Friday, November 21, 2014

Review: Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley

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I received this book for free from HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Magonia by Maria Dahvana HeadleyMagonia by Maria Dehvana Headley
Published by HarperCollins on April 28, 2015
Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
Source: HarperCollins
Buy on Amazon

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?

First off, this was such a beautiful novel, inside and out.

I like the sky. It’s rational to me in a way that life isn’t. Looking at it doesn’t suck the way you might think it would, given all the dying-girl-stares-at-heaven possibilities. I don’t think of the sky as any kind of heaven item. I think of it as a bunch of gases and faraway echoes of things that used to be on fire.

When I read the first few paragraphs of this book, I initially thought it was the diary of a self-absorbed girl who thought she was the shit. After finishing the first two chapters, I ate my words and realized that the heroine was actually exploding with a certain kind of wisdom only a mature person who accepted her upcoming death could achieve.

Speaking of ocean and big fish in it. This is the first footage of a giant squid ever taken in which the squid is swimming around in its own environment. Imagine this sea-monstery unbelievable thing with eyeballs the size of a person’s head, and a body and tentacles twenty-five feet long. As long as a school bus. Now, realize that no one’s ever seen one moving around down there before. It’s a pretty huge miracle, and if this exists, maybe there are things in Loch Ness, too. Maybe there are things everywhere, all over the place. Maybe there is… hope?

Because every time someone finds a new animal, or a new amazing thing on earth, it means we haven’t broken everything yet.

Emily May, in her review, likened the writing to Neil Gaiman’s, and she’s very accurate with her assessment. Aza Ray was a dying girl, and she knew it. She talked about how her life has been since she was diagnosed with a breathing problem, and how she adjusted and her family adjusted to make her feel better and more comfortable. She would even make fun of herself sometimes, giving the narration self-deprecating moments that just make her even more endearing. You can actually feel how weak she was, and how it was her family and friend who were giving her strength to endure it all.  With such a situation, you’d think the atmosphere would be filled with drama, but the narration was just brimming with an uncommon honesty, full of raw emotions and hope and a sense of defeat, while also effortlessly making the mood somehow surreal at the same time. And funny. Don’t forget funny.

I, myself, have never gotten my period, which I’m actually not too upset about. Postpone the misery, I say. It’s because I’m too skinny, and have no luck gaining weight.

Clarification: by “too skinny,” I don’t mean Sexy Goth Girl in Need of Flowery Dress and Lipstick to Become Girl Who Was Always Secretly Pretty but We Never Saw It till Now. I mean: dead girl walking. Corpse-style skin, and sometimes when I cough, it’s way gross. Just saying.

Or this:

When Jason feels inclined, he’s been known to make chocolate éclairs. Today he feels inclined. If I weren’t already worried, this’d worry me. Chocolate éclairs are for birthdays. If he’s making them early, I must really look bad.

Yeah. I think I’ll avoid the mirror.

 But wow, when the scene’s emotional, it really hits you. There was this scene that lasted a good 10% of the book, and I cried all the way. I know I’m a crybaby, but when you saw how I was crying and how my heart was being pulled at different places, you just realize how powerful the book and the author are, impacting you so much when we barely even knew the heroine yet.

My dad is fading out. All I can see are my own eyelashes and my eye own eyelids, and somehow, also, my own brain, all the pathways inside it, everything dark and narrow, and getting narrower, bookshelves closing in, books crushed, falling into muddled piles, pages crushed, words mangled, and me, running through it all, trying to get out before the walls collapse.

I feel the entire inside of my body folding up, some kind of awful origami. I thought it would hurt, but the pain I’ve been feeling forever and ever is actually something that’s ceasing to matter to me, just like my bones no longer matter to me, and I inhale, and exhale, and

Bird in my chest

Bird in my chest

Bird in my chest

Ships in the sky

Last moments before dying

The rest of the novel was equally fascinating. The plot here, while not be one hundred original (girl finding out who she really is, comes to possess mysterious and unimaginable powers), still feels refreshing because of the world-building that’s absolutely and entirely new (at least to me it felt like it). Instead of borrowing from overused mythologies that we’re already so familiar with, we’re introduced to something that came from a French medieval tale, and man, was it an adventure riding the skies with them Magonian creatures. I always rejoice when we’re treated to new concepts because it also meant broadening your knowledge of the world’s tales, many of them long forgotten, itching to be told and presented to the world again in a modern way.

And Maria Dehvana Headley did it right with this book.

The other characters were such a delight, too. Jason Kerwin might just be the most adorable guy ever. He’s Aza’s best friend, fascinated with computers and numbers and the world, someone I could just fricking relate to,  and doesn’t say anything so sugary, or flirt so openly. He’s just being himself and uses small gestures to communicate his feelings and it’s so bloody heartwarming. The family dynamics were so awesome, too. You can just see how much family plays a huge role in Aza’s life, her family’s kindness influencing her and reminding her of what’s important. They’re not absent at all. They were present even when they weren’t there, because early on, you already witness how big of a mark they put in her life.

Overall, this was a beautiful book, and not just because of the cover. The writing is charming and bewitching at the same time. The pages are full of honesty, love, fun, friendship, and magic, and will surely introduce you to places and heights you’ve never been to before. Get ready to be surprised this upcoming April!


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Canadian blogger, wife, mother, coffee lover, and sarcastic at heart! She has had a love for all things bookish since before Amazon and eReaders existed *le gasp*. You can also find her organizing tours and other fun things at Xpresso Book Tours.

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36 Responses to “Review: Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley”

  1. Rosie

    I heard this mentioned on Tea Time this week and it really intrigued me, after reading your review though I’m even more excited and can’t wait to read it. Plus, how beautiful is the cover?

  2. Pili

    Ooooh, I know you pushed this book on me on Twitter already Faye, but reading your review makes me even happier than I’ve preordered this one, because it simply sounds fantastic!! Great review!

  3. Melissa Robles

    What a beautiful book! I must reat it <3 Thanks for sharing your thoughts, the quotes you used in your review are stunning, I can't wait to read them along with the entirety of the book. And that cover is dazzling!

    • Faye

      Haha, you must “read” it or “eat” it? 😉 Well, eating a book is akin to actually reading it, so I’ll just assume it’s your enthusiasm showing! Haha. I know, that cover is extremely beautiful. The giant feather with the yellow and blue hues on a black background makes it elegant and fantastical.

  4. Larissa

    Faye! <33 Hey girl. Fancy seeing you here [; Hehe.

    Loved this review <33 I've seen this beautiful cover around but never really had an idea about it prior to this review.

    After reading this review I wish I owned this one ahhhh. It seems like Magonia is utterly beautiful. The emotional range sounds amazing, often times I find myself drowning in sadness or happiness in books. Never usually both. The humor this one seems to bring (judging from your review and quotes) seems refreshing and achingly honest. I'm also intrigued by the new mythology. It's also fun to see other areas explored rather than the ones we've been shown a million times over.

    Again this was a gorgeous review Faye <33 I also miss you soooo much. We need to catch up xxx

    • Faye

      Haha, go request it Larissa! Knowing you, you will love it as well.

      Yes, the emotional scenes are really written well. It’s amazing how words can move you beyond tears, but that is what the author did and with such success as well… this one is a unique read that really hits the button where it hurts (and makes you laugh haha).

      YES COME ONLINE ON GCHAT, YOU!! >.< I miss you so!

  5. Jasprit

    I’m glad that this book ended up surprising you in so many ways Faye, I don’t know why I didn’t consider giving this book a go when I first saw it, but I can safely say that you’ve twisted my arm. As you probably know me by now I love my emotional reads, and it’s actually been a while since I last read one! So thank you for this gorgeous review!

    • Faye

      Aww, thank you for your very thoughtful comment, Jasprit <3 I hope you enjoy this one then. It has its emotional moments, especially at first, so I hope you enjoy them and the adventure ones as well in the second half. Both are exhilirating 😀

  6. Melanie (YA Midnight Reads)

    Wow, this sounds absolutely beautiful, Faye. I’m really curious about this girl, damn, I feel sorry for her already! I would never cope if I were in her situation. Putting this higher up my TBR pile.

    Lovely review, Faye <33

  7. Anatea

    This is the first review I see of Magonia, and I’m so glad you enjoyed it Faye! I really want now to skip until April and read it right away! Plus, the cover is really beautiful! Great review Faye!

    • Faye

      Yeah, it was such a really good, beautiful, and delicate book. You can really feel how fragile and gorgeous it is from the words alone.

  8. Amber @ YA Indulgences

    This book sounds gorgeous in the writing, the emotions, the main character sounds fantastic, I always love my female MCs to have a good sense of humor, even in dark or sad circumstances. I also love really emotional books, which this definitely sounds like. I’m ecstatic. Happiness, sadness, maybe a little depression and humor?I think I’ll really like Magonia and is that cover not the most gorgeous thing ever? It’s so beautiful.

    Oh gosh, might there even be a platonic friendship in this book? If so, I think I may just die. I love family dynamics too! It all sounds so lovely.

    I actually requested Magonia a few weeks ago, so hopefully I’ll have a chance with an E-ARC of it to review. If not, I’ll just pre-order it. 🙂 Great review.

    • Faye

      Yes, MCs that are able to be funny in such situations, even if they look like they’re kidding themselves, definitely makes them far more realistic in my eyes. I am able to relate to them easier that way, which is what happened here. And yes, that cover is to die for. It makes me wish I wrote this book instead. Haha! I hope you get that e-ARC, Amber!

  9. Olivia

    I really hope I get approved of this read! I have been anticipating it for a while and would love to read it. It sounds like a book with an amazing, emotional main character, a reasonable plot and a beautiful world to have it set in. Honestly, I don’t know what more I could want.

    • Faye

      I really hope you get to read it too, Olivia! It really is simply too beautiful for words, you can’t even imagine. I’m surprised I was even able to write anything at all! XD

  10. Aimee @ Deadly Darlings

    If you liked this one, then clearly, it’s a good book. xD I trust your judgement, Faye! I’m curious about how the heroine seems so chill despite what she’s going through. But really, I’m looking forward to meeting this Jason guy. xD

    • Faye

      It’s not that she’s chill, it’s more like she has accepted it and has succumbed to self-depracating herself in order to make the situation “lighter” than it is, which makes her so strong in my opinion because I would have broken down if I were in her shoes XD