The Two Pearls of Wisdom by Alison Goodman
(aka Eon: Rise of The Dragoneye and Eon: The Dragoneye Reborn)
Paperback published by Bantam May 2009
Review by Bridie Roman
Eon is training with the hopes of becoming a Dragoneye, one of the most powerful people in the whole of the empire, able to command the elements to care for the land they live in. However, Eon and his ambitious master’s chances are slim, for Eon is not only a cripple but also holds a secret that would mean the death of him and all those around him if it were revealed. Caught up in the swirling intrigue of the imperial court and brought to the attention of the Emperor himself, Eon finds himself in a world in which his life is in danger and the fate of so many others is on his shoulders.
The Two Pearls has an oriental setting, which is a refreshing break from the typical medieval setting of most epic fantasy novels and will definitely attract fans of Lian Hearn’s Tales of the Otori. But where Hearn’s books are about larger open conflicts, using large armies, The Two Pearls is about conflict on a smaller scale, using courtly intrigue and covert uses of power. Combine this unusual setting with a plot that keeps you guessing and you are left with one entertaining read.
In an attempt to dispel any confusion I must point out that The Two Pearls of Wisdom is also published as Eon: Rise of The Dragoneye in the
Goodman’s strength in this book is the pace; where some writers would choose to show more of Eon’s training process and lessons, she has chosen to start the story the day before the ceremony in which the next Dragoneye apprentice is picked and this is something that she sticks with throughout the book. A lot of this choice may be due to the fact that Eon is forced to discover a lot of things on his own and so there is no need to show the lesson he attends but the action is always there. There are few moments in the book where there is little going on; the continual action forces you not only to read on but to pay attention. In a lot of books like this you might feel that you are missing out – that it is going too fast, but when I read this I felt that there was a good balance of action with information so it wasn’t a rough ride – it was smooth.
The characters in this book are as intriguing as the plot and Eon is definitely the star of the show. Left powerless and isolated in the court of the emperor, he struggles with his identity as well as his situation but never gives up. His allies are definitely a force to be reckoned with – from the eunuch body guard Ryko, whose past is a bit murky, to the person he guards; Lady Dela who, like Eon, isn’t quite what she seems. The Bad Guys are bad and the Good Guys are good, but those readers who are fans of enigmatic characters won’t be let down – towards the end a twist will shock your perceptions of certain characters.
I can’t find any major weaknesses with this book, except that sometimes the writing seems a tad clumsy but I have a feeling Goodman’s writing will improve with experience. The deus ex machina towards the end of the book may disappoint some, but it is a fairly common plot device and so may be more palatable for others.
I can see this becoming a popular book in the future, along the lines of Lian Hearn’s books but only time will tell. My bet is that this book and the sequel, due out next year, will be increasingly liked, especially by those with a yearning for tales of the Orient.
*Bridie Roman is the latest recruit to the SFFWorld reviewing team, and proud to be so. She is coming up for 17 and lives in the
Review by Bridie Roman June 09