In Balsinland, it is tradition that members of the royal family are bonded to a pegasus–their “Excellent Friend”– at the age of twelve. This tradition hearkens back to the original treaty between pegasi and humans, which states that the humans will protect the pegasi from the monsters that inhabit the land in return for the right to build a kingdom there. However, despite being “bonded”, the only humans who can speak to the pegasi without the use of sign language are the Speakers, magicians who have trained diligently and who hold much power in Balsinland.
Princess Sylvi has always known that she would one day be bonded to her very own Excellent Friend. What she didn’t expect was to be as close to Ebon as to her own brothers. From the first moment, it is apparent that she an Ebon are more than just bonded, more than just Excellent Friends–because they can talk to each other in their minds. In other words, without the need for a Speaker.
To Sylvi and Ebon, this strange talent is a a surprise gift. To the Speaker Fthoom, it is a threat. Fthoom tries to discredit Sylvi to protect his own place in court, first by claiming that she and Ebon must have broken tradition, then by trying to convince the King that their gift is a curse. It is easy to pass Fthoom’s claims off as an attempt to protect his place; however, research states that he might be right. . . .
The first thing to say about this book is this: It has a cliffhanger. For those of you who have read my blog for a while, you know that I hate cliffhangers. There’s something disappointing about reading a book, having a slight uneasy feeling as the last few pages approach with no ending in sight, and then having your suspicions that the author didn’t finish the book proved correct. I understand that some sagas will take a thousand pages to tell–so give the readers a thousand pages. Or at least warn them that there’s a cliffhanger ahead by calling it a pair or a trilogy or a series. Sheesh.
My mini-rant aside, Pegasus is still a great YA book that I enjoyed immensely. I love Robin McKinley’s lyrical style, and her characterizations in Pegasus are well-done. Take Ebon, for instance–he balances Sylvi’s cute, shy princess-ness perfectly by being spontaneous, mischievous, and just plain fun. And the settings–just beautiful. (But then, did you expect anything else?)
Besides the cliffhanger, the biggest problem in Pegasus is the plot. Or rather, the semi-lack thereof. In much of the book, the characters are a part of events that are wondrous, but that don’t move the plot along. The second biggest problem is that the flashbacks (and there are a lot of flashbacks) tend to blend in with the current action so that it’s hard to tell if what’s happening is taking place in the present or the past. This last problem is a small annoyance, though; it isn’t big enough to ruin the tale.
If you like fantasy stories that seriously show instead of just telling, enjoy a winding tale, and can stomach a cliffhanger, I recommend that you read Pegasus. Now, if the cliffhanger doesn’t appeal to you, don’t give up on Robin McKinley; try one of her other tales, like Spindle’s End or Beauty, which were both lovely retellings of the classic fairy tales. Really, read one of her stories. It’s worth it.