[A] brilliantly uneasy new novel ... Hjörleifsdóttir has a poet’s sense of compression and scale, but a prosaic unwriterliness ... There is a mordant humor here. One feels, around Lilja’s earnestness, the author’s impeccable timing ... Magma is profane, funny, and uncomfortably honest about what happens when we substitute someone’s image of us for self-knowledge.
Poet Hjörleifsdóttir’s heart-wrenching American debut is a raw and empathetic depiction of a woman so subtly manipulated into an abusive relationship that she loses her sense of self and cannot find a way out ... The short but powerful entries are masterfully written.
For such an important subject, the ensuing novel — about Lilja, a 20-year-old woman devoted to her abusive boyfriend — renders characters as flat, didactic archetypes rather than fully fleshed-out individuals ... Even with Hjorleifsdottir’s attention to the nuances of intimate partner violence, one senses there is little to know about these characters that isn’t right on the surface.