Sona and the Golden Beasts | Rajani LaRocca


Coming March 5th, 2024 from Quill Tree Books; 400 pages

Content Warning: Racism, death, violence

About the Author: “Rajani LaRocca was born in India, raised in Kentucky, and now lives in the Boston area, where she practices medicine and writes award-winning books for young readers, including the Newbery Honor winning middle grade novel in verse, Red, White, and Whole. She’s always been an omnivorous reader, and now she is an omnivorous writer of fiction and nonfiction, novels and picture books, prose and poetry. She finds inspiration in her family, her childhood, the natural world, math, science, and just about everywhere she looks” (Bio from author’s website).

Find Rajani LaRocca on the following platforms:

“We saw her worth when others did not. We’ve helped her, and now she’s going to help us, help the whole country. That’s how all healing begins. With respect. With kindness. With love.”

Sona is a Malech in Devia, a land that was conquered by the Malechs centuries ago. The Malechs banned music in an effort to stop the Devans, who are native to Devia, from using their magic. Despite this, Sona still hears music everywhere, even when others don’t, and her affinity for it helps her navigate and understand the world. Her sympathy for animals leads to her taking in a wolf pup, who she suspects to be one of the sacred magical beasts of Devia. After a Hunter shows up at her house in search of the wolf and a close family member falls ill, she embarks on a quest to protect the pup and save her loved one. With the help of a Devan boy, Raag, she searches for the nectar of life and uncovers the truth about the Malechian empire, choosing to fight for what she believes is right.

Sona and the Golden Beasts is a heartfelt story about the power of love and kindness where two kids journey to save the kingdom and the family member they love. Rajani LaRocca masterfully weaved together a tale that was both magical and revealing, tackling the harsh truths of colonization and imperialism. Inspired by the British occupation of India, this book tackled the complex feelings of a girl who has ties to both the Malech, who colonized Devian, and the Devans, who have been suffering under the Malech’s rule for centuries. Sona is so compassionate, and it is her kindness that means the most in the end. I feel like that simple message speaks volumes, and I think the lessons in this book are extremely valuable for middle grade readers and adults alike. The incorporation of magical animals like Swara, the wolf pup, and Willa, Sona’s pony, was a great touch, and they were honestly my favorite characters. While I loved the world-building and the important themes LaRocca touched on, I did feel that some parts of the book felt rushed. There were also some instances where Sona and Raag seemed to dismiss things or forgive each other very easily when I felt there should’ve been a bit more of a discussion between them. However, I still think it was a magical read and a great book for middle grade readers.

Sona and the Golden Beasts releases on March 5th, 2024.

Pine Reads Review would like to thank NetGalley, Rajani LaRocca, and Quill Tree Books for sending us an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Any quotes are taken from an advanced copy and may be subject to change before final publication.

Sam Yanis, Pine Reads Review Writer