The moment I read the description of this book, I knew I would have to read it: girl pretends to be a boy in order to have her chance to be part of a magical order otherwise forbidden for her. I loved it when I read Tamora Pierce’s Alanna (and on the front cover of this book is Pierce’s endorsement), so I hoped I would like this one just as much.
I didn’t expect the book to give me quite as much as it did, dealing with Asian (Japanese?) culture, superstition (revolving around cripples, transgendered people, eunuchs, lost culture, and more). Because there was so much going on, the beginning of the book was on the slow side. It really felt like things were dragging along for a while before the plot finally hit the important parts. For a while, Eon/a’s hidden identity felt almost irrelevant to the actual story though ultimately it does play a bigger role.
Eona has been living as a boy, Eon, for years, training to become an apprentice dragoneye. Dragon magic is considered only appropriate for males, automatically making her unqualified for the role. But her master recognizes her unique skill of being able to see eleven dragons of the twelve dragons at will (the twelfth dragon has been missing for five hundred years), which is a nearly unheard of skill. For this reason he goes through the trouble of training her and keeping her identity a secret.
A part of me is disappointed that Eon/a’s identity was revealed so early on in the series (though I’m not sure there’s supposed to be more than two books so I guess it wouldn’t be a big deal). I think what I kind of wished for was to see Eon/a’s story before she was chosen as a Dragoneye so we could see how she got to be the person she was. Even without that, there were a lot of interesting characters and I’m particularly excited to see how Eona’s relationship with the Prince turned Emperor turns out.
While the opening was slow, the story found itself about halfway through. I’m hoping that book two will be exciting and engaging from the start now that all of the introduction is out of the way. So while this book is anything but a favorite, it is good enough to keep reading. I will say, that in a way, it felt like reading about Mulan.