Quick review for a quick read. Dude, I didn't know what I was getting myself into when I picked up Maria Dahvana Headley's "Magonia". Suffice to say, I'm quite impressed by it. I really didn't expect it to be this emotionally invested, intense, and imaginative read. Totally ended up enjoying the journey it took me on and it's one of those stories that will stick out in my mind for a long time to come. I mean, the closest of a comparison that I can make of "Magonia" to anything I've seen or read is the anime/manga series Rahxephon, but that's notably because of the power of the protagonists with song/singing and their "special" roles/identities in their societies, but even then, it's not that close. It takes on a very different mythos than what is commonly found in YA fantasy. (And thank goodness for that, because it's a breath of fresh air creativity wise. Why can't more YA books be like this?!)
There were moments where I really connected with the emotional intensity of Aza's experiences. From her lifelong battle of unexplained illness to being separated from those she loves in what seems like a permanent capacity. Also finding herself in a completely different identity and realm with choices she has to make in terms of the role she plays and the loyalties she shows. There are some caveats to it though, where the emotion has moments when it feels like it overpresses the point a bit too much for the given context, but I could say that I could palpate it and see why Aza reacts the way she does. Her voice is genuine, if a bit rocky to start before it starts smoothing out over the course of events in the novel. Jason was a nice alternate perspective, and I'm glad this book never hit the insta-love button or made the romance feel so out of place that it took over the story. I'm definitely very happy to see a YA fantasy that prominently focuses on the otherworldly elements, the action, the overarching conflict and relationships and takes the mythos and turns it into something that has the chance to shine on its own and prominently in the story. Though, if I could give a critique of it - there are certain aspects of the world depiction that seemed to me like they skimmed the surface and didn't quite immerse me as much as I hoped it would. I think I understood the world of Magonia and the skyships and rituals/beliefs that were depicted to a degree here, but there were details that still felt like they needed fleshing out.
I honestly can't take away from what was offered here, though. I didn't want to put this book down when I picked it up and found myself marathoning at a breakneck pace through the audiobook (brilliantly narrated by Therese Plummer and Michael Crouch. Plummer might get a nod for my favorite female narration this year because her depiction of Aza was spot on.) I know that I want to read more in this world and feel like I'm invested in the characters and their journeys to see where they go from here - so I'm definitely on board for the next book in this series.
Overall score: 4/5 stars.