Review of Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley

By: Maria Dahvana Headley
Release Date: April 28th 2015
Publisher: HarperCollins
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

A copy of this book was provided in exchange for an honest review.

Aza Ray is drowning in thin air.

Since she was a baby, Aza has suffered from a mysterious lung disease that makes it ever harder for her to breathe, to speak—to live.

So when Aza catches a glimpse of a ship in the sky, her family chalks it up to a cruel side effect of her medication. But Aza doesn’t think this is a hallucination. She can hear someone on the ship calling her name.

Only her best friend, Jason, listens. Jason, who’s always been there. Jason, for whom she might have more-than-friendly feelings. But before Aza can consider that thrilling idea, something goes terribly wrong. Aza is lost to our world—and found, by another. Magonia.

Above the clouds, in a land of trading ships, Aza is not the weak and dying thing she was. In Magonia, she can breathe for the first time. Better, she has immense power—and as she navigates her new life, she discovers that war is coming. Magonia and Earth are on the cusp of a reckoning. And in Aza’s hands lies the fate of the whole of humanity—including the boy who loves her. Where do her loyalties lie?

My Thoughts:
I saw that beautiful cover and that tag line by Mr. Neil Gaiman and was sold on wanting (needing) to read Magonia. Gaiman wrote, “she writes like a dream” and I’ll say he was spot on. Immediately upon starting this book I was impressed by Headley’s writing style. Her main character, Aza, has such a unique voice. She is cynical, maybe a bit bitter (?) yet completely likeable in her manner of handling all the problems she’s been thrown–and wow what a problem she had.

I can confidently say that until reading this book I’d never considered how it would feel to be suffocating. Through Headley’s writing I felt short of breath and really could understand Aza and her viewpoint. It was beautifully done, elegant, heart-breaking but not so melancholy I didn’t want to read it.

Magonia flip flops between Aza and Jason (the best friend). I really loved both of these characters but I think I enjoyed reading from Jason’s view a tiny bit more (this became true even more as the novel progressed). I loved the workings of his mind and how he had strange tics that set him apart from any other character I’ve read. Also, he deals with something mid-way through the book that I recently experienced in my own way so I was very emotionally impacted by his POV.

I completely and utterly loved the first third of this book. I really can’t think of how Headley could have created a stronger start for me. I was mesmerized by her prose, descriptions and story. There came a moment…a big moment, where the story location changed and our main character became aware of her true nature. Once this took place my adoration lagged a bit.

The descriptions of Magonia (the place) and the sky-ships were vivid and I could very clearly imagine what was occurring but certain things, though inventive, seemed a bit on the cheesy side for me. I sort of loved it but at the same time I didn’t. That’s completely unclear I know. This book was just so delightfully strange I can’t help but love it to some degree but at the same time I wasn’t nearly as into the middle to end of the novel.

Though the people of Magonia are described well I wasn’t able to emotionally connect to them (or their plight) as well as I would have liked either. We don’t get a whole lot of information about them beyond the face value since they are all side characters. As for the romantic element- it was very slight but I could see the makings of a possible love triangle. Though, I can’t really say since who knows where the series will go next.

Even though I had a few problems this book was so unique, creative and just plain strange. It held my interest without fail. I think this one will be incredible for some readers and others might struggle with just how strange it is. For me, I think I loved it. Reading it felt like opening my mind which is always a plus.

Back to the strange elements…I wish I could go into detail about the birds, the sharks, the clouds, the UFOs referenced from history but that might spoil your reading experience.

Final Thoughts:
As time passes and I think back on this book (that is still very much part of my brain) I am convinced I enjoyed it even more upon reflection. I am convinced I’ll be rereading it at some point (not that long from now I suspect). It’s the type of book you can escape into because Headley’s descriptions and imagination are immensely unique.


    • says

      This one has grown on me with the more time that passes since I read it. It’s an odd but really creative and pretty amazing book. I hope you like it!

  1. says

    Gorgeous review Kristen. <3 Aw, I'm glad you think you loved this book 😀 It do look so gorgeous. Sigh. But I won't be buying it :\ Think it might be too strange for me, hah 🙂 And you think there might maybe be a love triangle in the future? Ugh. Then it will probably be so.. how mean. Not for me 😀 But fingers crossed there won't be, and that you will love book two. <3 Thank you for sharing sweetie 🙂

    • says

      I think this one will be too strange for some readers. I don’t really know if a love triangle will develop or not. The author surprised me multiple times in this book so there is no telling! haha

  2. says

    This is another one of my pedestal books! I’ll be reading in next month I think? Anyway sometimes I enjoy he strange so I’m kinda looking forward to it. I have an inkling of what it is already but we shall see. That cover just kills me too!
    Loved your review!

  3. says

    I’ve heard very good things about the book’s writing and how original it is. I’m excited to see for myself! I’ll just have to keep my fingers crossed that the author steers clear of a love triangle. 🙂
    Great review, Kristen! Glad to see you liked this for the most part.

  4. says

    I’ve been weary of this one. While I love the awesome premise, I’ve always been unsure of whether or not my attention could be held. I have the shortest attention span nowadays and things bore me so easily! BUT you were so engaged throughout the whole book so that’s one worry lifted!

    BUAHAHAHA cheesy inventions! I think I’ll have the same problem as you, Kristen! Some things I can just never connect too. While I love a bit of prose and I love the sound of the world building being vivid, when the imagination runs a little too wild, I tend to disconnect!

    I’m so curious about how I’ll take this one. Buttt hey, beautiful review, Kristen! <3 x

    • says

      I have no clue what you’ll end up thinking about it. I think you’ll feel like I did and love the beginning. It was very engaging and heartfelt. The middle to end got a bit strange for me (there’s that word again! haha). I can’t wait to hear what you think Jess. You must DM me if/when you read it. I think opinions on this one will be all over the place.

    • says

      I really hope to love the sequel too! I cant’ wait to see where she’ll take things because I’m not sure she’ll be predictable at all.

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