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?
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.
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.