Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman
Eon is a candidate to become the next Rat Dragoneye, one of the highest ranking positions in the Empire. Eon is an unlikely candidate with his deformed hip which marks him as an untouchable. Despite this, his ability to see all of the dragons is unique and makes him worthy to be a candidate. Eon has learned all he can to prepare himself for the bonding with the dragon, memorizing complicated combat moves to be done in a pattern when approaching the dragon. But on the day of the selection the rules are changed and Eon faces a cruel teacher who is out to set an example for who should be allowed to be a candidate. Eon’s amazing adventure continues from there but I wouldn’t want to spoil a second of it for you.
Goodman has created a wonderful world built from both the Chinese and Japanese traditions with just enough of her own personal spin. Eon is a wonderfully complex character: broken, lonely, trapped but brave and skilled. Eon reminds me of the wonderful Miles Vorkosigan created by Lois McMaster Bujold, one of the greatest compliments I could give.
Goodman also excels at pacing, wonderfully playing intense battles against tense moments of anticipation. There is plenty of action and adventure here that improves the world building rather than detracting from it.
I consider this one of the best fantasy novels of 2008. The cover is vivid and colorful, only hinting at the delights that wait inside. Highly recommended for fantasy readers, this one will have you breathlessly awaiting the second in the series.