Sunday, January 30, 2011 |

It came as a bit of a shock to realize that I hadn’t reviewed a single, measly book by my most favorite author. Not that her books are measly, mind you, but just that it was fun to write that in a sentence. Also, you can forget that ‘bit of a shock’ part and insert HUGE, crazy, tilt-your-world-on-its-axis shock instead. That is to say: when I realized that I hadn’t actually reviewed anything by Robin McKinley, I had a minor heart attack. The rest of my favorite authors are all represented in my archive. How did this HAPPEN?

I’ll tell you the reason right now: I’m a coward. For a very long time I kept putting it off, thinking that ‘one day I’ll wake up and just feel like writing about how much I love The Blue Sword, and I’ll use eloquent language, and…’ That’s about where I’d dribble off into silence, because I could never actually imagine using suitable prose to describe how much I love that book. Barring divine intervention, a review was never going to get written. AND, since I feel this intensely about practically everything Ms. McKinley has written, the task looked impossible.

At this point, you may politely point out that I am a crazy person, and isn’t this little thing that I’m writing right now a review of a McKinley book? Why yes. It is. It is happening because at ALA (in June) last year I was very very lucky, and picked up an ARC of Pegasus at the Penguin booth. I then read it in September after I found out that I was losing my job. It was all sorts of soothing and wonderful and just what I needed, and it deserved a review, no matter how paltry the talent of the person behind the blog. So let’s get down to business.

A gorgeously written fantasy about the friendship between a princess and her 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 is 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.

Pegasus felt at the same time like a dream of a fantasy and also intimate and heavy with emotion. It featured McKinley’s trademark smart heroine who feels like an outsider among her own kind, but forms fast friendships in spite of it. The novel also had a deep connection to geography and language. As a visual person, I had no trouble ‘seeing’ the land of the pegasi in my mind’s eye. And though it might be distressing to read the language of the pegasi aloud, the words had a way of murmuring along in the back of my mind.

For me, Pegasus was an instant favorite, and the descriptions of flight, bits of subtle humor and the wide scope of the story (where so much is below the surface, so much inferred, so much to dream about) were the best parts. It isn’t a fairy tale, but definitely fantastical and mythic. Sylvi and Ebon were strong, wonderful characters - the sorts that you would like to be, if you were faced with the kind of trouble they face. All in all, the book was just...ideal.

If all of that sounds like a eulogy of praise, it is. I feel this scary amount of love towards almost all McKinley books. So yes, I am biased. Biased by years of reading satisfaction and sensational writing. BUT. Even I understand that there are those who would have a lukewarm reaction to this novel. What do the members of this rare tribe look like? First: they don’t like fantasy, ever, no ifs ands or buts about it. You can forget the Narnia novels, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, anything with magic at all. If it isn’t real, can it. Second: they need romance. Can’t tolerate a book without it. Get antsy if no one is kissed by page 100. Third: cliffhangers are the stuff their nightmares are made of.

If that didn’t sound like you, I’d suggest Pegasus. Strongly. And yes, it is one story broken into two parts. But the second part is coming SOON, and it’s totally worth it. Really.

Recommended for: anyone interested in developing their sense of wonder, those who appreciate high fantasy and also those looking for a good introduction to it, fans of YA fiction as well as fans of beautiful writing, and anyone who knows how to find the ‘real’ and important things in any setting, no matter how fantastical.

[I got an ARC of Pegasus from the Penguin/Putnam booth at ALA 2010. I also got a hardcover for Christmas, because I loved it that much. I'm donating the ARC to my sister's 7th grade classroom in Washington State.]


ibeeeg said...

Oh my gosh... I love McKinley's writing too, and I absolutley love Pegasus! I read it in Novemeber, and wrote a review (although not as eloquent as yours)...I raved, I do believe. I think the two biggest complaints from others would be the history building that was woven throughout the story...especially the beginning. I, however, loved that aspect because I felt like it gave a tremendous flavor to the story, and knowledge to me...the reader. The other complaint that I hear is the ending...a cliffhanger. In the truest since of a cliffhanger...yes, there is one, BUT it does not feel like a huge me. It felt more like a tv season ending...the story is not complete and more is to come,and I am okay with that.

I loved this story so much that I had my 11-year old daughter start to read it but she did get a bit lost with the beginning history building so we turned it into our read aloud. She is hooked, and loves Pegasus. We are more than half way through the read, she does not need me to read aloud to her anymore but I am because the bonding she and I are having with the story. Pure enjoyment for me with this re-read.

Glad that you reviewed the story.

Jenny said...

I love Robin McKinley too sometimes, and sometimes her books fall completely flat for me. But I liked Pegasus a lot, cliffhanger and all! Glad you were finally able to review one of McKinley's books. :)

I have a hard time reviewing books I have crazy loved for a long time. I feel like nothing I say will ever be adequate to convey the amount of love I have for them.

Orchid said...

I loved Pegasus an dthought it was one of Robin McKinley's best books.
I too have trouble when it comes to writing a review for an authors whose books I absolutely adore. NIce review. ^_^

Katie said...

I'm a huge fantasy fan, (major Narnia junkie) I don't care about romance in a book, and I actually love cliffhangers. But I strongly disliked this novel.

I agree with you on some aspects of your review; I thought McKinley's writing was gorgeous & Sylvi & Ebon were wonderful characters, but the book just lost me. Even as an appreciator of high fantasy, this just wasn't the book for me.

Tales of Whimsy said...

Sounds like something I must try. Fantastic review :) Your quirk made me smile.

Cecelia said...

KatieDoll: I understand. I've had the same reaction to books that by all rights I should love. I think sometimes it's due to timing, sometimes due to one little nagging 'thing,' and sometimes there's just no definable reason. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Ginny Larsen said...

haha, i got done reading this review, and was like: "i remember her talking about this one... i should go and see if a) Borders has a copy on hand, or b) i have $$ to buy it. THEN! i see you're sending me this copy :DDDDDDDDDD (that's a smiley to the nth degree :D btw)"

so yeah. this is me doing an excited happy dance!!!

that's the best i could do. sorry :D

Cecelia said...

Ginny: Thank you for the dancing stick figure. *grin*

Memory said...

McKinley is a bit hit-or-miss for me, but I've got a feeling this one's going to be a hit. I've decided to wait until the second half is out, though, since I want to gulp the whole thing down all at once!

Clare said...

I feel lukewarm to moderately warm about it because I find McKinley's totally borked the structure—I found her remark that Pegasus II will be a sequel like The Return of the King is a sequel very flippant, considering The Lord of the Rings is a single novel. GAH. There is a way to do duets (Jacqueline Carey did it right in The Sundering) and McKinley just… um… kind of missed it.

But that doesn't mean I hated it—I quite enjoyed the pegasi (I love very alien cultures). But there are die-hard fantasy fans who are lukewarm. ;)

Alyce said...

I think this is one of those times where I'm going to wait to read the book until the sequel comes out.

Brittany said...

I am waiting on the book Demon Glass by Rachel Hawkins! If you have time checkk out my YA blog! :)

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