Robin McKinley was a favorite author of mine when I was in high school for her retelling novels of Beauty & the Beast, Beauty and The Rose Daughter. (Both of which are good, although I prefer Beauty.) I also liked Sunshine, a YA book she wrote several years ago that dealt with the darker side to vampires. So, of course, I couldn’t pass up the chance to read her newest novel.
Pegasus is a fantasy novel, through and through. It takes place in Balsinland where humans became allies of the Pegasi, a race of flying creatures that resemble horses, in order to fight off the beasts that threaten the extinction of the Pegasi. This alliance has lasted for one thousand years. The Pegasi are not as big or strong as horses and you can never ever ride them, as mandated by law. They have their own language, government and culture, and live in a place where no human has ever been. They’re almost revered for their beauty. And due to the alliance, each member of the human royal family is ‘bound’ (not married!) to a member of the Pegasi royal family.
Thus starts the story of Princess Sylviianel and Ebon. Sylviianel, Sylvi for short, is bound to Ebon on her twelfth birthday and they become quite close very fast because, you see, Sylvi and Ebon can understand each other. (Every bound human and pegasus before them has required the services of a specially-trained Speaker magician to interpret.) And some people don’t like their closeness, but you’ll have to read the book to find out what happens after that.
I loved the relationship between Sylvi and Ebon. They’re best friends and kids, so they get into trouble and overstep their boundaries, but you don’t care because they’re great together. At times I thought the treatment they received from some people to be unduly harsh because it’s normal for children to do something faux pas, but then I can see why they would be so harsh since Sylvi is a princess and Ebon a prince, and they’re held to higher standards.
I also loved the world Robin McKinley created, where beasts abound and are sometimes as smart, if not smarter, than humans, where special grass gives Pegasi the ability to fly, and caves can make you relive parts of the past. It would have been nice to have a map (hint, hint, Robin) to reference while reading, but sometimes we can’t get everything we want.
My one hang-up was the prose. It was hard to get into when I first started reading, but after awhile I got used to it. What I didn’t get used to was the need for so much repetition of what people had said before and what Sylvi was thinking. I realize this book is aimed for kids 12 and up, so maybe the editors involved thought it necessary, but I certainly didn’t think it was.
Since Penguin seems to be handing this book out left and right (you can request an ARC of Pegasus for review by emailing Sara Zick at [email protected]), I have high hopes there will be a follow-up to expand upon the ending we were given. Because it wasn’t an ending. There has to be more after that, or else I’ll be back at a later date for a much needed rant about how to properly end books.
If you’ve ever read a Robin McKinley story before, or if you would genuinely enjoy reading a gentle, slow-paced, but engrossing fantasy book, I would recommend this for you.