Book Cover
Title The Unicorn Sonata
Series ---
Author Peter S. Beagle
Cover Art Robert Rodrigez
Illustrations Robert Rodrigez
Publisher Turner Publishing - 1996
First Printing Turner Publishing - 1996
Category Middle Grade
Warnings None

Main Characters

Joey Rivera, Indigo, Ko, Abuelita, John Papas

Main Elements Unicorns

Peter S. Beagle, one of the modern masters of fantasy, has always shown us worlds which most of us glimpse only out of the corner of our eyes. Twenty years ago he wove a bestselling tale, The Last Unicorn, that captured the hearts of readers worldwide. Now he takes us back to the realm of unicorns in The Unicorn Sonata, and shows us a world that is at once fantastical and hauntingly real...

On a hot summer day in Los Angeles, thirteen-year-old Josephine "Joey" Rivera - a misfit in junior high school but a born musician - meets a disquieting young man named Indigo who plays a ghostly, haunting music on a horn the hue of a conch shell. The sound of his music stays with her, distant and beguiling, until she follows it down an ordinary street and across an unseen border into a magical world called Shei'rah. There satyrs, water nymphs, and six-inch-long dragons live side by side with pheonixes and two-headed serpents and Old Ones - the unicorns whose music is the soul of Shei'rah. There are dangers too - from swarms of tiny, terrible flying creatures called perytons, and from a strange disease that is blinding the Old Ones.

To Joey, Shei'rah feels like home - but she already has a home across the Border, in our world. She has a school and a family and a feisty, beloved grandmother, Abuelita, who she visits every Sunday in the nursing home. There's also gruff old John Papas, whose dusty instrument-repair shop Joey cleans in exchange for music lessons, and who may know something about Old Ones himself.

Within these two worlds whose borders merge mysteriously, Peter S. Beagle spins a tale of one girl who can make a difference. The Unicorn Sonata also tells us that our true home is often right around the corner, if we'd only open our eyes - and our ears - to find it.

I had incredibly huge expectations going into this book. First, this is the author of The Last Unicorn, the movie of which is the core of my childhood and the reason I read fantasy to this day. So it was going to be very hard to live up to those expectations, especially after reading The Firebringer Trilogy which was wonderful.

And this didn't quite live up to what I'd hoped for. I expected more lyrical writing, something that didn't sound like was a regular run of the mill unicorn middle grade tale. That doesn't mean it was bad, it just wasn't as, I don't know, as magical as it could have been, as otherwordly, especially as a good chunk of it took place in our world. And having read a couple of his short stories that I just adored, I know he can write better.

But it was still interesting, and Indigo's dilema over whether to give up his horn to live forever in the human world was a very adult theme, especially when trying to understand why he'd want to do that, why any unicorn would want to live here instead of in Shei'rah (which unfortunately is too close to "She-ra"!). Also, the theme of music, Beagle is a musician, went very well with the concept of his unicorns. Though Tanith Lee's description of her Black Unicorn did better.

The illustrations were magnificent though and I'd definitely recommend this to any unicorn lover. There are, frankly, so few unicorn books being published today, and mostly for very young audiences, so it is still a pleasure to come across something like this.

Posted: June 2016


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