In mid-2015, we met Aza Ray in Maria Dahvana Headley’s Magonia (HarperCollins) and she took us to worlds we could only dream about – full of song, space, and ships in the sky.
Headley based her world on the French folktale of Magonia, where air-pirates worked with weather magi to steal grain from farmers; she’s spun that largely unknown myth into a book that is equal parts science fiction and romance about an alien race that carries songbirds – known as canwr – in their lungs and sing with them.
And now we return to that atmospheric world, but this isn’t just a simple, dull sequel. Aerie, and the remainder of Aza’s journey, is a story about choice and change. In Magonia, Aza’s powers are nascent and she is torn between the only home she’s ever known and a strange place that actually feels like home. But in Aerie we see a more self-possessed Aza, eager and willing to wield her power to achieve her ends while remaining cautious.
Headley reuses tricks with layout and typography she employed in the first novel, but this time, instead of coming off as jarring, it feels familiar and sets the scene perfectly.
And the characters have evolved: Dependable Jason shows a darker side, dangerous Dai is more fleshed out, and Aza herself has grown from a quirky-cool teenager into a young woman capable of making life-changing decisions and carrying the consequences of them with her.
In the first instalment, we were introduced to the world of Magonia and the sickly Aza, who quickly discovered her mysterious illnesses were due to being not quite human. In Aerie, Aza is no longer at home in the clouds as her radical, bloodthirsty, recently-escaped-from-Magonian-prison mother, Zal Quel, sets about causing havoc with her betrothed, Dai.
Her mother wants to destroy the world of “drowners” (as normal humans are called), and Aza is charged with retrieving a legendary weapon, the Flock, but at the same time is torn between her home in Magonia and staying with her beloved, Jason. On top of that she is dealing with the large amount of damage she did to Magonia at the end of the first book.
Headley shows her prowess at world building, creating a rich sci-fi fantasy otherworld that readers won’t quite understand but will crave to be a part of. She also (refreshingly!) shies away from traditional love triangles, overwrought, overpowered heroines, and cliffhangers that leave readers cheated – all elements that often plague young adult fiction.
She instead creates a protagonist who is fallible and relatable, an ending that satisfies without sacrificing mystery, and a relationship that is, while admittedly a little hard to swallow, is supportive and healthy.
There’s a fair helping of political intrigue in this series, between the Magonians and drowners as well as the Magonians and Rostrae, a feathered working class people who can transform into birds. There’s also a truthful look at the intricacies of relationships, particularly the gaps that arise when you decide you know what’s best for your partner without asking them. Fans of TV series Stranger Things will also appreciate the appearance of secret government forces hunting down Aza using advanced technology that proves a match for her musical powers.
As with Magonia, Aerie uses a poetic prose laden with imagery, rhythm, and an odd sort of cadence – executed far better in this sequel than the first book as we are now familiar with the Magonians’ “singsong” powers, songs of joy and destruction. Aerie is also much darker, the consequences are very real, and it’s not just about one girl, but two whole worlds.
Altogether, Aerie is a fitting and must-read sequel to a compelling first novel, picking up where Magonia left off and drawing to an even more spectacular end.
Aerie (Magonia #2)
Author: Maria Dahvana Headley
Publisher: HarperCollins, YA fiction