Author: Maria Dahvana Headley
Genre: Young Adult | Fantasy
Synopsis: 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?
Would I recommend? No. Unless you’re very into birds.
Final Rating: ★★☆☆☆
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I’m going to be very honest here. I picked this book up for two reasons: 1) that cover is absolutely stunning- perhaps, one of the most beautiful covers I have ever seen and 2) Neil freaking Gaiman blurbed it. Look! Right at the top! When Neil Gaiman says that someone writes “like a dream,” you don’t just pass it up because that man is a genius and a blessing in the writing industry. Oh, and there’s a third reason; it was $9 at the Strand, but that was a small one.
And the thing is, I absolutely agree with Neil Gaiman, even though this book was 2 stars for me. Maria Dahvana Headley does write like a dream. Her writing was absolutely stunning. It was beautiful, and poetic and very lyrical, but she managed to be economical and bare at the same time. That’s a talent. Some parts at the beginning had me chortling, because the humor and the main characters were very smart. But the plot was just… eh. I couldn’t do it; I skimmed through most of it after the 60% mark, until I had to give it up completely at 85%.
This is where everything went out the window for me. I do not, for a second, doubt that this book would be perfect for people who are into this kind of stuff. I’m not a bird person. I’m not. I like owls because they’re adorable and I like eagles because they’re BAMFs but that’s literally about it. By reading the synopsis, I thought that this book would be about above-cloud pirates, and that sounded freaking awesome. But these above-cloud pirates are birds, and their bird-ness plays a huge part in the story. It was all a little too weird for me, and while I usually enjoy weird, this was too much.
I thought the pacing was a little strange. I found myself much more invested in what was happening on the earth than I was in what was happening to our main character in the fantasy world. I thought that the relationship dynamics going seemed a little gimicky, too cheesy to be realistic. I don’t know what happens in the last 15% of the book because I didn’t get to read that far, but the action fell flat, the love-triangle-thing going on was silly and unnecessary and it was just very, very strange.
I really enjoyed Aza’s character in the beginning. I thought Headley developed a very strong, unique voice for her character, and her snark and feistiness was a lot of fun to read. Her relationship with her family, and her relationship with Jason was very sweet, and if the book had been consistent with this setting, I might have loved it, because I was totally invested and engrossed at first. But after Aza ascends to Magonia, she loses everything that I loved about her. Her snark was gone, her sense of humor was gone. She was oblivious and after a little while, I just didn’t care about her.
I really liked Jason’s character, though. I enjoyed the very distinct personality Headley gave him, and how she kept this personality consistent throughout the book. He was sweet and nerdy, loyal and sensitive, and even though he’s not the type of character I’m usually into, I found myself invested in him. The chapters from his point of view were the reason I kept reading until the 85% mark; otherwise, I would have put down this book much, much earlier.
I think what disappointed me the most about this book was that I really, really love how Headley writes. Like I said before, there’s a certain kind of texture to her writing that is so beautiful and whimsical. There were so many lines in this that stood out for me. Headley is a talented writer, and I’ll definitely look into her future books… that is, after doing my research and finding out what they’re actually about.
So, by no means do I think this is a bad book. I just think it wasn’t for me, and I also think that it’s for a very specific group of people. I might be wrong, but that’s just what I reckon!
“I’m a fucking mess of rattling pi and things I never said. I spent the past ten years talking. Why I couldn’t say any of the right words, I don’t know.”