It came as a bit of a shock to realize that I hadn’t reviewed a single, measly book by my most favorite author. Not that her books are measly, mind you, but just that it was fun to write that in a sentence. Also, you can forget that ‘bit of a shock’ part and insert HUGE, crazy, tilt-your-world-on-its-axis shock instead. That is to say: when I realized that I hadn’t actually reviewed anything by Robin McKinley, I had a minor heart attack. The rest of my favorite authors are all represented in my archive. How did this HAPPEN?
I’ll tell you the reason right now: I’m a coward. For a very long time I kept putting it off, thinking that ‘one day I’ll wake up and just feel like writing about how much I love The Blue Sword, and I’ll use eloquent language, and…’ That’s about where I’d dribble off into silence, because I could never actually imagine using suitable prose to describe how much I love that book. Barring divine intervention, a review was never going to get written. AND, since I feel this intensely about practically everything Ms. McKinley has written, the task looked impossible.
At this point, you may politely point out that I am a crazy person, and isn’t this little thing that I’m writing right now a review of a McKinley book? Why yes. It is. It is happening because at ALA (in June) last year I was very very lucky, and picked up an ARC of Pegasus at the Penguin booth. I then read it in September after I found out that I was losing my job. It was all sorts of soothing and wonderful and just what I needed, and it deserved a review, no matter how paltry the talent of the person behind the blog. So let’s get down to business.
A gorgeously written fantasy about the friendship between a princess and her Pegasus.
Because of a thousand-year-old alliance between humans and pagasi, 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 is 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.
New York Times bestselling Robin McKinley weaves an unforgettable tale of unbreakable friendship, mythical creatures and courtly drama destined to become a classic.
Pegasus felt at the same time like a dream of a fantasy and also intimate and heavy with emotion. It featured McKinley’s trademark smart heroine who feels like an outsider among her own kind, but forms fast friendships in spite of it. The novel also had a deep connection to geography and language. As a visual person, I had no trouble ‘seeing’ the land of the pegasi in my mind’s eye. And though it might be distressing to read the language of the pegasi aloud, the words had a way of murmuring along in the back of my mind.
For me, Pegasus was an instant favorite, and the descriptions of flight, bits of subtle humor and the wide scope of the story (where so much is below the surface, so much inferred, so much to dream about) were the best parts. It isn’t a fairy tale, but definitely fantastical and mythic. Sylvi and Ebon were strong, wonderful characters - the sorts that you would like to be, if you were faced with the kind of trouble they face. All in all, the book was just...ideal.
If all of that sounds like a eulogy of praise, it is. I feel this scary amount of love towards almost all McKinley books. So yes, I am biased. Biased by years of reading satisfaction and sensational writing. BUT. Even I understand that there are those who would have a lukewarm reaction to this novel. What do the members of this rare tribe look like? First: they don’t like fantasy, ever, no ifs ands or buts about it. You can forget the Narnia novels, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, anything with magic at all. If it isn’t real, can it. Second: they need romance. Can’t tolerate a book without it. Get antsy if no one is kissed by page 100. Third: cliffhangers are the stuff their nightmares are made of.
If that didn’t sound like you, I’d suggest Pegasus. Strongly. And yes, it is one story broken into two parts. But the second part is coming SOON, and it’s totally worth it. Really.
Recommended for: anyone interested in developing their sense of wonder, those who appreciate high fantasy and also those looking for a good introduction to it, fans of YA fiction as well as fans of beautiful writing, and anyone who knows how to find the ‘real’ and important things in any setting, no matter how fantastical.
[I got an ARC of Pegasus from the Penguin/Putnam booth at ALA 2010. I also got a hardcover for Christmas, because I loved it that much. I'm donating the ARC to my sister's 7th grade classroom in Washington State.]