Pegasus by Robin McKinley

Pegasus by Robin McKinley
Coming November 2010
Read August 23, 2010 – August 27, 2010
Advanced Reading Copy, 397 pages
ISBN: 978-0-399-24677-7

The Pegasi are beautiful, sentient beings whose very existence is threatened until a rag-tag band of human explorers appear in their valley. The humans and the Pegasi form a precarious Alliance made difficult by the profound differences in communication between the two species. To ensure the Alliance is maintained, important humans are bound to important Pegasi once the human child reaches age 12. These bonds are tenuous at best, and both parties speak through interpretors. But their languages are intrisically different, and communication proceeds haltingly and inaccurately. Centuries pass and the Alliance, for all its challenges, remains strong–that is until Sylvi and the Pegasus Ebon are bound. These two share a profound connection, even prior to their binding ceremony, and they have such a strong understanding of one another that the Alliance and the survival of both species is imperiled.

First off, I must say that I adored this book. I am a huge fan of Robin McKinley, as many of you are aware, and for me Pegasus represents one of McKinley’s most imaginative and interesting works. What is perhaps most striking about this novel are the Pegasi. I find myself as in awe of these creatures as the humans in the novel. McKinley has always been especially adept at creating a world for her characaters to exit within, and for readers, stepping into these worlds is as effortless as dropping off that last stair and onto the ground. But the world created in Pegasus has to be a masterpiece. Here, not only has McKinley created a world with a unique history and mythology, but she has also created an amazingly rich culture–that of the Pegasi–complete with unique religion and customs, artwork and scholarly pursuits, language and folklore.

A first-time reader of McKinley might marvel at the amount of exposition in this novel. However, during the drafting process, McKinley decided to split Pegasus into two separate novels. And therein lies my only problem with the book…that it’s two books and not one, and only the first book has been written.

My thoughts dash back and forth much like this:

Pegasus is 400 pages of mostly exposition.
But the history and culture McKinley creates are so facinating, that I could barely put the book down.
But hardly anything major happened until those last 100 pages of the book.
Number one, that’s not entirely true. Fthoom’s treachery is apparent from the beginning, and his power and political clout frustrated you throughout the book. Besides, if you were so bored for the first 300 pages, how come you raced home from work every day to read?
Quite the opposite of bored, you!! The book was awesome, fascinating at every turn.
So why are you complaining?
Because I read 400 pages of beautiful prose and captivating detail that spun a marvelous tale of friendship and the struggle to find cultural understanding between two unique peoples, only to discover that the novel ends in such a suspenseful, heart-rending cliff-hanger that I want to pull out my hair, travel into the future, find the second novel in the Pegasus duo, and finally finally learn the fates of Ebon and Sylvii, and the Pegasi and the Alliance. *and breathe* That’s why.
Fair enough, now continue with your review please…

One of my favorite aspects of Pegasus is the prevalence of surprisingly grown-up themes throughout this Young Adult fantasy novel. Although the humans love the Pegasi, these creatures are so completely alien that, even after centuries of coexistance, the humans still experience a fair amount of xenophobia towards the Pegasi. Many of the customs developed by the humans keep the Pegasi at arms length. The amount of awkward formality directed towards the Pegasi highlights the humans’ continued discomfort around these startling beings. As I read I couldn’t help but be reminded of modern day race relations or peace talks between peoples who are always at odds. Maybe I’m strange for drawing similarities between a fantasy novel and current events, but there is a small part of me that wonders if McKinley, on some subconscious level, has parabolically written this novel as a larger social commentary.

Further supporting this queer theory of mine is this: Because of the humans’ general discomfort with the Pegasi, their society is susceptible to fear-mongering from one of the most powerful political machines, the Magician’s Guild. Especially convincing in his arguments against Ebon and Sylvii’s association is Fthoom, the most influential member of the Magician’s Guild. His grassroots efforts to undermine the special friendship between Sylvii and Ebon slowly gains followers until it erupts in a fervor of dissent as the country prepares itself to go to war.

Permit me a sidebar here. Fthoom is a fantastic name for this character. To me, it sounds like an explosive boom or the combustion of flame, a perfect parallel to Fthoom’s personality. He is quick to temper, prone to outbursts, incendiary in his actions. His small fires of doubt and anger are lit in one place, then spread to another until there is a raging wild fire of discontent. He is pompous and arrogant, and what’s a raging wild fire if not brazen? And Fthoom is ambitious beyond belief; all-in-all a fantasticly, near-perfect villian.

Pegasus leaves so many unanswered questions: What happens to Ebon and Sylvii? How on Earth can they defeat Fthoom? How can the humans triumph over the assailing armies whose only mission seems to be the destruction of the Pegasi? Did Redfora and Oraan exist? What truths will be revealed when Sylvii drinks from her vial of water from the Dreaming Sea? Why did the Sword recognize Sylvii as it had her brother, the heir?

AUGH! I can absolutely not wait for the next book.

But woe is me, McKinley (from what I infer from her blog) is in the earlier stages of the Peg II draft and thus the second novel won’t be released within my ideal timeframe. But despite the anticipated wait for Peg II, I highly highly recommend Pegasus to you, dear reader. In the meantime, I will have to satisfy myself with this ARC and the published version of Peg I when it arrives in bookstores this November.

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One response to “Pegasus by Robin McKinley

  1. Great to hear that you liked it. I enjoyed Sunshine so I don’t think the exposition would put me off. However, the cliffhanger does, and I may wait until the second one is almost out or out before I pick up the first! Also I don’t think it’s strange at all to compare fantasy books to current events. Fantasy does not mean that it is irrelevant to what is going on in our world. In fact, fantasy often illuminates aspects of our world that maybe we would see clearly otherwise. :)

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