Book Review: Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley (audiobook)


Have you ever discovered a hidden gem in a place you never expected to find one? I got this feeling when I started listening to “Magonia” audiobook. This book was on my radar some time ago, about a year or so. I even purchased it on Kindle when it was on sale. I never read it though and quickly forgot about it. Recently, I have been on a huge audiobook buying spree. I am an avid Audible user, but I also get books from the library and I had more than one person repeatedly tell me that I should use OverDrive to get audiobooks. I decided to give the OverDrive app a try (since the interface wasn’t inspiring confidence and I am too addicted to Audible anyway) and “Magonia” was the book that I downloaded as it was readily available.

I am not new to audiobooks. I have been using Audible for over 10 years now (no kidding) and I listened to audiobooks before that too. Needless to say, I can be very picky when it comes to narrators. That is why I was so excited when “Magonia” exceeded my expectations. The audiobook is narrated by Therese Plummer and Michael Crouch, neither of whom I ever listened to before. Therese, obviously, steals the show as her narration dominates the audiobook but they both are really good, and I think if it weren’t for their acting, I would have not enjoyed the audiobook this much.

“Magonia” is a book one in a young adult fantasy duology. It is told mainly from the point of view of its main protagonist, Aza Ray, a teenaged girl with a mysterious disease. Aza is weak and sick, constantly in and out of hospitals, but her spirit is very strong and her awareness of the world around her is astounding. Her best friend is a nerdish and adventurous Jason. He, as well as Aza’s family, her mother, father and younger sister, all are trying to equally support Aza and get ready for her eventual demise. One day Aza starts hearing someone calling her name. Everyone thinks, she is hallucinating, but Jason believes her.

And when one day, it finally happens - Aza dies and opens her eyes on a trading ship, sailing in the sky - Jason is the only one who keeps believing into impossible.

“Magonia” is a lyrical and reflective in tone, so it works perfectly as an audiobook. Therese is especially fabulous as she gives voices to different characters. She chirps and groans and whispers, and it is fascinating to listen to. (I found out that Therese also narrated two other books that I really enjoyed - “This Savage Song” by Victoria Schwab and “Rook” by Sharon Cameron -  and I can’t wait to listen to them as well!)

I found the world and magic system of Magonia original and intriguing. Can’t say that the actual plot line of the book is anything terribly special - the romance triangle, for one, is totally predictable. However, it is a very character driven plot, and it compensates for somewhat predictable plot twists. I loved all the characters, even the bad ones, just because they were so well developed. It is obvious that the author put a lot of effort into fleshing out the characters. I think I loved Jason the most. He is brilliant and nerdy, suffers from anxiety and is obviously somewhere on the autism spectrum, and recites Pi to keep Aza alive. He has two loving mothers, who care about him a lot. Aza's family is delightful too. I am always happy when YA fiction has lots of well written side characters and when the family members of main protagonists aren't there only to serve as a washed-out background prop.

The ending left me wanting to start the second book right away (it is still on hold at the library), although it does not really end with a big cliffhanger, but I can’t wait to see how this all gets resolved. And I definitely, definitely recommend you listen to this audiobook as opposed to reading a book. It is wonderful!

Plot: 3 stars

Performance: 5 stars

Overall: 4 stars