by Maria Dahvana Headley
Series: Magonia #1
Published: April 28, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Format: Hardcover (320 pages)
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?
Short and Sweet Version
I loved the sarcastic writing. The author experiments with formatting words on the page which I thought was cool. The world was fascinating and felt new, but the plot slowed down in the middle because the world building kind of took over at that point. It has a lovely ending and wonderful characters. This book is perfect for fans of unique and creative fantasy worlds.
Jessica Thinks Too Much Version
Mild spoilers ahead! This spoiler warning is for those very sensitive to any spoilers. Major spoilers look like this > View Spoiler »And then everyone dies!!! Why did you click this link if you haven’t read the book?! Just kidding. Anything about the ending will be hidden in links like this. « Hide Spoiler
Magonia has such wonderful, sarcastic writing. It’s dripping sarcasm like an ice cream cone on a hot day that oozes it’s fattening sarcastic goodness all over your fingers. Most of the sarcasm comes from the main character, Aza. Aza is understandably jaded about an incurable disease she’s had since birth that makes it extremely difficult for her to breath. She hates when people are trying to “fix” her life like she hasn’t tried everything. In this quote, she’s describing one of the things that people are sometimes saying to her.
Sometimes also what-about-faith-healers-what-about-herbs-what-about-crystals-what-about-yoga? Have you tried yoga, Aza, I mean have you, because it helped this friend of a friend who was supposedly dying but didn’t, due to downward dog?
The sarcasm worked so well because it was balanced out with reality. Since Aza is always on the verge of dying, the family copes with the constant threat of her death by having pre-written apologies to each other so they can all be on the same page in case she does actually die. What she labeled these apologies is beyond hilarious.
My mom has a written apology from me for the entire category of brutal sarcasm. [My brother] has one entitled Excessive Bitchiness, Hogging of Parental Attention by Repeatedly Being Sick Unto Death but Not Actually Dying, and Variant Category: Theft of Clothing.
The one to my dad runs more along the lines of Things I Wasn’t Very Interested In, Parts 1-36
I love how funny but real this is at the same time. I loved that she would be sorry for how sarcastic she was to her mom, for the neglect she unintentionally caused her brother, and for ignoring her dad about at least 36 things. SO funny! But also very touching as well.
The strong voice that Magonia is written in also made it a little difficult to read. Maybe an audiobook would help with that. Aza had a very disjointed thought process at the beginning. She seemed to jump randomly from one thought to the next. In real life, most people have thought processes that jump around a lot, too. The problem about reading someone else’s jumpy thought process is that it doesn’t make sense to me. On just one page she talked about how she got her name, the alphabet, E.T., bullets, and how her day sucked. Like WOW. Maybe they connect in her mind, but they did not connect at all in my mind. I had to slow down and re-read a lot just to get a handle on what she was even saying.
Despite the flaws, I really, really loved the writing. Maybe it’s because Aza’s voice sounds disturbingly like the sarcastic voice I have in my head (which I keep to myself because I generally like people). I just connected with her as a character. Aza loves random facts. I do too! I’m kind of a fan.
Something unique and creative about Magonia was how it experimented with formatting text. I can’t say that I loved it or anything, but it was interesting. The author had empty brackets with no words in a few places. In the context of the story, it represented the way there are some things words just can’t express. Like love.
Another experimental thing in the writing I liked was about Aza’s best friend, Jason. Jason likes to recite pi when he’s nervous. There are huge strings of numbers in the book sometimes. It worked and I found it endearing. The longer the number, the more freaked out he was. He also loved to read very obscure and ancient books like Kepler’s Dream: With the Full Text and Notes of Omnium, Sive Astronomia Lunaris which is basically a scientific novel defending Copernican theory that is dressed up as fantasy so the author wouldn’t get his head chopped off. I don’t know about you, but the fact that Jason reads such interesting books made him interesting to me, too.
The one thing I couldn’t stop thinking about Aza and Jason’s relationship was, “A bird may love a fish, signore, but where will they live?” which is from the movie Ever After. It describes the dilemma of their relationship so perfectly.
The world of Magonia comes from an ancient myth from the 1st century that tries to explain the weather. The myth says that sailors traveled in ships in the clouds and would cause storms so they could steal crops and feed themselves. That’s a very straight forward way to describe it. Here’s how Jason would describe the world of Magnolia:
“It’s some kind of Peter Pan plus E.T. hybrid.”
I loved that Magonia was based on an actual legend that no one has really heard of before. It added this magical authenticity to the world that’s hard to describe.
As much as I loved the fascinating mythology and the fantasy world, it was relied on a little too much to keep my interest in the story. By about 70% through the book, the plot starting slowing down a lot. Most of the middle of the book is spent world building and by this point, I was no longer dazzled by the world. The world is really cool. You can’t deny that. And the writing was sadly starting to lose the sarcastic voice it had started with. I felt strangely disconnected. I think the biggest reason I stopped being invested in the story was because once Aza enters the fantasy world of Magonia, it’s unclear what she WANTS. Does she want to stay in Magonia? Does she want to go back to earth? Does she want to help with this mission of dubious morals? Does she love her best friend Jason or not? For most of the book, I didn’t know the answer to these questions mostly because it doesn’t spend much time with Aza’s thoughts at all. If I didn’t get to know these answers, I would have really liked Aza to explore those questions a little bit. It’s realistic to have the main character be undecided when they are thrown into a strange new world, but her indecision went on for too long. If she doesn’t want something, there’s no conflict left. And no conflict means boring. A fantastic world can’t replace a good conflict. At the beginning, the conflict was great. She was always dying and she didn’t want to die. Seems like a lame conflict but it really worked because I liked the character and the way she viewed the world.
However, I did enjoy the ending. View Spoiler »I liked her epiphany that the Magonians were scared of humans because they have to wear huge helmets with tubes so they can breath in Magonia. This epiphany helps her get what she wants which we FINALLY learn is going back to earth to be with her family and Jason. « Hide Spoiler
If you were on the verge of dying any minute, what would you pre-write as an apology?
Using the funny/serious tone of the apologies that Aza wrote, my apology to my family would go something like, If We Lived In The Times of Downton Abbey, I Would Have Nagged A Maid Instead Of You. Sorry About That. I Just Really Hated Cleaning. What would yours say in a funny/serious way?
Content Rating: Medium, for language. Nothing strong but pretty frequent throughout.
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