Author: Maria Dahvana Headley
Published: April 2015 by HarperCollins
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Supernatural
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.
“I think about celestial junk. Maybe every planet in this solar system is discarded by giant hands. Each star a crumpled ball of paper, a love letter lit on fire, a smoldering bit of cigarette ash.”
Ships in the sky. Squallwhales. Sky sharks. Birds. Singing. More singing. Lots of singing. More birds.
I’m honestly confused about my feelings on this one (3 stars? 4 stars?) and I don’t know how to review it appropriately but here goes.
Aza has had trouble breathing normal air since she was a child. Just days before her sixteenth birthday, she sees a ship in the sky. Could her people be up there? The Magonians live above the clouds, where their magic singing can call on storms, swab decks and change rocks to water. And they have birds (live birds, yes) living in their chests.
The synopsis compares this to the works of John Green and Neil Gaiman, though besides the main character having troubles breathing, there isn’t much about this that reminds me of Green. Perhaps hints of Gaiman’s Stardust, but this book is really its own and should be commended for its uniqueness. That said, I think fans of Kenneth Oppel and his Airborn or Silverwing series may enjoy this.
I was hesitant about the writing style at first, but within the first two chapters I was hooked. Written from the first person perspective of two young teenagers, the language can be a little annoying at times, but never boring. The author doesn’t follow the general rules of writing, which mostly worked in her favour.
As far as the main character goes I couldn’t really connect with her, though I did enjoy her inner dialogue. Her feelings just weren’t that complex or deep, especially for someone who’s had such a wretched time of things and who is going through such incredible changes. I liked her best friend/love interest Jason, but didn’t feel much of a connection there either. Yes, this is a story where the best friends fall in love. I would say that younger teens- around the age of these characters (15,16) may enjoy reading this more than I did, but a lot of older reviewers seemed to like it so if the synopsis appeals to you, give it a shot.
The story had a good foundation but there wasn’t enough character, relationship or world building to make everything come together that climatically. My main complaint is really the whole singing-to-make-the-magic-things-happen. It just felt silly and for me it didn’t work.
Sidenote: I found it interesting that in the author’s acknowledgements she said had a lot of help from China Miéville. He’s a pretty cool author from what I’ve heard.