The Unicorn Sonata
In Los Angeles, 13-year-old Josephine Rivera — or Joey, as she prefers to be called — discovers the existence of another world called Shei’rah, in which many magical and beautiful creatures live, including the Old Ones, or unicorns. In Shei’rah, gorgeous music — music which speaks to Joey’s very soul — is ever-present, the signature of this beautiful fantasy world. However, the unicorns of Shei’rah are beset with blindness, and their healing will require both great sacrifice and great gain from one of their number, the young Indigo.
Thematically, the book is interesting — the unicorns can transfigure into humans and travel into our world, and some of them long to move to our world permanently, sacrificing their immortality in order to live a human life. Beagle explores the idea of choice and free will through this plot line. Beagle’s prose is beautiful, and his descriptions of otherworldly creatures and landscapes are fabulous. However, I was somewhat disappointed with his more general worldbuilding — the relationship of Shei’rah to our world is hazy at best, and when Joey asks questions about specifics, the Old Ones make excuses for the lack of explanations. The book would have been better if Beagle had had a better-defined relationship between his worlds, and given more depth to Shei’rah. Still, there is no doubt that on the surface Shei’rah sparkles with life and beauty due to Beagle’s excellent descriptions.
Morally, the book is good although perhaps not grand. Joey’s family is mostly absent from the plot, but her relationship with her grandmother is exemplary and beautiful. Nothing objectionable exists in the plot or the nature of magic, which is obviously very fantastic.