Anybody who’s read Alison Goodman’s The Two Pearls of Wisdom will know that her books are a little bit special. Not your traditional fantasy fare, Goodman’s first ‘Eona’ novel mixed dragons and danger with social, sexual and political commentary. More than just a pleasant romp in the reading world, The Two Pearls of Wisdom was a feat of fantasy literature that not only crossed boundaries, but made itself a tough act to follow.
In Goodman’s sequential instalment, we see Eona and Prince Kygo working to bring down the murderous usurper High Lord Sethon in a brutal battle of strategy and skill. However, for Eona to help Prince Kygo reclaim his rightful throne, she must bond with her dragon and learn to wield the power that comes with it. But as an untrained dragoneye, Eona lacks these skills and is forced to turn to the captured Lord Ido for tutelage, a devious and cunning man, who, even when in shackles, is devising dangerous plans of his own. Eona’s recently unveiled femininity serves only to complicate matters as she draws the attention of more than one powerful man, and she must learn the hard way the fickle but tempting nature of emotions.
The age-old dilemma of duty versus desire has never been more prevalent or compelling than it has here. Eona is a sympathetic but strong character and every one of her decisions - personal or otherwise – is weighted down by often unimaginable repercussions. Her inner conflicts, particularly in relation to Lord Ido and Prince Kygo are moving, not only as a result of Goodman’s elegant writing style but also because they are realistic and relatable. Despite all her power and prestige, Eona still struggles with her most basic desires and feelings, making for an engaging and accessible leading lady.
Because of this, the novel seems to serve primarily as a platform to expose Eona to the maximum possible effect. Her emotions, her body, her private and public lives, are all exposed and dissected for the reader to see. Goodman is ruthless in her persecution of her protagonist, thrusting Eona into the worst possible situations and revelling in her ability to conquer all of them.
The other characters are fleshed out a bit more here, with Lord Ido’s sly seduction proving as irresistible to the reader as it is to Eona. Prince Kygo plays up to his symbolic and regal status, working well enough as the rightful Emperor, though occasionally feeling a little dull as a result. The rift that quickly generates between Eona and Ryko, and the subsequent difficulties she encounters with Vida add texture to the ever-changing relationships within the group, keeping the narrative fluid and engaging.
As ever the dragons prove to be one of the best aspects of the book. Goodman’s superbly visual writing style envelopes you completely in the spirit world, where the beautiful, magical but terrifyingly powerful creatures of legend exist above and beyond the whims of humanity. When the ten bereft dragons come together the intensity of the moment transcends the pages to whisk you away (something that is completely exploited in the intense, climactic scene). We’ve all read about dragons before but I doubt any have been like this.
The Necklace of the Gods is well-written, well-structured and steadily paced, with Goodman deftly balancing the intimate character scenes with the heavier, action-laden ones. The final battle is brilliantly depicted and well worth the (admittedly short) wait.
A superbly gripping, emotional tale of love and loss, The Necklace of the Gods is the type of book that will make you seriously anti-social and not give a damn. Vivid, brutal, terrifying and absolutely fantastic, this is a few hours reading you’ll not quickly forget.
Review by Alice Wybrew
Alison Goodman was born in Melbourne and, after a bit of wandering, recently returned to live there. She was a D.J. O’Hearn Memorial Fellow at Melbourne University, holds a Masters degree and teaches creative writing at [...]
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