by Maria Dahvana Headley.
Let me just take a minute to point out that gorgeous cover. Beautiful, no? And a good reminder on the importance of cover design. I had never heard of this book or author, but came across this cover on Pinterest or somewhere, and had to look it up. And then read it. And I’m glad I did, because it is a unique book.
Aza Ray has suffered from a mysterious lung disease since she was 1 year old. The prognosis is not good- it’s gotten steadily worse over the years, and doctors are surprised she’s lived this long. As her 16th birthday approaches, things get worse, and weird. Her new meds cause her to hallucinate, everybody says. What else would explain the ship she saw in the sky, and voices calling her name, and birds acting strangely? Her best friend Jason is the only one who believes her. He stumbles across some old legends of a land called Magonia, where a race of beings live in ships in the sky. Aza’s lungs start to fail once again, and suddenly she finds herself snatched into a whole new world, where she can breath normally for the first time. And she learns that nothing she thought about her life or world was as it seemed.
This is not your usual fantasy book, and I love that about it. The land and people who inhabit earth’s skies aren’t quite like any other fantasy civilization I’ve come across. They have an interesting mix of magic and technology that helps keep them hidden and afloat, and lets them do some pretty cool things (like flying!). We don’t get a full picture in book 1, but it seems life in the skies is not exactly heavenly. I also liked the contrast with what was happening back on earth, through Jason’s eyes. And the overall language was very poetic and vivid.
For me, though, the characters fell a bit short. Aza spent most of the time floundering, just being passive and letting things happen to her, which is not what I like to see in a main character. Jason was more interesting and proactive, but the book didn’t focus on him. And with the introduction of another young man in Magonia, there is the oh-so-overdone-in-YA love triangle gearing up, which I am heartily sick of. And the character who drove most of the plot/action in the latter half of the book- I never really understood where it was coming from or what the real motivation/end goal was.
But so many of the details of this book’s world were unexpected, that I enjoyed it for just that reason. The underlying idea and premise was something new and interesting, and for that alone, I’d like to see where the series go.
If you like unusual fantasy YA and have ever dreamed of flying, give this a try.
Also see this fun What Is Your Magonia Name? chart. Mine is Milekt Quel.