Eona is the second half of a fantasy duology by Alison Goodman and was on the New York Times Bestseller List. The first book, Eon, has also been published under the titles Eon: Dragoneye Reborn, Eon: Rise of the Dragoneye, and The Two Pearls of Wisdom. Likewise, Eona has several different titles depending on which part of the world it is in and has also been released as Eona: Return of the Dragoneye and The Necklace of the Gods. These books have also been marketed for both YA and adult readers depending on the publisher/country.
While Eona is supposed to work as a stand alone novel and contains the major details from the previous book in infodump form on occasion, I’d recommend reading Eon first. Eon will give more background on events important to the second book and is a decent book on its own, although I do think Eona is the stronger book. Since this is a sequel, this review will contain spoilers for the first book starting immediately. To read more about the Eon, go here to read the review.
If you have read the first book or don’t mind having the end of book one spoiled, read on!
Eona picks up shortly after the end of Eon. Eona has revealed her true identity as a woman to members of the resistance, and Ryko is near death. Since Eona was able to heal both herself and Lord Ido with the help of the Mirror Dragon, Lady Dela is convinced that Eona can save Ryko. Eona is hesitant to try since she’s still untrained and doesn’t know what will happen, especially considering the fact that calling her dragon has been difficult. Ever since ten of the dragons lost their Dragoneyes, they have attacked Eona and the Mirror Dragon when they are together. However, Lady Dela is very convincing and Eona feels she owes it to Ryko to at least try to save his life. She barely manages to with a little bit of surprise help from Lord Ido, but not without consequences for both others around her at the time and Ryko himself.
The effort of healing Ryko knocks Eona unconscious for a couple of days, and when she awakens they are on the way to find Kygo, the true emperor. They find him, but once he is informed of the ill fate of his mother and brother, he goes into a killing rage. Most people are afraid he’ll die himself, but are too afraid of laying a hand against the heavenly master himself to stop him. Fortunately, Eona has no such qualms and steps into the fight with her swords, only to discover her ancestor Kinra seems to have put a treasonous compulsion on them that makes her want to kill the emperor. Eona does what she can to remove these urges (such as not carrying her swords or her ancestral plaque anymore), but she has to get Lady Dela to try harder to decipher the contents of Kinra’s book to find out just what happened all those years ago and why. Once they retrieve Lord Ido, the only person who can help her learn about being a dragoneye, she has to figure out if he has really changed and can be trusted. As she becomes closer to Kygo, she also has to decide whether or not she trusts him – does he really care about her or does he just want to be near her because she’s the Mirror Dragoneye and thus his only hope of regaining his throne?
While I enjoyed Eon enough that I found it difficult to put down, I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as I wanted to, mainly because I never really connected with Eona as a character. Yet, I enjoyed it enough to pick up the sequel soon after reading it, especially after hearing it was better than the first book. I was so glad I did because I had a different experience and I absolutely loved Eona, both the novel and the titular character. It was one of those books that I couldn’t put down and couldn’t stop thinking about when life did force me to put it down. It kept me up until 3 AM one morning because I just had to know how it ended. Most of all, reading it made me just as happy as all my previous favorite young adult fantasy books so it gets to join their ranks (those books are Fire by Kristin Cashore, Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor, and The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner, in case you’re curious).
What made this one stand out more than its predecessor to me was that the characters had more complexity, mainly because they had to act in challenging situations. The world has already been set up, and now Eona has so much to deal with and so much that tests her as a human being. She now has to adjust with life as a woman and being treated as a female, but she’s behaved like a man for so long that she doesn’t know how to behave any other way. The world Eona lives in is very patriarchal, but it’s not a society she understands since she never really got to be a female. When she played the part of a man, that included not being passive and taking what was hers and now she doesn’t know how to do anything else. Also, she is in a rather high position as the most powerful woman in the empire, both as Mirror Dragoneye (the first one in about 500 years) and an adviser to Emperor Kygo. In spite of this, Eona is in a tough spot. She may appear powerful, but if she can’t learn to master her Dragoneye abilities, she’s not actually that useful to Kygo. Plus she’s often put in a tight spot where she has to decide whether it’s right to use her power or not.
Others have trouble trusting Eona as well because she did lie to them about being a man in order to attain her status as a Dragoneye. Some of them don’t care that her master made her do it or that she then had to keep up the pretense or be sentenced to death. She understands that and tries to be truthful – but she isn’t always. Eona still has fears and if she feels it’s necessary to her survival to withhold some information, she does. This isn’t to say she lies about everything because she really doesn’t and tries not to – she only does when the consequences terrify her. It made sense to me when she struggled with the truth, and I liked her all the better for it. She didn’t always do what a “noble” character would do, but she also didn’t go out of her way to hide the truth or take doing so lightly. While she had a conscience and was very merciful and kind, she also didn’t tell the whole truth if it seemed like it could lead to trouble.
Eona is not the only character I felt had improved a lot from the first book. In Eon, I felt Lord Ido was a rather one-dimensional villain, but in this book his character was much improved. His motives were murkier as well as just how much he had changed since Eona healed him in the last book. He seemed more like a practical person in this one – he did what was best for him, but he never seemed to go out of his way to be evil just because he was a big, bad villain. If it was in his best interests to do something, he’d do it. His matter-of-fact attitude, the way he actually made sense when telling Eona about how power worked, and the fact that he got all the best lines actually made him rather likable. To my surprise, I found myself wanting to believe he had changed just as much as Eona did.
There’s also more about Kygo in this book, and his own dilemmas over being a good person like his father would have wanted him to be and doing what it took to regain his throne. Eona comes caught between him and Ido, both of whom seem trustworthy at times and do not at other times. It never quite seemed like a love triangle to me, though, because there was never any doubt in my mind which one of the two she actually cared about. I was just a little bit disappointed to be proven right and have the end make it seem simpler than it did throughout the rest of the book.
The end does also wrap up the mystery of the past, such as why Kinra was so eager to dispose of the emperor and how the dragons and Dragoneyes came to work together. It’s mostly satisfying, but I would have liked just a little more detail on the sudden disappearance of the female Dragoneyes and how that was handled so that it was essentially removed from historical knowledge.
While I enjoyed Eon, I felt Eona was a big improvement mainly because it was more complicated. The problems Eona had to face allowed her to shine as she struggled with who could be trusted as well as the right thing to do versus the smart thing to do. Likewise, the other characters had more complexity, although I did end it feeling like it was less complex than I’d been hoping for. There was also more revealed about the mysteries of the dragon and Dragoneye relationship, and overall it was an excellent conclusion to the story.
My Rating: 9/10
Where I got my reading copy: Review copy from the publisher.
Reviews of other books in this series:
Other Reviews of Eona: