Neil Gaiman did not steer me wrong. I hadn’t heard of this book until I pulled it off the library shelf, but Gaiman’s gushing praise for Maria Dahvana Headley on the front cover made me decide to give it a try. Luckily, the day I brought it home, another CBR-er reviewed it so I knew I wasn’t in for a train wreck. I have to say it was fun to read a YA fantasy novel that didn’t involve dystopian futures, but instead created a fascinating world that runs parallel to ours.
Aza Ray has struggled with a strange and debilitating lung disease ever since she was a baby but thanks to her medical researcher mother and sheer tenacity, she has made it into her teen years—but not without a lot of anger, snark, and experience with ambulance rides and hospitals. She has had a good friend, Jason since early elementary school, who not only really “gets” her but has been her partner in crime for many adventures over the years. As a result, it is Jason that Aza first turns to when she sees the ship in the sky and hears someone call her name. She has been sick enough to hallucinate before, but this vision, seen out the window of her English class, seems way too real. Then more strange things begin to happen involving clouds, birds, and voices from the sky.
Jason is the first to tell Aza about “Magonia,” a mysterious world in the clouds, whose existence has been mentioned in various historical documents, starting with the Annals of Ulster. Jason’s Internet sleuthing reveals that over the centuries, reports of these ships and sometimes people who fall out them, pop up again and again. Jason doesn’t quite believe Magonia is real but he thinks that maybe Aza read about it in the past and that her brain used that information to conjure up a Magonia vision.
After a dizzying series of events, Aza finds out that Magonia is not a hallucination but very real and that in this world, she is not frail and gasping for breath, but rather strong and powerful. The crew of the ship that Aza finds herself on is on a mission, and Aza is key to their success. Part of the fun of this novel is the way Headley creates this new world that Aza finds herself in—one that is strangely familiar to her but also exceedingly strange. However, the heart of this story is that Aza’s connection to Jason and her family does not disappear.
Though the novel ends with the suggestion that the story will continue, it doesn’t stop mid-action or with a cliffhanger, which I also greatly appreciate. I believe that Headley has watched herself some Joss Whedon.