ARC Book Review: Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley

Posted April 27, 2015 by Debby in Book Reviews

I received this book for free from Publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!! This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

ARC Book Review: Magonia by Maria Dahvana HeadleyMagonia by Maria Dahvana Headley
Series: Magonia #1
Published by Harper on April 28th, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss

Neil Gaiman’s Stardust meets John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars in this fantasy about a girl caught between two worlds... two races…and two destinies.

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?

3 Stars

As soon as I saw the cover of Magonia, I was convinced I had to read it. I mean, we all know that I’m shallow as fuck when it comes to book covers, but add in that blurb by none other than Neil Gaiman??? Get in my hands now. This book is something completely unexpected. I started out loving it, but was left with quite a few quibbles at the end.

I usually do not care at all for comparison pitches, but believe me when I say that The Fault in Our Stars meets Stardust” is probably the most perfect pitch for Magonia ever. This book has a clear split in two parts. The first resembles The Fault in Our Stars. The main character, Aza, has a mysterious life-threatening condition, and she’s basically a medical marvel. She probably should have died a long time ago, and yet here she stands. This part reads like a contemporary “sick lit” book and it captures an absolutely stunning and unique voice. Aza is sassy, snarky, and has a really unique view on the world. Her voice is almost like a stream of consciousness, but one that completely absorbed me into her mind.

Part of the story is also told from the point of view of her best friend – Jason. Jason also has a unique voice, because he has some form of autism and/or OCD. And he’s wonderfully geeky – he recites pi, knows ten million facts about everything, and has a general obsession with knowledge. The relationship between Aza and Jason was absolutely adorable. They gave me so many feels, because they were these two unique characters who are only really understood by each other. And they’re shy and introverted, so while there’s some chemistry maybe lurking around, they have yet to act on those feelings. They’re just GREAT friends.

So obviously, in this first half of the book, I was completely absorbed. I loved the characters, the writing, and this budding potential ship that could completely assault my feels. (And trust me, there were nearly some tears at a certain point there.) But then the book shifts to the urban fantasy aspect. As the synopsis indicates, Aza is not exactly sick, but she’s from another land – Magonia, the land of sky ships, bird people, and magical songs. Headley obviously has imagination out the wazzoo – a lot of this was stuff I’d NEVER seen before, and it was really interesting. But it was also really weird.

I think the weirdness quotient is where this book will really divide readers. Because you can either accept this vivid creative world, or you’re stuck raising your eyebrows and asking yourself what the fuck is happening. I have to say that I cringed a little at the birds living in the chest cavities of Magonians. I couldn’t really picture what the Magonians or the bird people looked like. I was a bit exasperated by Aza’s “chosen one” status, and how she never asked enough questions to find out what was going on. I didn’t understand the injection of an almost love triangle, and that kind of knocked down my shippy feels. And magical singing powers? Really?

However, much of that I could probably have excused if it wasn’t for the fact that Aza’s unique, sarcastic, cynical voice seemed to kind of disappear. On the one hand, I can kind of understand that: she’s in a completely new world, trying to figure out who she is, and obviously the rules and ways of Earth don’t apply to her anymore. Her ill health which she used as armor was also no longer applicable. But I lost the connection to her character – her stream of consciousness – and that did make me feel bored at times and more critical of the fantasy aspects that I maybe could have excused otherwise. As it was, I found the story just a bit too far-fetched. And especially because the fantasy aspect was only about half of the novel and this is a standalone, I found the conflict and overall execution a bit rushed. (EDIT: Apparently it’s a series. So. Thanks for that surprise.)

Summing Up:

Magonia is one of the most unique and creative books I’ve ever read – for sure. But it’s also one that I think will be pretty polarizing for readers. The weirdness and the genre switching will either work for you, or it won’t. I absolutely adored the contemporary “sick lit” part, particularly because I fell in love with the characters and their charming voices, but the fantasy part just left me puzzled. So in the end, I’m left in the middle. But this was an entertaining read, for sure, and not one I regret spending my time on. I’d actually be quite interested to read more from Headley if she can deliver stunning voices like these.

GIF it to me straight!

Recommended To:

Readers in the mood for gripping voices and brilliantly unique fantasy.

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3 responses to “ARC Book Review: Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley

  1. I completely agree! I LOVED the first half. I couldn’t put the book down and I cried. It was so beautiful and strange. I adored both characters POV and just <3 But that second half had me a bit meh and it did take me some time to let myself go there. The sharks and some of the other visuals were almost too weird/silly to me but regardless I really respect and love how strange, creative and imaginative it all is. I will SO read the next book and honestly, the longer it's been since I read the book the more I like it. Great review! That GIF is perfect.

    • Oh man I completely forgot to mention the SKY SHARKS in my review. Yeah, it was WEIRD and out there. Is it set that there will be a sequel though? I only heard a vague rumor that she’d been contracted for a second book but I can’t find anything about it anywhere.