Title: Magonia

Author: Maria Dahvana Headley

Series: Magonia, #1

Publisher: HarperCollins

Release Date: April 28th 2015


Three Stars

Maria Dahvana Headley’s soaring YA debut is a fiercely intelligent, multilayered fantasy where Neil Gaiman’s Stardust meets John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars in a story about a girl caught between two worlds…two races…and two destinies.

Aza Ray Boyle 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—but as she navigates her new life, she discovers that war between Magonia and Earth is coming. In Aza’s hands lies fate of the whole of humanity—including the boy who loves her. Where do her loyalties lie?

– Blurb courtesy of

My Thoughts On…

…The Plot

“I know everyone has dreams of flying, but this isn’t a dream of flying. It’s a dream of floating, and the ocean is not water but wind.
I call it a dream, but it feels realer than my life.”

Magonia has been on my to-read list ever since I attempted to read it during a massive reading slump I went through in 2015 and struggled to get past the first page. I put it back on my to-read list with the intention of picking it up again later. Well, it took me over a year but I finally finished Magonia. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book, there are plenty of mixed reviews out there and one thing that seems consistent in most of them is that the story is a strange one.

Ever since she was one year old Aza Ray has been drowning on Earth. She struggles to breathe; her whole life is a back and forth journey to the hospital for more tests and she has been told countless times she won’t make it to her next birthday. Aza has been managing her disease, a disease no one had ever seen before and one that no one knows how to fix, but recently things have been getting weird, even for her.

She sees a ship in the clouds, there are feathers in her lungs, and she keeps hearing a mysterious voice tells her to go outside. Aza knows anyone she tells will think they are hallucinations, a side effect of her disease, anyone except Jason that is.

“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.”

When Aza arrives in Magonia she is lost to the world below, the world of the Drowners where she has been trapped since she was a year old, but Jason refuses to give up on her. He doesn’t believe Aza is gone and is determined to follow the path she is on until he can find his best friend again. Meanwhile sailing among the clouds Aza struggles to adjust to this new world she has found herself in; a world where she can breathe normally for once and where she has a great power, a great destiny, and a great choice to make.

Magonia was an interesting book, but one of the issues I had with it was the pacing of the plot. The beginning was all about Aza’s life, her disease and the people she loved on Earth. It takes up a lot of the book so by the time we get to Magonia it feels like there was not enough time left to develop the new world properly. In the end the first half of this book felt slow which left the second half feeling rushed.

…The Characters

“I’m dark matter. The universe inside of me is full of something, and science can’t even shine a light on it. I feel like I’m mostly made of mysteries.”

Aza Ray has always known she was dying, but she doesn’t let her disease define who she is. She hates pity and knows all too well how people react when they discover what’s wrong with her and what it means for her life span, although she’s not above using their pity for her own gain at times. Aza doesn’t really fit in with anyone on Earth other than Jason and her family. She’s a loner, intelligent and stubborn, her mind seems to work through things differently to everyone else’s so it was interesting seeing both worlds through her eyes; Magonia and the Earth.

“I think I know, even though all I really know, all I’ve really known since I was five, is that Aza is my universe.”

Jason has lived his whole life around Aza since he was five years old and escaped his home to go to her birthday party. The two of them are inseparable and as strange as Aza is Jason is just as strange. The two of them connect in a way they don’t with anyone else; not Jason with his mother’s and not Aza with her parents or her sister. No matter what Jason is there at Aza’s side, and when she starts seeing strange things, like ships in the sky, Jason already has an answer for her that that has nothing to do with her disease.

When it comes to Aza Jason is stubborn, and it’s only when we read the book through his POV that we see how much. His mind works differently, always searching out more, and it’s the reason why he doesn’t believe Aza is really gone when everyone else does. Jason is willing to do anything to bring Aza back to where he thinks she belongs, he’s willing to go to the ends of the Earth to be with her again.

“This isn’t just Jason and Aza. It’s not me racing against death to save her anymore. It’s us racing against the impossible.”

When it comes to her disease Aza’s whole family see it differently, but they love her nonetheless. When Aza is in Magonia her first thought is how to get back down to them again. She doesn’t give up hope, even when it is proved to her there is none left. At first she can’t accept there is no way for her to be back with the people she loves but eventually she has to face the truth, that her destiny isn’t down on Earth with her family and Jason but in Magonia where her power can bring about real change.

…The Setting

“Writing that gets rewritten as the Earth moves. If you look at the sky that way, it’s this massive shifting poem, or maybe a letter, first written by one author, and then, when the Earth moves, annotated by another. So I stare and stare until, one day, I can read it.”

When I read the blurb one of the main things that appealed to me was the sound of the world Magonia was set in. The way it was described ‘above the clouds, in a land of trading ships’ captured my attention but when Aza finally arrived in Magonia it fell flat. Although a lot of the world was richly described, mainly the sights Aza could see from the ship as they flew in the clouds over the Earth, there seemed to be a lot of the politics and history of the Magonian’s that was left out. In the end I couldn’t help but feel Magonia was a shallow world; we could see it through Aza’s eyes but we couldn’t understand it or see anything beyond the surface.

Magonia is definitely an interesting book with a unique concept and two main characters I loved from the second they were introduced, however I think there was still a lot more I would have liked to have seen done; both with the story and the world building. In the end, although I enjoyed Magonia, I did think it could have been better.

What did you think of Magonia? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.

35 thoughts on “Magonia

    1. The cover was the reason I picked this book up, and it took me a little while to get around to it as well so you’re not alone in not picking it up.
      The reviews are mixed but I still thought it was an interesting book, there were just certain elements that were lacking more than anything else.
      Thanks so much Stephanie! 😀 ❤


  1. I am in love with the cover 🙂 I read a review about it and decided it was too emotionally heavy for me to read about a sick child, but I’m hoping to read it at some point. I’m sorry it dit not entirely live up to your expectations.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s definitely a gorgeous cover. It’s just a shame the story inside didn’t match you know? If you do pick this one up one day, when you feel ready to read it, I do hope you enjoy it Donna. I still thought it was a good story there were just parts which let it down.


  2. I had high expectations for this book, but I couldn’t get past the second chapter. I set it down about a year ago and haven’t been tempted to pick it up again since then. Also, the mixed reviews I’ve read on it haven’t really been really encouraging either. But your review has convinced me that maybe I should give it another try. While the wonky pacing and weak world-building would bother me, the characters seem like they might make up for it. Aza seems like a very interesting character I’d like to get to know a little better haha. Also, the premise sounds really unique. I’m sorry that the book fell a little flat in some places for you, but I hope you enjoy the second book much more! Hopefully I can motivate myself to pick it up again sometime this year 😀 Great review as always, Beth! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh that’s a shame, but actually that’s what happened to me when I first picking this one up. I don’t think I made it past the first couple of pages before putting it down again. The mixed reviews it received didn’t really help matters either.
      But that’s great to hear about you maybe giving it a chance. I stand by what I said about the world-building but I think the character development in both this book and Aerie was beyond brilliant. Aza is a wonderful character and so are all the others we meet along the way.
      Unfortunately world-building is an important part to me in fantasy books and it just wasn’t in this one.
      Thanks so much Azia, and I hope you enjoy this book if you decide to pick it up again. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Excellent world-building makes all the difference in the quality of a fantasy book. I think it’s an integral part to appealing to those who love to enter into a completely different setting in their minds. So it’s always disappointing to read an epic fantasy that has a lacklustre world. But I’ll still give this one a chance, especially since it promises some really great characters 😀 Thanks, Beth!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Exactly, and I think that’s why it’s always been such an important part of why I love fantasy books you know? I like escaping to new worlds but if they’re not written or developed properly they just don’t feel real or anything.
        I hope you enjoy it Azia, maybe you’ll feel differently about the world building you never know! 🙂
        That’s all right.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I agree! The setting is definitely one of the most important aspects of fantasy. It’s really disappointing to read new worlds that haven’t been fully imagined. Thankfully, most authors I’ve read nowadays have done a pretty decent job in world-building!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Definitely, and unfortunately so. But sometimes they make up for it with amazing characters 😀 Either way, I love a well-balanced fantasy book with great characters and world-building (cough*SixofCrows*cough) LOL

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I remember seeing this book on sale through Kindle a while back and being tempted but ultimately passing on it because of the reviews. It sucks that it ended up falling flat for you world building wise and that the pacing was a bit off. Especially since the whole concept of it sounds so interesting and unique. And the I love the sound of the characters. Not sure if I’ll ever end up giving it a read though since world building is really important to me when it comes to fantasy. Either way, great review as always, Beth!! 💕😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was attracted to this book solely because of the cover, but yeah there are a lot of mixed reviews and I think they were part of the reason I left it so long to pick this book up again after I slumped reading it the first time.
      Yeah Magonia had its good parts and its bad ones but overall there was more ‘meh’ about this book than anything else, especially when it comes to the world-building.
      If you want great world-building in fantasy books I can’t say I’d recommend Magonia to you Melissa, but if you ever do pick it up I hope you enjoy it a little at least.
      Thanks Melissa! 😀 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The cover was what caught my eye when I first saw it too, it really is gorgeous. And the description. I remember being really intrigued by it. Then I saw the reviews and thought it might be better to pass on it lol.
        It always sucks when a book has the potential but then is more meh than anything.
        If I ever do give into my curiosity about the plot I think I’ll definitely check it out from the library.
        You’re welcome, Beth!! 😊💕

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I think it’s a shame because there was so much potential with Magonia and Aerie to be an amazing series but there was just too much that let it down. I think for me if the story had been as amazing as the cover it would have been a five star read for me.
        Hopefully if you do decide to pick it up you’ll enjoy it a little at least. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. “I couldn’t help but feel Magonia was a shallow world; we could see it through Aza’s eyes but we couldn’t understand it or see anything beyond the surface.” THIS. You perfectly described my feelings for this book, Beth! I felt like Magonia had so much potential, but unfortunately fell a bit flat, which is why I couldn’t fully enjoy this story, unfortunately. I don’t know whether or not I’ll ever read the next book, I’m still a bit on the fence about it for now :/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh that’s great to hear Marie, I’m glad you agreed with that point in my review. I was excited for the world Magonia was set in because in the blurb it sounded amazing but reading it was just a little disappointing. Like you said it had so much potential so it would have been nice to see it explored more.
      I have read Aerie; in terms of the issues I had with the plot it was a lot better but the world-building was still flat for me. :/

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Awesome review Beth! I’ve actually seen many positive reviews for this but after hearing that it’s really slow to start I’m going to lower my expectations a bit. I cannot stand slow pacing but maybe now I can push through when I get around to reading this one! 😁

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Heather. Oh I’ve actually seen more mixed reviews for this book; while there are a few good ones there seem to be more neutral/negative ones out there.
      I think going in with lowered expectations is a good thing with this book, hopefully you’ll be able to push through the slow beginning when you do pick it up. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Got me all hooked when I saw Neil Gaiman on the cover. Sucks it didn’t live up to your expectations. I do like how determined the characters are and the motives behind their actions! Sounds like the characters were at least well done! Great and honest review! 🙂

    – Lashaan

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think in some small way I was hooked by Neil Gaiman on the front cover too. But yeah there were good and bad points about this book, unfortunately too many bad points for me to overlook them all.
      The characters at least were well done, I think their development was actually my favourite part of this story.
      Thanks! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Great review, Beth! I’ve heard similar things from other reviewers, that the pacing is a bit off and that the book, overall, is rather average. I’m really curious though bc it feels quite magical realism-ish but in a way that I can totally get on board with. I’m sorry the world-building falls flat for you. Are you going to pick up Aerie?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Reg. I didn’t really read many reviews before starting Magonia so I didn’t know what to expect. I think I was kind of in a grey area with this book, I enjoyed it but it could have been better.
      I’d say Magonia is more fantasy than magical realism but I think there are elements of both genres there you know?
      I actually finished Aerie earlier today. While the pacing of the plot was better in the second book there wasn’t much improvement when it came to the world building unfortunately.


  8. I’d taken this book off my TBR after reading some blah reviews, but your blah review is kind of making me reconsider that decision. Yeah, I’d be bothered by the awkward too slow/too fast pacing, and the flimsy world-building, but the premise is really neat, and maybe (since I’m forewarned) I can look past the book’s flaws? Maybe?

    I’m especially relieved to see that Aza so desperately wants to return to her family, even after she’s told there’s no hope of doing so. I just finished writing a review for a book in which the (good, upstanding) teen heroine is taking captive by her enemies after a major attack; she knows her (much loved) family thinks she’s dead, and the thought pains her for, like, five minutes. Later in the book, she remembers that her family thinks she’s dead, and she tells the reader that the knowledge feels like a weight taken off of her: that she can start a new life, with a totally blank slate. Meanwhile I’m over here like WHAT. If I were her, the thought of my family moving on with their lives without me would be devastating.

    Ha, oops, sorry to rant.

    Excellent review, as usual!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If you did pick this up I’d definitely be interested to read what you thought of it. I know there are some people out there who loved this book but at the same there are people out there who really didn’t. I seem to be somewhere in the middle. The slow plot didn’t really bother me too much, mainly because I loved the characters, but the lack of world building did because that’s something I always love about fantasy books; discovering the new worlds.
      Aza is definitely not like that heroine, and actually I completely agree with you. Even my family thought I was dead, even if there was proof they were living their lives just fine without me there is nothing that would stop me from trying to go back to them, and it certainly wouldn’t be a weight off my shoulders them thinking I was dead either. Don’t worry about the rant, I completely get where you’re coming from. 🙂
      Thanks! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

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