"Eon: Dragoneye Reborn" by Alison Goodman, Viking Children's Books, 544 pages, $19.99

Billed as the "next 'Eragon,'" Alison Goodman's "Eon: Dragoneye Reborn" story line is nothing like Christopher Paolini's popular series. And that's not a bad thing.

In a time when formulaic carbon copies are popping up all over, it's refreshing to find a new take on a fantasy favorite: dragons.

Twelve-year-old Eon is in training to become one of 12 Dragoneyes, the human link to an energy dragon's power. Because he was crippled by an accident some years earlier, Eon's instruction has been more arduous than that of the other boys in his Dragon Magic class. Unable to move quickly or without a heavy limp, no one expects him to be selected for such an important and honored position.

Eon, however, has a strong connection to the energy dragons. Through a series of strange and spectacular events, that connection vaults Eon to a position he never could have imagined.

Eon is hindered by his lame leg and a potentially deadly secret — that he is really a she named Eona.

Thrust into the world of imperial politics and the battle for control of the throne, Eona unwittingly makes a powerful enemy who will stop at nothing to get hold of the young Dragoneye's vast power. And on top of that, Eona struggles to connect with the mysterious Mirror Dragon, who had been missing for 500 years before making a sudden reappearance.

Placing her trust in some rather colorful and seemingly dangerous characters, Eona learns the truth behind the lesson, "You cannot gain the dragon's power without giving something valuable in return."

"Eon" draws upon the myths and traditions of ancient China, with each of the 12 dragons corresponding to the animals of the Chinese zodiac. As with the zodiac, each New Year a dragon comes forward, doubling its power for the next 12 months.

Though published by Viking Children's Books, a Penguin imprint, "Eon" will appeal to readers young and old, and it should be particularly appealing to young women looking for a strong female role model.

Like Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" books and Paolini's "Inheritance" series, Goodman successfully creates a familiar world and characters in which the reader immediately becomes invested.

"Eon" features all the elements of an epic tale — swordfighting, hidden identities, politics, mythology and intricacies of court. Though a fantasy tale, it is not explicit and falls along the lines of the books listed above. Goodman's fast-paced novel is full of tension and intrigue that will have readers salivating for its companion piece.

E-mail: jharrison@desnews.com