A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this book gets very violent and gory near the end, though this violence takes place in a fantasy setting. Also, one major character is a eunuch and another is a transsexual, both of which are accepted in the fantasy culture of this story, as are the rigidly maintained gender roles. There's an attempted rape and references to menstruation and castration. Readers may be excited that this series starter has a female protagonist, and have fun comparing European- and
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What's the story?
Crippled Eon competes with 11 other 12-year-old boys to become the next Dragoneye apprentice. But Eon has a secret: she is not a 12-year-old boy, she is a 16-year-old girl. This year's competition is to bond with the Rat Dragon, and in this Eon fails. But to everyone's surprise, the Mirror Dragon, missing for 500 years, reappears and bonds with Eon. This throws her into the midst of political and military intrigue, as the Emperor's brother and the ascendant Dragoneye conspire to take over the kingdom, and Eon stands in their way.
Is it any good?
The good: This is an exciting story set in an original world based on Asian myths and customs, rather than the usual European ones. This gives everything, from the rules of magic to the political intrigue and caste protocols, a different flavor, and makes the whole thing seem fresh and new. Eon, rescued from the salt mines and used by everyone who knows her for their own purposes, is a fascinating character: a well-meaning girl whose entire life is based on lies and who is a danger to everyone she cares about.
The not-so-good: First, the plot is driven by the weakest device in the authorial bag of tricks: smart people behaving stupidly. It's just irritating to the reader when the main character keeps on making obvious mistakes. When readers can so easily see what's wrong and what's coming, they have to wonder why the character can't. Second, the last-minute conversion of one of the villains is not believable, even with magical intervention. And third, like so many fat fantasies, it sags in the middle -- some editorial tightening up would have been helpful. So the upshot is: it's fun and enjoyable, but could have been much better. It ends at a cliffhanger (another annoying author trick), so perhaps the sequel will be better done.
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