Eon has been training for years for his chance to be chosen as Dragoneye. Every year several boys compete for this honor. You only get one chance to present yourself to the dragon, if you are chosen you are taken to the palace to train as an apprentice to one of the twelve energy dragons. These dragons are the power source of the land and work with their human link for the safety of the kingdom. There is no greater honor or more difficult burden than to be a Dragoneye. Eon is desperate to be chosen. He is the last hope for his Master, who has spent his entire fortune preparing for this chance. Of course, all is not as it seems and Eon has a rather dangerous secret. He is actually Eona, a 16 year old girl! She and her master are playing a very dangerous game because it is forbidden for females to become Dragoneyes. If they are found out they will be put to death.
This book is deeply influenced by Japanese and Chinese history, although it is not set in either of those countries. Goodman has taken aspects of honor, mysticism, and societal constructs and used those influences to create an imaginary country named The Empire of the Celestial Dragons.
The author has created an amazingly rich and well-developed mythology. The reader is totally immersed in a world that is unlike the vast majority of fantasy making it stand out in a crowded genre. Eona is a compelling heroine and luckily she is matched by interesting secondary characters, especially those that become her allies. There is intrigue, there is drama, there is an evil Lord that wants to rule the kingdom. It is exciting stuff.
However, the author tends to get bogged down in the narrative and there are parts where the plot slows down to a standstill. After the book is set up there is this long interval where Eona is lost in inner struggle and these parts drag. There were also some overly contrived plot points that led to this inner struggle lasting much longer than it should have. One situation in particular has Eona finding an important document that will reveal integral information to her. However, she doesn’t recognize the characters on the page because she’s never seen the language before…except that she actually just saw it a few pages earlier. Waiting for her to put this information together was painful (and to be honest more than a bit boring).
Now, I must say once Eona pieces everything together and the action gets going it makes for utterly thrilling reading. The ending in particular was non-stop, heart in your mouth action. Too bad there was that long, draggy middle part in between the beginning and the end.