Release date: July 7th 2011.
Paperback, 400 pages.
Rating: 3½ out of 5.
Source: Received from publisher for review.
Reviewed by: Liz
This is the first book in a magical two-part tale of fantasy and friendship ...On her twelfth birthday, Princess Sylviianel is ceremonially bound to her own Pegasus, Ebon. For a thousand years humans and pegasi have lived peacefully in the beautiful green country beyond the wild lands. They rely on human magicians and pegasi shamans as their only means of real communication - but not Sylvi and Ebon. Their friendship is like no other...They can understand each other. But as their bond grows more powerful, it becomes dangerous - could their friendship threaten to destroy the peace and safety of their two worlds?
Robin McKinley’s Pegasus is a story that focuses on the bonds between humans and pegasi - graceful, winged creatures that are neither horse nor bird, but somewhere in between. Set in Balsinland, a kingdom surrounded by rich, green lands, the novel chronicles the life of Princess Sylvi and her bonded pegasus, Ebon. In Balsinland, each child of the royal family traditionally is bonded to a child of the pegasi royalty. Sylvi is a princess preparing for her bonding ceremony, which will take place on her twelfth birthday. Tradition dictates that Sylvi should not know anything about her pegasus before the bonding, and though Slyvi has practised and practised for this day, something happens during her bonding that no-one could have prepared for – she hears Ebon’s voice in her head. Ebon and Sylvi have a bond unlike any pegasi and human – they are able to understand each other and can speak to one another silently through their minds. Most humans can barely say “what nice weather we’re having” to their pegasi, so such an unprecedented event is a huge shock to both kingdoms, as since the dawn of the Alliance (when humans and pegasi agreed to become allies in order to fight the monsters attacking their lands) there have been no records of such a relationship between bond-mates. The rest of the novel revolves around whether or not humans and pegasi can, or even should, ever be able to truly communicate with each other without the aid of magicians or shamans (who know enough of both languages to perform simple translations), and looks at the struggles Ebon and Sylvi go through because of their special bond.
The book is quite slow to start – I found myself automatically skimming over a few paragraphs in the first few chapters and then forcing myself to go back and re-read them to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I was tempted to put the book down for a while and start something else, but I kept going, and I was glad I did. Once Sylvi is bonded with Ebon, things start to get a lot more interesting. Ebon and Sylvi’s bond is truly unique, so it was fascinating to read about the reaction of all the people in the kingdom, especially those people who thought the bond was unnatural and believed that Ebon and Sylvi should be separated, such as Fthoom (one of the king’s magicians) who really seemed to hate the connection the two shared. I actually liked finding out about Fthoom, because even though he’s a very slimy and selfish character, he seems to know a lot more about bonds than he lets on, so I’m curious see what he gets up to in the next book. It was also great to see Ebon and Sylvi get to know each other and become close friends.
I really enjoyed reading about the friendship between Ebon and Sylvi – despite being different species, they really seem to understand each other, and genuinely consider themselves to be best friends. When they have to be parted even for just a week, they’re both miserable and lonely. They balance each other out – Sylvi is quite shy, and Ebon is almost the opposite; together they make the perfect pair, and are always able to feel at ease together. Sylvi is fascinated by the pegasi’s world, and always asks Ebon what it’s like at his home – the rich descriptions of the pegasi Caves and their homeland made me feel like I was really there, and whenever Sylvi was flying with Ebon, I felt like I could really see them soaring through the night sky. One of the reasons I love fantasy novels so much is that you feel like you’re really being transported into the worlds being described, and I thought Pegasus did this successfully.
However, the abundance of flashbacks made the story seem very disjointed; at times I found it hard to work out whether we were in the past or present and I constantly had to flick back a few pages to figure out just where exactly in the story we were. The flashback scenes also seemed to be completely random at times, and I again found myself accidentally skimming over some of them to get back to the interesting parts of the novel. The ending was very abrupt; the last page literally ended halfway through a vital scene, so if you don’t like cliffhangers, I suggest waiting until the sequel is released before reading this series.
Overall, I enjoyed Pegasus and thought it was an intriguing story about the relationships between two very different creatures. I think any fan of fantasy will appreciate McKinley’s depiction of the elegant pegasi and their connection with the human world, and I believe Pegasus could appeal to fantasy lovers of all ages.