Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Review: Magonia - Maria Dahvana Headley

Release Date: April 28, 2015
Source: Edelweiss
Published by: HarperCollins

Magonia - Maria Dahvana Headley | Goodreads

Maria Dahvana Headley's soaring YA debut is a fiercely intelligent, multilayered fantasy where Neil Gaiman's Stardust meets John Green'sThe Fault in Our Stars in a story about a girl caught between two worlds . . . two races . . . and two destinies.

Aza Ray Boyle 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—but as she navigates her new life, she discovers that war between Magonia and Earth is coming. In Aza's hands lies fate of the whole of humanity—including the boy who loves her. Where do her loyalties lie?

You can see my original thoughts on this book in this post.

Magonia is different from most YA (urban) fantasies when you consider how the story is told: through alternating first person present perspectives. Both the voices of Asa and Jason, the main characters, feel fresh -- I know, this is a common compliment for any story with a hint of contemporary realism, but I can't tell you how many novels where I've learned about random facts from the teenager MCs. Probably very few aside from Magonia. These two characters have the super intelligence that reminds me of a John Green novel; they're fascinated with knowledge and their banter is witty to boot, though they still feel realistic and down-to-earth, probably because of Asa's sickness and impending death. Both voices also have their own self-deprecating and quirky humor to liven the story, which is much appreciated with a storyline that, at least as a subplot, focuses on the main character's sickness. The writing complements the character voices because the story is told in a lyrical, easy to read style that matches Aza and Jason's quirks, and the intricacies of their friendship-maybe-romance.

Although this story is more a blend of contemporary realism and elements of high fantasy than urban fantasy, I have still dubbed it YA urban fantasy because there are pockets of the fantastical intruding upon on the real; and the plotline reminds me a lot of The Mortal Instruments in that sense, where things are not quite what they seem and the MC will have to charge through to understand her unique powers and destiny in a whole new world even while we still get to see *our* world. The very sick storyline and the self-deprecating and quirky humor remind me of The Fault in Our Stars as well as the nature of Aza and Jason's characters and their romance, which the blurb hints at. I haven't read anything by Neil Gaiman yet, so I can't comment on that comparison, but I've heard about Stardust as a film, and I'd agree that this book would look as visually stunning on film as it is to read aloud. This is, in part, due to the original world that Maria Headley has created.

If you've ever been tired of the same concepts being used (e.g. retellings of the same story, like Beauty and the Beast, without editing much of it; or paranormal creatures without an extensive backstory), Magonia is your novel. Magonia is based off a French Medieval myth about sky sailors. There are a lot of medieval myths about hybrid creatures, so there are a lot of new creatures that you'll get to read about in Magonia, too, as Maria Headley has her fun creating them. It's a really awesome world to get to picture, full of song and sky pirates and creatures like sky sharks, all of which, as I said earlier, would make for a rather cinematic movie. So, ask yourself this question: does sky pirates + lyrical writing + the plotting of Mortal Instruments/a YA urban fantasy novel + the sick storyline, humor, and intelligent, quirky characters of The Fault in Our Stars appeal to you? If yes, check out Magonia ASAP.


  1. Love your review! I've had my eye out for this one for quite some time. I think it's awesome that the author used lesser-known myths to base her story on - sky-sailors sound rather intriguing!

  2. I saw that initial review on GR and was so bummed that you didn't like it. I'm glad it turns out that your mood was somewhat affecting your review and that you did like it - at least enough. This one has been high on my tbr and I'm looking forward to reading it next month.

  3. This book sounds really interesting! This book does sound pretty interesting. I kind of enjoyed the humor that was winding throughout The Fault in Our Stars so I may have to give this one a read because of the way that you've explained the book as a whole. I definitely love mythical creatures which makes me want to pick this one up even more. I'm glad to see that you found this one alright. Thank you for the review. :)

    Krystianna @ Downright Dystopian

  4. How have I not pre-ordered this yet!? Great review! Everything you said makes me love it already: quirky banter, smart characters, Gaimanesque fantasy settings (by the way, read Neil Gaiman! Do it now!), solid world building. I'll even forgive it the alternating first person (which is always hit or miss for me). Going to Amazon now...


    Sarcasm & Lemons

  5. I'm really looking forward to this. Friendship maybe romance? Yes, love that. Plot like Mortal Instruments? Yes, love that. Self-deprecating and quirky humor? Yes, love that. You've made me so excited! Great review. ~Pam

  6. That sounds awesome. I love both Stardust and TFIOS, so those comparisons make me really want to pick this up. The story seems to stand on its own as well; lyrical and witty writing + unique worldbuilding is just my thing.

  7. I did like it :). I did indeed have higher expectations because I read a review that suggested it was "the most original" book this experienced reader had read... and well, I didn't have that experience, but that's not to say I didn't have a good one either.

    I hope you enjoy Magonia when you read it next month :D :D

  8. Oh, yay, Krystianna! I hope you enjoy Magonia. The characters do have that TFIOS quirky humor, but I'd definitely Magonia still has its own brand as well. :) enjoy!

  9. Ha, I do have Stardust. I bought that once at the Strand. I'll read ... eventually. Yeah, alternating first person... Most of my favorite books aren't with that. Maybe that is a miss for me in general? hm. Thanks for bringing that up!

  10. Pam, you should definitely try this. Cassandra Clare is one of your favorite authors right? This popping in and out of the realistic world + Magonia definitely reminds me of TMI and some other elements too. I hope you enjoy the book :)

  11. Yay, Brunca! I hope you enjoy the book :). It does have a really good way about its marketing, with TFIOS and Stardust, and then its own lyrical, witty writing and unique world-building. Also, do you have a blog I can visit? I've just finished replying to comments here and am going to be visiting blogs real soon.

  12. Hi! I do have a blog! It's http://brunawrites.tumblr.com


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