This author shows great promise, but ultimately the book fails to live up to its potential.
The reader will find plenty to love here: magic, martial arts, intrigue, fantastic costumes. The fantasy world is based loosely on both Chinese and Japanese imperial cultures as well as the Chinese zodiac. Even with other "dragon-human magic bond" tales out there (Eragon and the novels of Anne McCaffrey to name just two), this manages to be original. The dragons are not precious or personable, and they sometimes exact terrible prices from their human partners.
Unfortunately, the book itself is overweight and clumsy. The entire plot hinges on a mystery the reader will resolve in moments. The rest of the read is spent turning pages, thinking, "Eona is going to catch on any second now!" Sadly, she doesn't make connections until the end, and even then, secondary characters have to spell them out for her. The great plot twist has to do with the reason Eona's dragon has been absent from the human world for 500 years, and while it's a nice concept, it doesn't hold water. That these people would have simply lost the information Eona uncovers is ridiculous. Even if it was a case of government suppression, the truth would have been passed on somehow. It's simply too important, considering the dragon's immense power.
Ultimately big on gowns and low on action, this book limps on to its obvious conclusion. However, it shows enough promise that I wouldn't discount reading the sequel. I think teens who love world-building and escapist reading might like this book, if they are patient with it. I think that as a tool to spark interest in non-Anglocentric literature, it may work well.
Recommend to: Age 14+ (out-of-the-blue rape/infanticide scene), fantasy fans
Don't recommend to: Action lovers