Review: Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley

Posted by Jessi (Geo) on May 15, 2015 | 2 Comments

Review: Magonia by Maria Dahvana HeadleyMagonia by Maria Dahvana Headley
Published by HarperTeen (4.28.2015)
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Format: eARC, 320 pages
Source: Edelweiss

3.5 Stars

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 still don’t fit. Heart half on earth, half in the clouds. I’m still different from everyone else. There’s still no place I belong.

It’s really hard to pin down exactly how I felt about Magonia. There were times when I was asking myself, “What the crap am I reading?” and times when I was actually enjoying it. This book was weird. Really weird. Sometimes good weird, sometimes bad. Sometimes farfetched. There were a lot of things that I just couldn’t picture because they didn’t seem feasible.

The first instance? The bird people. Literally. Bird. People. WTF? I mean, I can deal with a human with bird characteristics, but these were human sized birds. And maybe vaguely human shaped? I’m honestly not sure. I’m pretty sure the first one introduced was literally a human shaped bird, but then later on I was picturing some as humans with a beak and feathers. Like I said, I don’t really know…

The bird thing has a beakish nose and lips. It’s not a bird. It’s not human. It’s neither. It’s also both.
[…] The owl’s wearing clothes, but also has plumage. She’s covered in feathers and stripes. She has wings AND hands and she stretches her fingers out to me. She’s the size of a human, but wings, oh, definite wings, and she’s wearing a gray uniform with an insignia.

Awkward, no? (Are the feathers sticking out of the uniform?? Are her hands attached to her wings, or does she have arms?) And then later it said that the people were blue. So wait, some are blue and some are walking bird people? Or the walking bird people are blue?! And are the Rostrae like slaves or something? I didn’t really understand how they differed from Magonians.

The next was the batsail. Yes, literally again. A sail…that’s a bat. A giant bat. Strapped to the air ship. Hmmm. I mean, it’s definitely…interesting? Unique? But picturing it was a bit ah…difficult. (Because I was kind of picturing the bat from Neverending Story)

Then there’s the canwr’s. (Awkward name…) They lived inside the Magonian’s chests. In their lungs. By entering a door. In their chest. *stares* And the human skins…um. O_O Creepy?

The writing style was very interesting. It was kind of experimental, not following any real guidelines. I don’t really know how to describe it, but sometimes there was only one word – or on some occasions, one letter – per line in emotional scenes. Aza also had a very different voice. Quirky, almost. Despite her droning on in the beginning, it still managed to hold my interest.

There were a few things I feel were glossed over. Such as: despite all the talk of the Breath and building them up, it seemed like they had little to no appearance. Another one is, there was a mention of “burnt, broken places on the face of the earth” but not any mention of any kind of war, or deterioration of the world? I’m not really sure why the world is in such a bad state. I didn’t get any kind of dystopian/post-apocalyptic/futuristic vibes from this book at all. That was kind of out of left field. Why was the earth burnt and broken?

I should have liked Jason, but to be honest, he just seemed generic. A cookie-cutter nerdy-best-friend-that’s-secretly-in-love-with-the-main-character mold. Aza was a decent lead, though. She had flaws and doubts, but still had strengths.

I did really love the concept, though. There’s something exciting about sky ships! And a secret world in the sky? Pretty awesome! I definitely appreciate what Headley was trying to do. I think if it was a bit less farfetched I would have loved the book. (The squallwhales were cool, though. Basically flying whales that make rain. Interesting!)


Overall Assessment

Plot: 3.5/5
Premise: 5/5
Writing style: 4/5
Originality: 5/5
Characters: 3.5/5
World-building: 3.5/5
Pace: 3.5/5
Feels: 2/5
Cover: 4.5/5
Overall rating: 3.5/5

Jessi (Geo)

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2 responses to “Review: Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley

  1. The bird-people things definitely seem like the weirdest part of the story! Maybe I’ll understand what they are better if I read the book. I always like it better when you can visualise the fantasy creatures you’re reaing about.

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