Published by HarperCollins
Published on April 28th 2015
Genres: Death, Fantasy, Fiction, Love & Romance, Science Fiction, Young Adult
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?
Perhaps the most bizarre book I have read in a long time, Magonia is definitely a unique book. Based on a French medieval folk tale, Magonia is a book about a girl who is dying of a mysterious lung disease and discovers a new, mythical world that just might be her real home. It’s been a while since I’ve finished reading the book, so my apologies- this review will be shorter and less in depth than my regular reviews (maybe that’s a good thing for a change!). But I still do remember what I liked and I didn’t like about the book.
The plot is fine. This book is really focused on setting the atmosphere as well as developing each central character, so it relies less on fast pace and thrilling action to make itself interesting. As a result, the book does have sections where not much happens, and some parts will move rather slowly. Near the end, though, the pace does pick up, and there are some heart-pumping, intense action scenes to appease those who like that stuff (like me!).
Let’s just talk about the world building, shall we? It is unbelievably bizarre. It is quite literally unbelievable.Let’s just briefly inform you about the story upon which this book was based. According to a weather magic treatise, written by bishop Agobard of Lyon in 815, Magonia is the name of the cloud realm where thieving aerial sailors come from. This is where Headley gets her inspiration. The synopsis mentions that the main character is lost to one world (Earth) and is found by another (Magonia). The main character, so weak on Earth, is incredibly powerful in Magonia. She is one of the most influential people in this realm, where ships trade with one another, create storms, and pluck resources from Earth. Oh, and by the way, the people in Magonia? They have oddly coloured skin and can transform into birds. Yes. Multi-coloured bird-people. SERIOUSLY. I’ll let you guys figure out the rest of the setting as you read, but I will say that especially considering that the first third of this book was realistic fiction, the sudden change from reality to fantasy (and bizarre fantasy at that) was very jarring. The integration of Magonia into the Earthen world was ok, but I still find it hard to believe that Magonia has been able to hide FLYING SHIPS from every single drowner (the Magonian term for human) for millennia.
Aza is a really interesting character, and she does remind me of Hazel Grace from The Fault in our Stars in that she’s dying, she has a strong personality, as well as an interesting view of the world. From what I can remember, Aza is a very sarcastic person with a very humorous view of society. The writing is great because it highlights Aza’s thoughts and feelings about the world in a unique, flavourful way. I did find that Aza was very naive, and unsuspecting of characters’ real intentions. There was a lot of deception and manipulation that I could see through easily that went unnoticed by our main character.
I thought Jason was an appealing character. A bonafide geek, Jason has long been Aza’s best friend; he understands her, he shares her interests and he cares for her as well. He is also the only one to believe Aza when she says she sees flying ships in the sky that call to her. In fact, Jason is the first person to mention the mythical Magonia as a possible explanations for her problems. He really believes anything is possible, which is one of the reasons why he is so curious about Aza’s “hallucinations”. I really liked the romantic tension between Aza and Jason, and how there was a lot of uncertainty as to the plausibility of their relationship.
I kept saying to myself as I was reading that there was no way this plot could achieve a resolution in 300 pages. 30 pages from the end, there was no clear ending in sight, and I was utterly confused, considering this book wasn’t labeled as a series. In my opinion, the ending was too rushed and confusing- everything happened in the span of about 15 pages, and even then, there was only a temporary ending that lent itself to much more storytelling. I am now convinced that there will be a sequel or a novella at some point that explains what happens next; the book is still pre-release at the time of publication of this review, so I think the follow-up just hasn’t been announced yet.
For the longest time, I had no idea how to rate this book. So I ended up giving it something in the middle- 3 stars. This book was written well and definitely had an original premise, but I felt it was too bizarre for my taste. One minute, a character was on the cusp of death. The next page, a massive talking owl was waking her up. The craziness of it all detracted from the reading experience for me. If there is a sequel, I’m not really sure if I will end up reading it. By the time it comes out, it will have been a long time since I’ve read Magonia, so I might end up not really caring. I do advise you all to try this book though- for me Magonia was too far-fetched, but for others, it may be beautifully different. I do promise that Magonia will surprise you, in one way or another.
Magonia, to me, is more like magical realism. It is very reminiscent of Neil Gaiman’s works. I still remember one of my favorites from Gaiman, Anansi Boys, which was a fun, and light-hearted read. It does involve spiders, though. However, in Magonia, we’re talking birds.
Yes, we can say there’s a bit of The Fault in Our Stars in this book, because Aza has a rare disease that only she has, and no doctor has ever found a cure. Her life has been sentenced to a few months when she was born, and those months turned into years. At first, I was tempted to put the book down because Aza seemed like a pessimistic sick brat, but as I continued reading chapter after chapter, I realized that her attitude and her reactions to things are natural and raw emotions of someone who knew she is dying. There were times when the story touched my heart and I almost cried.
Life and death aren’t as different from each other as I thought they were. This isn’t like walking into a new country. This is walking into a new room in the same house. This is sharing a hallway and the same row of framed family pictures, but there’s a glass wall between.
This dying girl had a hard life since she was born, unable to breath properly, unable to make lots of friends. Her only friend, Jason, has been with her since they were little, and I love how their personalities complemented each other. I love how they both have weird quirks, and their funny bickering about factoids were entertaining. Let’s just say that Jason Kerwin is such an adorable dork, and I bet you will like him, too.
When the fantasy kicked in, it reminded me of David Almond’s Skellig, where the main character found a strange man, who turned out to be an owl-man. It kind of reminded me of Avatar as well. Yes, the blue people. It’s not a bad thing, not at all. I was actually glad that I was introduced to something new. Just like what Daniel said, it was based off of a French medieval folktale. I would love for this book to be turned into a movie. There were parts where Magonians sing something into snow, or floods, or thunderstorms. I would love to know how they would sound. My imagination can’t go far enough to imagine how a death song would sound.
I was a bit disappointed that this book might not be a stand alone, as the last few chapters were setup to ready us for another book. Other than that, it satisfied my craving for a good book to read. I have been having a hard time finding a book to finish in a short time, and it took me less than 10 days to finish this one.
If you’re looking for something different, I suggest that you give this book a try. The story has its own merits, and the writing was beautiful and honest. The reality infused with science fiction is a good combination. You will find yourself smiling at times, and I think that’s enough for someone who loves a good fantasy.
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