Disappointment Hides Behind a Gorgeous Cover | Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley

Friday, December 01, 2017

Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley

Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: 4/28/15
Pages: 309
Source: purchased

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?

Aza Ray suffers from a rare form of lung disease. The doctors are baffled. All her life she has had trouble breathing. She is dying. However, before her death day comes, she is kidnapped and brought to a ship in the sky. She soon realizes that there are secrets hidden away that she wished were left unsaid. Taken away from the only family she thought she ever knew, she begins to understand that she belongs here—on this ship in the sky, on Magonia.

What Will You Find Behind the Cover

  • Bird people: I’m not talking Maximum Ride bird people where they were once human and now genetically engineered birds. I’m talking birds who change into people when they are high in the sky. They live on ships with sea creatures high above the clouds.
  • I fear we’ve gone Animal Farm. Even Aza Ray admits it. The similarities of rebelling animals that talk are definitely there. My dislike for animals talking actually stems from that book, Animal Farm by George Orwell, and if I had known this book consisted of talking animals, I would have easily skipped it.
  • It’s basically Happy Feet in the sky. There isn’t much tap dancing in the book, well absolutely no dancing at all that I recall. However, there is tons of singing or birdsong, depending on how you look at it. Birds get magical powers when they sing.
  • Pirates: For a chapter or two, pirates graced its pages. There were some pretty awesome fight scenes that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

What I Liked

  • If you are still trying to wrap your head around what this book holds, you still probably are only getting a gist. Pirates and Happy Feet and Animal Farm and Peter Pan all rolled up into one? What would that even look like? Maria Dehvana Headley has created something truly imaginative and magical. If the plot does nothing for you, it will certainly be the surprises of infinite possibilities Headley has woven into our modern world. 
  • Magonia is most definitely something I’ve never come across before. I don’t read much talking animal stories but the fantasy world Headley created is something entirely different than ever before seen. It is both fresh and new.
  • Aza Ray was many things. However, my favorite was her level of sass. Her quirky comebacks and never-take-no-for-an-answer attitude was definitely an amazing side of her character. 
  • Despite my disappointment in the characters and plot, I still found it oddly compelling. I can’t pinpoint what exactly pushes you forward. It could be the curiosity of the strange, new world which refuses to let you go. Magonia is a page-turner that you’ve never seen before.
happy feet dance GIF

What I Disliked

  • The beginning was extremely slow. The protagonist’s narrative flows in a methodically way, slow and quiet, with the constant reminder of I’m-dying. There is no lack of sass which does grant a few laughs here and there. Otherwise, though, the introduction of the plot suffers from the narrative.
  • Despite being incredibly imaginative, it does get a bit out there. Fantastic world building has to consist of a base, usually in the form of realistic backstory (realistic: as in, we can see how this could happen to an extent). With Headley’s world, there is little to no backstory. There just is this world and you have to believe it exists in the realm of our own. This makes it a bit confusing. We are expected to go with the flow, rather than a world that makes a sense. This sort of world leaves the unexpected surprises of a new creature or story but leaves readers too confused to fully appreciate it.
  • Headley seemed to be making a love triangle happen where I saw none. Love triangles add dramatic effect to the plot with the constant question of who is she going to choose. A forced love triangle, where they shouldn’t be, is not a good thing. Without giving too much away, Aza Ray knows two boys: an unresolved friendship (but they want something more) with the boy from back home and a stranger who becomes her singing partner. The love triangle is unnecessary and doesn’t do much for the plot in the end. 
bird no GIF by Cheezburger


Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley was the not the book for me. The ridiculous, but imaginative and fresh plot pulls you in and refuses to let go. However, all the pirates and sass in all the world could never save this one from sinking.

Magonia (4/28/15): 2 stars
Aerie (10/4/16): TBD

You Might Also Like