Source: Borrowed from my local library.
Book Description from Google Books (modified):
For years, Eon has been studying sword-work and magic toward one end. He and his master hope that he will be chosen as a Dragoneye--an apprentice to one of the twelve energy dragons of good fortune.
But Eon has a dangerous secret. He is actually Eona, a sixteen-year-old girl who has been masquerading as a twelve-year-old boy. Females are forbidden to use Dragon Magic; if anyone discovers her secret, her death is assured.
It's the year for the Rat Dragon to choose an apprentice, but the Mirror Dragon--missing for 500 years--appears and also chooses one: Eon. Yet the connection was never properly completed and grows thinner by the day. The Emperor is counting on her power to hold off his ambitious brother who has the help of the charismatic leader of the Dragoneye council.
With so many people placing their hopes on her, Eon must find allies to guide her through the complicated court politics and help her discover how to truly connect to the power of the Mirror Dragon.
Eon is a YA fantasy novel that will appeal most to girls and women since most of the men are jerks or eunuchs (and Eona thinks in detail about her period). The world-building was excellent. It was based on Asian culture and had a zodiac energy-dragon magic system.
The characters were complex, varied, and engaging. I understand that Eona was blinded by cultural assumptions and I understand why she acted the way she did, but I was mildly exasperated by her ignoring all the signs that she was doing exactly the wrong thing (to prepare for an upcoming test of her power). At least when that failed in a big way, she quickly realized that many of her assumptions were wrong. She had courage and was honorable. I liked that she needed and gratefully accepted the help of others, but she wasn't a damsel in distress.
There was no bad language. Eona was twice threatened with rape (which went as far as forced kissing), but there was no sex. One main character was a cross-dresser (a person "with a man's body and a woman's spirit"). The magic was "fantasy magic" with a somewhat unique twist: the characters bond with their energy dragon and use the dragon's power to protect their land from natural disasters (floods, earthquakes, etc.).
Overall, I'd recommend this enjoyable fantasy novel.
If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.
Excerpt from Chapter One
I let the tips of both my swords dig into the sandy arena floor. It was the wrong move, but the dragging pain in my gut was pulling me into a crouch. I watched Swordmaster Ranne's bare feet shuffle forward, rebalancing his weight for a sweep cut. Training with him always made my innards cramp with fear, but this was different. This was the bleeding pain. Had I miscounted the moon days?
"What are you doing, boy?" he said.
I looked up. Ranne was standing poised, both of his swords ready for the elegant cross cut that could have taken my head. His hands tightened around the hilts. I knew he wanted to follow through and rid the school of the cripple. But he didn't dare.
"Are you spent already?" he demanded. "That third form was even worse than usual."
I shook my head, gritting my teeth against another clamping pain.
"It is nothing, Swordmaster." I carefully straightened, keeping my swords down.
Ranne relaxed his stance and stepped back. "You're not ready for the ceremony tomorrow," he said. "You'll never be ready. You can't even finish the approach sequence."