, The Golden Specific is promising to be every bit as awesome as its predecessor, The Golden Sentence.
What are you all currently reading? Have you read either of these books? Would love to discuss!