Thursday, 11 June 2015



Book Title: Eon
Author: Alison Goodman
Series: Eon #1
Date Started: May 31st 2015
Date Completed: June 11th 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Adventure
Quality Rating: Five Stars
Enjoyment Rating: Four Stars
Final Rating: Five stars

Eon is an oriental high fantasy with an awesome take on feminism - and dragons. Though a more patient reader is probably needed for the typical high fantasy world building and politics, the gradual pace is entirely worth it by the end.

I really enjoyed Goodman's writing style; she has a way of writing very subtly, dropping hints to the reader that aren't hidden but just not immediately noticeable, that can be incredibly revealing about the plot and characters. Looking back I can see several things foreshadowed that I didn't notice at the time. In addition, there's some nice description, particularly of the traditional ceremonies, and a good balance between internal monologue, dialogue and action. The problem I sometimes have with first person narratives is the overpoweringly forced perspective that the author doesn't necessarily notice as giving a closed portrayal of the world. But Goodman created a nice balance between holding information back and allowing us to be lost within the world.
The world building itself was one of the most impressive things about Eon in my opinion. Goodman wasn't at all afraid to take her time to explain the chinese-esque culture to get the atmosphere just right for the scenes. Despite not being too aware of the oriental culture Eon's universe is inspired from, I was able to understand the tragicness and insulting nature of some events from the character's perspectives. It's quite a while before the first twist of the novel happens, but we aren't given an unnecessarily long narrative waffling on about the protagonist's conflicted nervousness; we're allowed to build up the basis of our knowledge that develops the entire world - something quite important as the story is so heavily focused on the culture and traditions of this fictional universe.

Eon has some of the best diversity I've seen in a novel to date. While there's a huge range of characters with varying genders and backgrounds that are all included in the narrative well, we get a great mixture of good people that go bad things, and bad people that do good things - twisted morals and personal goals and friendly personalities are all shown in different ways to create a very realistic pool of characters for the story to play out. The culture is also exaggerated by this, as certain traditions - that to a modern reader might feel slightly theatrical or unnecssary - influence the people to the point where theyare portrayed in a slightly different light to reveal things about their hidden objectives.
The feminism in Eon also impressed me, as it was shown with a proud dignity throughout the whole story without having to declare the success or ability of women. The female characters were shown as powerful and intelligent and capable and complex honestly and naturally - there is no denying that Rilla reimains strong despite being a female slave for years; Lady Dela is honest, gracious and shameless for her power despite being a transgender woman; and Eon is talented, clever and brave whether she is known as Lord Eon or Eona. Goodman's approach to transgender issues and eunuchs also added to the quality and diversity of the novel; they were included and dealt with in sensitive but honest ways without taking away from the core plot line.
The one criticism I have story-wise is that the climax came almost as a surprise to me because of the slow pacing: it felt quite a way off that any action was going to happen, so I wasn't quite focused on what happened immediately once the fighting began. I also have to say the resolution left me a little unhappy, since we're still left with so many questions unanswered - however I can see that the story has to solve its cliffhanger, and have faith in Goodman to be able to do it well in the sequel.

There's a great range of characters in Eon, and all of them develop in some way or another. The balance between genders was something else that I noticed: even in books encouraging equality and diversity in gender, there's usually one sex still dominant, but Goodman offers a good variety to her world to even the sides.
Eon was a brilliant protagonist. Though I perhaps didn't personally relate to her as much as I have to other characters in the past, the way Goodman takes us through her story ensures that we root for her. But even on top of that, Eon as a person herself is likeable: while disadvantaged in many ways, she takes her responsibilities very seriously, and strives for what's right as well as safe for herself and her friends. She's disguised as a girl, but there's an awful lot of freedom in her character; there's no overpowering and unnecessary narrative of her complaining about not being able to dress up or even feel conflicted over romances - she's had to hide herself to save her life, and that's her priority. It's incredibly refreshing for her to be comfortable in that necessary and logical choice.
Lady Dela was an amazing character for me, not least because I think she's the first transgender character I've come across in fantasy (that springs immediately to mind). While Goodman explored a interesting perspective on this in a world that doesn't offer ways to biologically alter a person's gender, and is still full of prejudice against such things, what I loved even more was her ability to create Lady Dela as her own character aside from this feature. Obviously, it's an important part of who she is, but Lady Dela also acts as a vital advisor and friend in Eon's story.
Ryko's personality surprised me at times since at first glance he seems to fill the typical brawny, assertive male; yet he has a much deeper sense of morals and loyalty, that we only glance a few times. I can tell he's going to become even more key to the story in the sequel, and we'll hopefully discover a little more about him and his development there. Similarly, Prince Kygo was featured a lot less than I first thought on his introduction. However, as the heir to the throne, he obviously plays a key part in the story, and one that will undoubtedly be central in the next book. The standout thing for Kygo was his focus on his imperial duty - and lack of much daydreaming on other things. It's not often you get a royal main character that doesn't at some point get distracted from their duty by something (whether it be love, betrayal, just general recklessness), and having Kygo act so loyally (sometimes to the point of negative impact) was really nice to read about and made him a much more original character.

As is typical of high fantasy stories, Goodman's novel has a much slower pace than others in the genre. While I know some people struggle with world and politics-heavy plots, Eon's story develops importantly through its connections to these things and without them the book wouldn't be nearly as interesting. So the length and world building might make it a little longer to read, but it's definitely worth while in the end.

Eon was fantastic and should be far more well known that it currently is. Readers who love beautiful, vibrant, culturally-detailed worlds and high-fantasy with political aspects will love this book, but anyone in need of a heroine who doesn't have to be kick ass or sarcastic to win the reader's approval should absolutely pick this up. 

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