Saturday, January 15, 2011
Pages: 404 (hardcover)
Published: November 2010 by Putnam Juvenile
Recommended for: fans of Robin McKinley's other books
Because she was a princess, she had a 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'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.
New York Times bestselling Robin McKinley weaves an unforgettable tale of unbreakable friendship, mythical creatures and courtly drama destined to become a classic.
Oh, what potential this book had! Robin McKinley is an amazingly talented, experienced, beloved fantasy author. Her books Sunshine and The Hero and the Crown are nothing short of genius, and yet Pegasus falls so short of expections, for me. The world in which Princess Sylvi and her pegasus Ebon exist is brilliantly, beautfifully realized-- I was entranced with the first 50 pages, by the intricate descriptions of pegasus and palace life and culture, by the foreign names and the history between pegasi and humans.
By page 60, I realized that that was it. This book is more like a cultural textbook about a fantasy race than a dynamic novel. Some of McKinley's other books can occasionally seem slow, but they always pick right back up again. The beginning of this novel meanders along... by the middle, it's trudging through pretty heavy bush... and by the ending, it's positively stagnant. There are very few plot twists-- very little plot at all, really. Pegasus is a tome-- just over 400 pages-- and the story could easily be told in 100 pages, were it not for the admittedly interesting details of pegasi culture. And then I read the last page and realize that this is the first book of a two-part series. I can't imagine reading through another book in which so little happens, especially if the endings are all so entirely unsatisfying as this one's. The villain (Fthoom-- try saying that name aloud)-- was so typical, with his court magician sneers and conspiracies that he really started to grate on my nerves).
I didn't hate this book. I was tempted to skim pages and tempted to not finish, but it's by no means a terrible novel. The writing is beautiful, the descriptions of the pegasi are beyond cool, and Ebon is a fantastic character. (The only fantastic character, for me. Most of them, even Sylvi, are fairly boring and typical fantasy stereotypes.) I did like Sylvi's mother, the Queen, who was far fonder of riding out with army patrols and slaying monsters than sitting at a court banquet. That said, Pegasus was overall more than a little disappointing to me. The reviews I've read from other people are so mixed-- some people are like me, and really miss the lack of action and plot in this book. Some people seem to right-out hate it. And hardcore McKinley fans mostly seem to love it. It's one of those books, I think, that every reader will interpret differently. Give it a go if you're still interested, or as captivated by that beautiful cover as I was.
*This book qualifies for the following reading challenges: British Books Challenge 2011*