Book Review | Magonia (Magonia #1) by Maria Dahvana Headley

Magonia (Magonia #1) by Maria Dahvana Headley

Published by HarperCollins on April 28, 2015

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 309

Source: Library

Goodreads★ 1/2

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?


Magonia is one of those books that I kept hearing about, but had no idea of the plot before I picked it up at the library. The beautiful cover definitely sucked me in, and while perhaps I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, Magonia’s does an excellent job representing the story.

This book follows teenager Aza, who has been sick with a mysterious lung disease her entire life. She is about to celebrate her sixteenth birthday when doctors find a feather in her lungs. Before she can have her exploratory surgery, Aza dies en route to the hospital. Her family and best friend Jason are left behind to pick up the pieces, and Aza may not be dead after all.

This book is truly baffling to me, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. Magonia is a very imaginative story written in a dual perspective between Aza and Jason. This format made the book a real page-turner, because I just had to find out what was going to happen next. There was never a time when I could predict the story, and I really appreciated that about Magonia.

The writing, however, was very difficult for me to adapt to reading. Headley has an almost stream of consciousness style, and there are some experimental aspects to the writing as well. Once I got into the flow of the story, I was able to follow along better, but I was still confused for the majority of the book. I found the world-building in this fantasy novel to be quite weak. I first thought the world would be revealed step-by-step, and in some ways it is. However, I never got a clear picture of the world, and struggled to keep up with what was happening.

Similarly, I think Magonia should come with a glossary! Headley uses a lot of vocabulary words that I’ve never heard before, and I had difficulty keeping up with the different creatures in her fantasy world, as well as the different places. I think a map would have also been extremely helpful to me as a reader.

My last thought on this book isn’t necessarily a critique, but something I wanted to mention because I think it would affect your decision on whether or not to pick up this book. I found Magonia to be quite preachy at times. It often discusses the environment, and how humans are polluting the Earth. I found this to be a bit too blatantly done, especially for a young adult novel. That being said, I did enjoy the discussion of what is good versus what is evil. I never knew which characters to trust, and there was never a ‘right’ answer.

Thus, Magonia was an okay read for me. While I did enjoy the interesting storyline and appreciated a unique fantasy world, I found the writing a bit confusing and the world-building lacking. This is the first book in a series, and I might continue on with the second book when it releases in October of 2016. The ending of Magonia does wrap up nicely, but there is definitely room for the story to continue, and I do have an interest in what happens next. I would recommend Magonia if you’re looking for a young adult fantasy unlike all the rest.


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