There is the world on the ground and there is an ancient world in the sky known as Magonia. Aza Ray was raised on Earth but she belongs to Magonia. She will have to chose between the live she’s known for 16 years, and the life she is destined to live high above the clouds. Maria Dahvana Headley’s Magonia starts out soaring, but eventually falters.

From the Book Flap

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?

Overall: For the sake of discussion let’s split the book into two part: Pre-Magonia and Post-Magonia. The first part of this book is sooo promising! Aza is dying from a disease so mysterious and rare they named it after her. Aza Ray is dying, but she’s dying with sass and snark and sarcasm. “This in not, like, Little Women. Beth and her nice, invalid Beth-ness have always made me puke.” Yes! A terminally ill character who I can relate to. Dying SUCKS. We want to know more about this girl with the dark humor and her disease.

Aza finds out that she isn’t dying because she’s got some rare disease, but because she isn’t made to breathe Earth’s air. Well, not at least the air on the surface. She is from Magonia, a city of bird-like people who live among the clouds. Post-Magonia is supposed to be magical We travel with Aza up and away to this hidden world above us. But as we move into the second part of the book, the actual magical part, the spell is broken for me. All the great dialogue from Aza we get on Earth’s surface replaced by confusing back stories, and explanations which frankly don’t hold up and were rather tedious.

Cover Art: I’m crazy about the cover of the bird feather hovering in the air with sparking tips transforming into little birds. So much visual promise!

All the Words: Pre-Magonia Aza is a girl who speaks my language. She is sick and dying but she’s neither overly bleak nor overly stoic. She’s just bitter enough about the shit-hand fate has dealt her to feel like a real girl, not some ready-made martyr. But *sigh* part two of the book breaks the rhythm of Aza’s whip-sharp wit. Too much explanation is required from other characters and the dialogue gets sluggish.

Audiobook Narration: So, when some of your characters are birds you have to do their voices in a high-pitched-sing-songy way. I guess? I liked the narrator for Aza but in the latter half of the book she choices to deliver the dialogue whilst choking with tears. This might work once, maybe twice for dramatic effect, but beyond that it just made our heroine seem whiny.

Kick-Ass Factor: The book flap says war is coming. Aza goes from dying Earth girl to healthy Magonia warrior. So, we’re all set up for ass-kicking, right?! Wrong. There is some action, but mostly Aza and some dude, whose role is still unclear to me, spend their time singing together as combat training. What?! Stop the skyship, I wanna get off!

Just. Why.: Okay, Aza and her bestie Jason start out great. They’ve known each other forever, but there relationship is navigating uncharted romantic water. But when we get a chapter from Jason’s POV and we learn <MILD SPOILER ALTER> that he fell in love with Aza when they were 5 years old, it’s just….no. You can’t write “love at first sight” with 5 year olds. It’s just wrong. Couldn’t she have picked an age post puberty for the insta-love crap?

 The Chosen One: Aza Ray may just be one more dying-girl-John-Green-book-wannabe on Earth, but in Magonia she is THE CHOSEN ONE who will change history. I know this because no less than 5 separate characters take the time and dialogue to say so. Repeatedly.

 Bizarre Love Triangle: Of course there’s a love triangle. If there is a chosen one you need no less than 2 boys who are desperately in love with her. Aza has to choose between “I’ve been in love with you since we were 5-years-old” boy vs. Random guy she sings with. Both options are equally disturbing.

 Open tab/Last call: There were too many holes in this story which lead me to believe the author had one too many already. Sorry, you’re cut off.