Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Book Review: Pegasus by Robin McKinley

Title:  Pegasus
Author:  Robin McKinley
Publisher:  Putnam Juvenile 
Genre: YA/fantasy
Hardcover: 400 pages
ISBN: 1423116399
Release date:  Nov 2, 2010
FTC note:  My ARC of Pegasus was provided by the publisher for an honest review.
Summary from Goodreads:
A gorgeously-written fantasy about the friendship between a princess and her pegasus

Because of a thousand-year-old alliance between humans and pegasi, 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.
  • Overall rating: 9/10
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Robin McKinley's Pegasus is beautiful coming-of-age story about a young girl and the pegasus who becomes her dearest friend.  In Sylvi's world, it is customary for every member of the royal family to be ceremonially bound to a pegasus of comparable rank upon his or her twelfth birthday.  The pegasus generally serves as an ambassador-like companion, and the pair will attend most formal functions together for the rest of their lives as a symbol of the longstanding alliance between their cultures.  Each pair is assigned a Speaker, a specially trained magician, who serves as a translator and interpreter.  But even with the Speakers' aid, actual communication beyond formal pleasantries and rudimentary smalltalk has long been understood to be impossible between humans and pegasi.

So when Sylvi, the fourth child of the reigning human king, meets her pegasus, they are both shocked to find that they are able to hear one another's thoughts. Sylvi and Ebon's unique ability to communicate helps them form a friendship that could change the way humans and pegasi view one another forever.  But will their friendship make the alliance stronger or tear their cultures apart?  Pegasus is the type of richly-imagined fantasy novel that you can't help  immersing yourself in, and I found myself thinking about it long after turning the final page.  The characters are well-developed, the setting is intriguing, and the story is thoroughly engaging.  I really enjoyed it and can't wait to read the second book!

What I Liked:
-     The world-building.  I loved the way the differences between the human and pegasi cultures were revealed and explored.  Although the two races have lived side by side for hundreds of years, the seemingly insurmountable communication barrier has kept humans from truly understanding the pegasi.  I really liked seeing the details of both cultures revealed through Sylvi and Ebon's increasing understanding of one another.
 -     There may be magic and flying monsters in this book, but the characters all feel grounded and genuine.  At the heart of this story is a sixteen year old caught in a difficult and pivotal place between two worlds.  She is shy, self-conscious about her short stature, and frequently seems to find herself making mistakes in front of large crowds.  But Sylvi is also compassionate and observant, and she has a strong sense of justice.  She is very easy to sympathize with, whether she is nervous about her first big journey away from home or baffled by how much the world can change in a single moment.  I am eager to see what the second book has in store for her.
-     I loved Ebon and Sylvi's relationship.  Their personalities are remarkably suited to one another.  Both are curious and observant, and neither is afraid to question ideas their societies have accepted for centuries.  The more they learn about one another, the more they begin to examine their own cultural histories.  Sylvi is fascinated by the pegasi culture and some aspects of the book almost reminded me of a colonial love story between a European immigrant and a Native American. 
-     Even the minor characters in this book are memorable, and their relationships are all believably complex.  I found myself growing attached to several minor characters, like Hirishy, Ahathin, and Hibeehea, and I hope to see more of each of them in the second book.

What I Wished:
-     I wish the final pages of this book were less torturous.  This book ends in the midst of a fairly traumatic development and almost feels as though it cuts off mid-chapter.  The abrupt and unsatisfying ending is really my only complaint about this book, so I definitely look forward to reading the second half of the story in the sequel (which I believe is set for publication in 2012).

Pegasus is sure to please fans of Robin McKinley's previous novels.  This book made me want to re-read a few of my old favorites, like Beauty and Spindle's End.  If you enjoy young adult (or middle grade) fantasy novels like Shannon Hale's or Tamora Pierce's books, you will want to pick up Robin McKinley's Pegasus.  If you would like to learn more about Pegasus or Robin McKinley's other books, please visit her website, blog, facebook, or twitter.

Read the first three chapters of Pegasus here!

A second perspective:  Primrose really liked this book too.  Her thoughts:   "Pegasus was AWESOME!  I especially loved how Sylvi could fly with Ebon.  It would be so much fun to have a pegasus friend like Ebon.  I liked how Sylvi and Ebon could talk to each other silently, and I liked the way the author described each pegasus.  She made it easy to imagine them as creatures who look a lot like horses but move more like beautiful birds.  I had fun drawing my own versions of that type of pegasus, with flowers in their manes and fancy pouches around their necks just like Ebon."


Candace said...

I want this book SO bad! And your review made me want it more! Although knowing it ends on a cliffhanger is a little disappointing... I'm on a book buying ban, but as soon as I'm able I'm getting this book! Fantastic review!

Chachic said...

I'm jealous that you've already read this book! I already have a reservation in my local bookstore but I still keep calling just to ask if they already received their shipment. Good to know that you liked it. I've heard good things about Pegasus although I think most reviews mention the cliffhanger ending.

Cleverly Inked said...

I have been wanting this one.So awesome that it hit the spot for you.

Chrissie said...

I haven't heard of this book before! It definitely sounds very different to anything else I've read - looks very interesting! Great review :)

bookaddict4real said...

This book sounds different . I know this is off topic but I got to say I love all this purple and that you have more than one reviewer!

Adeeva Afsheen said...

Banned complain !! Complaining only causes life and mind become more severe. Enjoy the rhythm of the problems faced. No matter ga life, not a problem not learn, so enjoy it :)

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