Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley


4 out of 5 stars

I received an ARC of this book.

This book is really amazing and wonderful. I was almost in tears after the first 100 pages. It is compelling and sad and awesome and satisfying. Unfortunately, it looks like a stand alone novel. Nooooo….

Aza is dying from a one-of-a-kind disease. Getting enough oxygen has always been a problem, and no one expected her to live to double-digits, much less 16. As her birthday gets closer, she starts to see ships in the sky calling her name. Since hallucinations have happened before, no one but her best friend Jason believe her. Then, right before her sweet sixteen, the inhabitants of the ships come for her. In the sky she has less trouble breathing, but the people of the cloud ships have their own problems. Food is scarce, their two-tiered society is experiencing some discord, and some of them expect Aza to be their saviour.

First, the narrative voices in this book approach perfect. They are crisp, clear, and distinct. They feel so much like real people you can almost imagine running into them on the street tomorrow. They are overflowing with personality. Aza’s voice is sarcastic and funny, with humour a bit on the bitter, cynical side. Jason’s veers slightly towards believable mental illness and geek-iness.

Both the human world of illness and the fantasy world of Magonia, complete with cloud-sharks, cloud-whales that make weather, cloud ships complete with bat-sails, and bird-human hybrid inhabitants, are very well described and explored. The worlds pop out of the book and make for a fascinating read. The scenery is beautiful and I imagine it looks a lot like something out of a Miyazaki film (see Castle in the Sky (the movie)).

The one weird shift in the book is that the first third reads like a realistic novel, with Aza recounting what a life with a mysterious illness looks like. Her day-to-day life has no fantasy and a lot of hospital trips. The fantasy part of the novel suddenly appears like a deer in the headlights and we are slammed into it suddenly. It was wisely chosen, because now we feel as shocked and out of place as our protagonist, but it was a shock.

Everything about this book is satisfying and well written. The ending really caps it off nicely and all of it is hard to put down. Definite recommendation for everyone.


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