Flight of Fantasy: A Review of Pegasus

Pegasus (2010)
Written By: Robin McKinley
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Pages: 416 (Hardcover)
Series: Pegasus Book 1
Publisher: Putnam

Why I Chose It: Robin McKinley has been one of my all time favorite authors since I read The Blue Sword back when I was a kid. I haven’t absolutely loved everything she’s ever written (Deerskin, I’m looking at you). But the ones I love, I love unconditionally, like The Blue Sword, The Hero and the Crown, Beauty, and Sunshine.

Premise:

Because she was a princess, she had a Pegasus…

Princess Sylviianel has always known that on her twelfth birthday she too would be bound to her own Pegasus. All members of the royal family have been thus bound since the Alliance was made almost a thousand years ago; the binding system was created to strengthen the Alliance, because humans and pegasi can only communicate formally, through specially trained Speaker magicians. Sylvi is accustomed to seeing pegasi every day at the palace, but she still finds the idea of her binding very daunting. The official phrase is that your pegasus is your “Excellent Friend.” But how can you be friends with someone you can’t talk to?

But everything is different for Sylvi and Ebon from the moment they meet at her binding — when they discover they can talk to each other. They form so close a bond that it becomes a threat to the status quo — and possibly to the future safety of their two nations. For some of the magicians believe there is a reason humans and pegasi should not fully understand each other…

Spoiler Free


Discussion: Pegasus is slow building, even more so than most of McKinley’s work. She has always been great at making a character’s internal struggles and anxiety feel real and immediate even if there isn’t a ton of action to balance it. And the worlds she builds are beautiful and intricate and fascinating. Pegasus is no exception to this; however, I think it might be the longest book she’s written so far. So that slow, beautiful build takes place over four hundred pages and can really test your endurance.

While I was reading this book, I couldn’t put it down. McKinley’s language drew me along with help from characters like Sylvi, Ebon, and their parents. But every time I left the book for whatever reason, I had a really hard time convincing myself to get back to it because nothing was really happening, and I couldn’t see what all the seemingly unrelated tension was building toward.

But like I said, the language and the characters kept me moving. In a genre saturated with strong, confident (and usually abrasive) young women, it was refreshing to spend time with a princess who is joyful, but worried, afraid, and self-conscious. Just like a normal teenager. And what better foil for a self-conscious princess than a boisterous, irreverent pegasus.

And while I did have a problem with the worldbuilding at first — the tension between the humans and the pegasi felt a little forced, requiring too much explanation up front before I really “got it” — I did eventually fall in love with the world and its denizens. That awkward tension between Sylvi’s people and Ebon’s became the driving force of the book and provided all of the questions I wanted answers to. Why isn’t the alliance working? Why are Ebon and Sylvi the only ones who can talk to each other? And what do the magicians have to do with it all?

Unfortunately these questions were only half answered by the end of the book. If you read Robin McKinley’s blog, you’ll find out why. Pegasus was originally going to be two books. It’s now going to be three. Eventually. I had some inkling this might be the case when fifty pages from the end I realized things were getting worse. And the main character with a super unique, one-of-a-kind in all the world gift hadn’t actually used it yet.

I understand the concept of leaving some story threads loose to resolve later and having an over-arching story that connects a series together. I don’t understand ending a book at the point where the shit hits the fan. It makes me want to refuse to read the next one based on principle alone. But McKinley has earned quite a bit of credit with me. So I will hold my tongue and wait patiently for the rest of Sylvi and Ebon’s story.

In Conclusion: Pegasus was a long, yet enjoyable read. It’s not about dragons or true love or blue swords. It’s about friendship and two kids trying to change the way their people see each other. It was beautiful. Fair warning, if you do decide to dive in, the sequels might be a long way off. Or they might not be coming at all. Pegasus came out in 2010. The second book, Ebon, was supposed to come out in 2012. It’s now 2018. I’ll let you do the math. As I understand it, a lot of personal stuff has gotten in the way of the second book getting written. I hope Robin McKinley takes all the time she needs to be happy and healthy, but I also hope this isn’t the end of Sylvi and Ebon’s story.

2 Comments

  • Shara White January 18, 2018 at 10:04 pm

    I’ve only read one McKinley book, and that was Sunshine. I was…. unimpressed. I read it well after I was acquainted with urban fantasy and seeing the genre really start to develop into something interesting, and I don’t know if it’s because of all the hype I heard about Sunshine or what, but I bounced off of it. :-/ Maybe if it’d read it sooner, it would’ve had a more lasting, positive effect for me.

    Reply
  • Weasel of Doom January 19, 2018 at 12:30 am

    Shara, give “The Blue Sword” a try! Like Kendra, I love it unconditionally.

    Kendra, I feel like Robin’s later books were under-edited 🙁 I know she has been going through really rough times with the illness and death of her husband, and I hope she is doing better now. If “Ebon” ever comes out, I’ll check it out from the library first 🙁

    Reply

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