Pegasus by Robin McKinley

Pegasus was my Want Books pick last weekend because this is one of my most anticipated books this year. Robin McKinley is one of my all-time favorite authors and I’ve been looking forward to Pegasus ever since I saw the summary and the snippets that she posted. I called Fully Booked every day just to inquire if they already have copies. Thankfully, I got a copy (for P798) early this week and I started reading it as soon as I could.

Here’s the summary from Robin McKinley’s website:

A gorgeously-written fantasy about the friendship between a princess and her pegasus

Because of a thousand-year-old alliance between humans and pegasi, Princess Sylviianel is ceremonially bound to Ebon, her own pegasus, on her twelfth birthday. The two species coexist peacefully, despite the language barriers separating them. Humans and pegasi both rely on specially-trained Speaker magicians as the only means of real communication.

But it’s different for Sylvi and Ebon. They can understand each other. They quickly grow close — so close that their bond becomes a threat to the status quo — and possibly to the future safety of their two nations.

First things first, look at that cover. Isn’t it gorgeous? I love how it captures the essence of the book – a girl in a field looking up at a pegasus soaring through the sky. Even though they’re far apart, you can see that there’s an invisible thread connecting the girl and the pegasus. The good news is that the inside is just as beautiful as the cover. I’m sure several blogger friends will agree when I say that there’s nothing like reading a Robin McKinley novel. She had me at “Because she was a princess she had a pegasus.” which was the first line of the book. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book about pegasi before and they’re fascinating creatures. I loved how intricate the worldbuilding was – it included a detailed history of the pegasi and how they started an alliance with the humans who came to their land. Ever since then, each human with royal blood has been bound to a pegasus to strengthen the alliance. It hasn’t been successful though because of the language barrier. If I could, I’d want to visit that world because I’d love to have my own pegasus. I’m a fan of fantasy novels with court settings when they’re done well and this world had that. There was complexity in the intrigue of court politics but it never became overwhelming. The writing is everything that I find delightful in a McKinley novel – lyrical, lovely and has an overall fairy tale feel to it.

I saw this quote over at Sarah Rees Brennan’s blog when she interviewed Robin:

“The story I tell over and over and over and over is Beauty and the Beast. It all comes from there. There are variations on the theme – and it’s inside out or upside down sometimes – but the communication gap between one living being and another is pretty much the ground line. And usually the gap-bridger is love.”

Beauty and the Beast is my favorite fairy tale but I never recognized that recurring theme in all of Robin’s books. It’s much more evident in Pegasus because of Sylvi and Ebon’s platonic relationship (although I kept thinking of Sarah Rees Brennan’s insinuations that they have something more while I was reading). It’s a good thing that I knew going in that this was just the first half of the story and that the book ends on a major cliffhanger so I wasn’t put off when I reached that part. Of course, I WANT to read the rest of the story right now but I’m willing to wait until 2012 because it hasn’t been written yet. I feel like the whole book is mostly about buildup – the relationship of the pegasi and the humans, the history of the kingdom, its present situation and the rising problems. It will all lead to something and I have a feeling that much more will happen in the second half of the story. As such, I think Pegasus can be described as a quiet sort of novel and that kind of thing might not be for everyone. In terms of pacing and writing style, Pegasus reminded me of Chalice but it also has echoes of The Blue Sword in it in the sense that two races/species are brought together (aside from that, there’s a sword that made me think of Gonturan and a legendary ancestor similar to Aerin). If you’re the type who doesn’t like cliffhanger endings then I recommend that you wait for the second half but if you’re a huge McKinley fan like me, then I know you’d still read this even knowing that’s it’s just the first half of the story. If you’ve never read a McKinley before (and why not?!), I suggest that you start with either Beauty or The Blue Sword.

Other reviews: (manually generated)
By Singing Light
The Eager Readers
Paperback Dolls

Interviews with Robin about Pegasus:
Charlotte’s Library
Sarah Rees Brennan’s blog
Holly Black’s blog
The Enchanted Inkpot