Eon has a secret. She's one of the candidates to compete to be chosen as a Dragoneye apprentice. The twelve Dragoneyes are men bonded to energy dragons, each dragon associated with a Zodiac animal. They are granted great powers that they must use to protect the kingdom. Eon is the least likely to be chosen: a lame leg has made her an unlucky and physically weak cripple. The only reason she's allowed to compete is a rare ability to sense all twelve dragons - but she doesn't think that will be enough to recommend her to the dragon, especially with her secret. She's actually a girl, Eona.
Sure enough, when the day comes, the Rat Dragon passes over her in favor of another boy. Eona is heartbroken, until a miracle occurs: the lost dragon, the Mirror Dragon, that disappeared hundreds of years ago, appears and bonds with Eona.
So life should be great now, right? Enormous power and prestige as the first Mirror Dragoneye for as long as anyone can remember; fame and fortune are Eona's for the taking. But of course, life's never that simple. The current Rat Dragoneye is a cruel, ambitious man named Ido with dark plans for the Dragoneyes - and for Eon in particular. Her secret is getting harder and harder to hide as she struggles to keep up with the complex, dangerous game of politics that she doesn't understand. Civil war is brewing, and both sides would love to have the Mirror Dragoneye on their side. One wrong step can mean her death...
I apologize for the long summary - it was a long and complicated book. Anyways, overall, I liked it. The world building was fabulous - the Pearl Empire was China-inspired but still unique and interesting. The world building details made the story move kind of slow, but I was interested enough in learning more about the world that I didn't mind all that much.
I had only two things that turned me off a little: first, there are excessive amounts of eunuchs and discussions about becoming and being eunuchs. When I thought about it, it kind of made sense, given that part of the story is set in a royal harem and all. But still. Call me old-fashioned but I really don't want to read about that, okay? Mention it in passing and move on, please. Second, I really wish more time had been devoted to the dragons and the powers associated with them. But overall, it was an enjoyable read.
It was a little... expected, I guess the word would be. I mean, the basic plot's not exactly new. And frankly, I found the way in which Eona takes on the antagonist dumb. I won't spoil the resolution, but I didn't like it much at all.
I found the political intrigues much more interesting than the actual "action" plot. Overall, it was the world building and the characters that kept me reading... not the plot.
Eon was pretty cool, as a character. As a person, I don't think I would like her at all, but as a character, she was very interesting. I liked how she had to struggle to hide her femininity - too many girls just cut their hair and can miraculously pass as boys in YA literature, which I always found stupid - and how she had to work for, well, everything. Yes, she had a special dragon-seeing talent thing, but that didn't change the fact that she still had to work her butt off for anything and everything she wanted. And she still doesn't get everything she wants. I liked the side characters, too, particularly Ido. He was so hateable, which made him an excellent villain.
I also liked the characters' realistic reactions to things. When they find out Eon's secret, most of them get pissed. Some stop talking to her. One guy reacts violently. They don't just go, "Oh, gee, what a hard life you had. I'll just support you unconditionally from here on out." No, they react like people, and Eon has to earn back their respect. I liked that a lot.
I though Eon was decently written, and I thought the author did an excellent job of explaining and describing the "spirit world," which in my opinion is rarely well done. So, overall I enjoyed the writing.
End Result: four stars. A good book, definitely worth your time.