Friday, June 5, 2015

Double Review: Magonia and The Witch Hunter

Review: Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley
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Series: Yes, #1 in Magonia series
Release date: April 28th, 2015
Publisher: HarperCollins
Length: 328 pages
Source: ARC from ALAMW15/eARC via Edelweiss
Rating: YASSSS. It is absolutely Stardust meets The Fault in Our Stars in the best way

Neil Gaiman’s Stardust meets John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars in this fantasy about a girl caught between two worlds... two races…and two destinies. 

 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?

Magonia is totally cracked out.

I loved every second of it.

What immediately stands out about Magonia is voice. Aza Ray, our prime narrator, has voice oozing out of her eyes and eyes and mouth. She's hilarious and totally bizarre and she may not be everyone's cup of tea, but the moment I heard her speak I wanted to hear everything she ever had to say. This is what I love about novels that have this much voice, where the first person narrator is SUCH a strong character that I feel like I know them. Like even as impossible things happen to Aza-- that thing with the BIRDS jumping down her throat and the slowly suffocating and the SHIPS IN THE SKY--I feel like she could be a real person. An extremely weird, hyperintelligent person, but a person.

So Aza Ray has a terminal condition that makes it impossible for her to breathe properly. She has (as was mentioned) insane amounts of personality and an adorable, equally nerdy best friend named Jason. They mayyyy or may not be in love with each other, but they never get the chance to do much about it. Because the same day that Aza sees a ship in the clouds...she dies.

Whomp whomppp.


But it's all okay because she wakes up in MAGONIA, aka remember that ship in the sky? There's a whole kingdom of ships and sky whale and bird people and blue people and CRAZY STUFFS I won't spoil for you. I know some people found the adjustment from what was, essentially, a contemporary tale with weird elements to a full blown fantasy bizarre, but I loved it. (I am never opposed to full blown fantasy, which now that I'm saying it twice sounds dirty.)

But there's magic, and singing, and riding storms like waves, and intrigue, and you guys, I was completely obsessed with this book. It's insane in all the best ways, the ship is PRECIOUS, Aza is Amaza-ing (I tried), and yeah, it's most definitely the weirdest book I've read this year, so it may not be for everyone. But I want the sequel so badly I may TAKE TO THE SKIES and steal it from the HarperCollins offices. I'm coming for you, NYC.

Review: The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker
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Series: Yes, #1 in the Witch Hunter series
Release date: June 2nd, 2015
Publisher: Little, Brown
Length: 368 pages
Source: ARC from ALAMW15
Rating: :(

The magic and suspense of Graceling meet the political intrigue and unrest of Game of Thrones in this riveting fantasy debut. 

Your greatest enemy isn't what you fight, but what you fear.

 Elizabeth Grey is one of the king's best witch hunters, devoted to rooting out witchcraft and doling out justice. But when she's accused of being a witch herself, Elizabeth is arrested and sentenced to burn at the stake. 

Salvation comes from a man she thought was her enemy. Nicholas Perevil, the most powerful and dangerous wizard in the kingdom, offers her a deal: he will save her from execution if she can break the deadly curse that's been laid upon him. 

But Nicholas and his followers know nothing of Elizabeth's witch hunting past--if they find out, the stake will be the least of her worries. And as she's thrust into the magical world of witches, ghosts, pirates, and one all-too-handsome healer, Elizabeth is forced to redefine her ideas of right and wrong, of friends and enemies, and of love and hate. 

Virginia Boecker weaves a riveting tale of magic, betrayal, and sacrifice in this unforgettable fantasy debut.

This review is going to be a wee bit of a bummer after my nerdsplosion about Magonia, but I do want to say that I don't think TWH is a bad book. I especially enjoyed the latter half, when the action is actioning and stuffs are going down. It's got a compelling storyline and a killer concept. I enjoyed the main character and the arc of her dealing with her flaws. I think the root of my "meh" feelings come from my expectations being both too high and off the mark. I was expecting a very dark historical fantasy, rich in atmosphere and world building, and characters who were a little more twisted. I was expecting something a little more fantastical. But that's not fair to The Witch Hunter, because that's not reeeeally what it's trying to be.

TWH isn't set in England, but in Anglia, in an alternate version of 1558 England. REALLY alternate, unfortunately, which, again, screwed with my expectations. I'm a history nerd and was fearsomely excited to read a fantasy set in Tudor times, my all-time favorite period of history, but this really isn't that. The writing is quick-paced and doesn't get bogged down with the kind of details and language I yearn for in a historical. So yeah, it didn't have the atmosphere of a historical at all, but it's not that. My own brain got in the way there. 'Tis my bad.

Okay let's not be DRAMATIC Elena

TWH follows Elizabeth Grey, one of the best witch hunters in Anglia (at least, she used to be), charged with capturing witches and sending them to prison, where they'll be tried and burned at the stake. But obvs the witches of Anglia don't super love this, and when Elizabeth is somehow thrown in prison as a witch, she's broken out by Nicholas Perevil, the most wanted wizard in Anglia, who needs her help.

Again, my damn expectations. I was expecting something a bit...I don't know, sexier from Nicholas, which is the wrong word because i knew he wasn't the love interest. Darker? More dangerous? But really he's a kindly, mild middle-aged man who needs Elizabeth's help on a personal matter for **prophecy reasons**, which is not usually my favorite sort of reason.

The best parts are the parts that follow, i.e., Elizabeth gets to know the other witches (I'm glad she bonds with the "mean girl" because otherwise eek) and the cute healer boy, John. I also was not overly taken with the romance, though the boy is super cute. There's something about nice boys. But yeah, that happened WAYYYY TOO FAST. But there's action and a fast moving plot and all of that kept me turning pages like you wouldn't believe. I totally got wrapped up in the plot, but I was never quite able to pass into the "love" stage for this book, as much as it pains me.


  1. Oh mannnn I don't know about Magonia haha! That sounds insane!! But if anyone can sell me on it, it's you :) You know I loved The Witch Hunter but I also agree with you- a darker, more historical take would have been super fantastic. As it was, I found humor in fantasy to be sort of refreshing? And I liked picking out the Anglia/England parallels.

    1. Haaa, you know me, I need humor in everything too! I love humor in fantasy, but dark things can have humor too. I did chuckle in a few parts of TWH, but overall I was expecting something a bit different. Also I think my issue was that there weren't ENOUGH Anglia/England parallels, but again, that's just me :)

  2. AAAGH I'm still dying to read MAGONIA! Aza seems like a lovely, vivid character, and even though a lot of people weren't comfortable with the quirkiness of this story, I'm totally willing to give it a try. I actually just finished THE WITCH HUNTER a couple of days ago, and really enjoyed it. The difference between you and me was that I had NO expectations going into it, which is why I think I enjoyed it more. I'm sorry it disappointed you! Fabulous reviews, Gillian! <3

    1. I'm jealous! I'm so glad you loved The Witch Hunter. It totally was a Gillian book in concept and I wish I'd been able to love it too! Happy reading!

  3. The Fault in Our Stars meets Stardust meets The Birds (or something).

    I am with you one hundred percent but also I just wish the magic had stuck for me.


    IT'S A SERIES?!?!?!?!?!?!?!!

    This is literally brand new information. WHY IS THIS NEVER ON GOODREADS. MOTHERFUCKER.

    Re: The Witch Hunter, I think what she wants to do is totally valid but it's super disappointing for history nerds. But hey most people are not so I imagine it will help her bottom line. Which also sounds kind of dirty.


  4. I'm honestly super excited for Magonia JUST FOR BIRD PEOPLE. I'm so glad I have it so I can read it! I also have Witch Hunter, which was one of my most anticipated books, but I'm glad that now I know not to expect TOO MUCH out of it.

  5. Rating: :(
    THIS. Totally my own thoughts about TWH. I was so amazed that the book was that generic and bland. I read it to the end so that I could count how many times Elizabeth acted like an idiot. Spoiler alert: A lot.

  6. Stunning reviews Gillian. <3 I'm so glad you liked Magonia :D But aw, I'm so so sad that you didn't like The Witch Hunter :( I must read it very soon. Sad face. Hoping I might like it, though. <3 Glad you didn't hate it at least :) Thank you for sharing sweetie. <3


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