Beasts of Sonara, by Shawn. C. Butler
Hey guys, welcome back to Bookish Beyond.
How have you been?
Today, I’m excited to be reviewing Beasts of Sonara, a mysterious thriller by Shawn. C. Butler.
So, if you’ve got your favourite drink to hand and are all settled in, let’s begin.
Writer Ray Molina has come to spend some time in the remote island of Sonara, known for its tragic history and excellent healthcare for cancer patients. Ray is out surfing one morning when he comes across a severed head in the ocean. From that moment on, he continues to encounter strange beasts in Sonara, chief among them a giant shark and a calculating monkey. Additionally, multiple people begin to warn him away from his emotionally distant girlfriend, Isabela.
Over time, Ray learns more about Sonara’s history and the strange creatures which dwell there, mostly unseen. However, the more he learns, the more he feels responsible for certain events, until he is faced with a most difficult choice, to accept the town’s greatest secret and become a major part in its undertaking, which would require him to remain in Sonara, forever.
Can Ray pay the price that is required of him, in order to keep Sonara’s best kept secret?
There were many main characters mentioned in this gripping novel, however, I would like to focus on three who I feel played the most important roles in the story.
Ray Molina is a writer and avid surfer, whose ex-wife Anna died of cancer. He came to Sonara to try and get her treated years ago, however her treatment was unsuccessful. Now he has returned and fallen for local Dr Isabela. Ray struck me as the kind of man who has been running from his past for a long time, wanting to relish the more relaxing aspects of life wherever possible. He was a reflective and realistic man, the kind to consider his actions at length and how they would affect others. He proves himself to be both brave and compassionate, caring for others wherever he could, even if it resulted in him suffering in the long run. I quickly came to admire him as the sort of man who does the right thing wherever he can, guided by a strong moral compass and compassion for other living beings.
Isabela, Ray’s girlfriend and local doctor of Sonara is a beautiful, but very analytical-minded oncologist. From first meeting, something felt off about her but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. She seemed increasingly emotionally distant, as though she were hiding something crucial from Ray, which it turned out, she was. Although I won’t get into the specifics for the sake of reducing spoilers, Isabela seemed oddly close with the beasts of Sonara, speaking of them with a particular fondness which I didn’t understand until later on in the story. As much as I wanted to like Isabela, I never found myself warming to her, finding her to be one of the more unlikable characters of the story.
Finally, I’d like to discuss Chandu.
*Spoiler alert: you may want to stop reading if you don’t want to learn about Sonara’s best kept secret.*
Chandu is a giant, sentient octopus, who has dwelled within Sonara for the past hundred or so years. Hidden in a secret cavern, Chandu is tasked with healing the sick of Sonara. Over time, I learned that Chandu was a wise being, who had long become fed up with healing others, while she herself suffered under people’s ungratefulness. Her ability to convey her memories to others was a fascinating touch, something which made her seem all the more magical as a non-human character. Overall, I think Chandu was my favourite character, bringing a deep sense of magic to this story.
There was much that I admired about Beasts of Sonara, details of which I have provided below in the form of bulleted points.
- Ray and Isabela’s relationship was complex, one of usefulness, plagued by an increasing emotional distance, dark secrets, and a love that would never truly be.
- I liked how we got to see other’s memories through Chandu. Such memories revealed the various character’s backstories and motivations, and added a sense of history and context to certain events, which before seemed vague.
- I like how we (as the reader) are gradually shown more of Sonara’s troubled history. Such information felt crucial to understanding the protective and secluded nature of Sonara and its residents.
- I liked the mystery of Sonara as a place and how events don’t necessarily add up at first, leading you to question why things are the way they are. The story unwound slowly, revealing a slew of long held secrets.
- The first person, past tense narration gives us a good look at Ray’s personality, at how he thinks about the world and acts accordingly. He has a curious nature and a good sense of humour, both positive traits which had me warming to him. Furthermore, I liked how the story felt thoughtful and reflective, showcasing further key parts of Ray’s personality.
- It was a nice touch to have the chapter titles in both English and Spanish, the native language spoken in Costa Rica.
- I especially loved the final scene with Chandu. It was deeply moving and made me feel even more connected with her as a non-human character.
As much as I tried to settle on just a few memorable quotes, I felt the need to include the six below as they each held so much meaning and relevance.
1) ‘In nature, you’re never alone. It’s around us all the time. You just have to look.’
2) ‘You think you have things to hide, things inside you that are ugly or just too hard to think about. You’re not alone.’
I especially loved this quote as it felt almost universal in a way, speaking to a feeling which I’m sure most of us have felt at some time in our lives.
3) ‘All things rare and exceptional have their own beauty.’
4) ‘No matter how fast you go, you can’t escape yourself.’
5) ‘Eyes aren’t windows into the soul; they’re reflections of your own.’
6) ‘Miracles are not contrary to nature, but only contrary to what we know about nature.’
Overall, I found Beasts of Sonara to be a wonderful story full of mystery and miracles. It explored a town essentially trapped in time, concealing many dark secrets, which would soon be uncovered by the main character.
Themes included; life and death, loss, miracles, and the nature of humanity.
My Rating: 5 stars.
Recommended to: lovers of mysterious thriller novels, teeming with secrets.
Would you like more information?
To learn more about Beasts of Sonara, you can visit its Goodreads page, HERE.
Or, to find out more about Shawn. C. Butler, simply visit his website, HERE.
Additionally, if you liked this review, consider checking out our post on Shawn. C. Butler’s other gripping novel, Run Lab Rat Run.
As always, thank you for joining me for today’s review.
If you enjoyed this post, why not share it over social media using the buttons below, or leave a comment to let us know what you thought.
Have a wonderful week,