I love a potter around a book shop at the weekend, especially in the YA/ Fantasy/ SciFi sections. A few weeks ago I picked up a book I had spotted previously, but have always put back for some reason or another (already having a stack of 5 books to pay for, for example..); this book was Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley.
The cover of the book is absolutely stunning, with a metallic feather and bird design. The description on the back of the book was very intriguing and the author has worked with Neil Gaiman. I caved and bought the book, but because I’ve got sooo many to read I having started it until this weekend.
Magonia is one of the most bizarre books I’ve ever read, and if you follow my blog you’ll know that that’s saying something!
Aza Ray is drowning in thin air. Since she was a baby she has had problems breathing, it seems as though her lungs are not capable of surviving in this world. She is the only known person to suffer from this condition, which has been named after her.
Aza has spent her life in and out of hospital, or as she puts it, she “has a history of hospitals”. Her mum is an immunologist and has been working to find a cure, but so far nothing has helped.
Aza and her family know that she is running out of time, to the point where her family have apology lists to read to her on her death bed. It’s their way of showing love.
Aza is very blunt, irreverent and completely charming in a weird way. I loved reading from her perspective for the first quarter of the book. She is sick, dying, but she refuses to feel sorry for herself or let anyone else pity her.
She was told she’d be lucky to reach age 6, then 10, and is now aiming to reach her 16th birthday, which is less than a week away.
Aza’s best friend Jason is equally unconventional; he holds a variety of patents for inventions that are steadily making him money, he attends school seemingly just to hang out with Aza, and stealthily reads books under the desk during classes. Hey, who hasn’t done that…
Aza is coping with her life, and trying to decide how she will spend her 16th birthday when things start to get strange. One day in class Aza is looking out of the window and she thinks she can see a ship in the sky. No one believes her, everyone thinks that she’s hallucinating.
Only Jason takes an interest in what Aza claims she saw, and tells her about Magonia, and incidents throughout history of people hallucinating a ship in the sky. Aza starts to investigate Magonia, to find out for herself what she saw and what it means, but something terrible happens, and Aza is ripped from this world.
When Aza wakes up, everything is different, and she finds out that everything she thought she knew was a lie.
This would be the bit where the book gets really strange. I’m not going to say any more, because hello spoilers, but I felt that the author lost Aza’s voice a little bit over the rest of the book. I can understand that the character would be different when her world has been turned upside down, but it just seemed a bit flatter. It just seemed that the qualities that made Aza herself were lost whilst the author was describing the weird and whacky world that the character found herself in.
The book goes full on fantasy – if you’re looking for a YA novel grounded in reality then this book isn’t for you, it’s not The Fault in our Stars.
The book is open ended, the story isn’t fully resolved, a sequel is being released in November: I really hope that the author finds Aza’s voice again.
This is Headley’s debut novel and is a good start for a YA fantasy series.
Let me know if you are planning on reading this book.
Magonia was £7.99 from Waterstones.
Aerie will be released on 3rd November 2016 and is priced at £12.99 on Amazon.