- If you’ve read anything by Robin McKinley before, you know she is an epic fantasy author and writes awesome books.
- If you haven’t read anything by Robin McKinley before, you should go out and read Beauty and Sunshine immediately.
- If you fall into #1 or #2, you should get a copy of Pegasus and read it now, because it’s amazing.
Pegasus takes place in a medieval-like era. Princess Sylviianel is eleven, and on her twelfth birthday she will be bound to one of the pegasi. The pegasi are a race at least as intelligent as the humans, and they signed a treaty with the humans long ago for mutual protection from more fearsome beasts. Without the treaty, both the pegasi and humans would have been wiped out, but each has strengths that helped them defeat the rocs and wyverns and other dangerous creatures. The pegasi can fly and have very strong wings, but they have very light bodies and easily breakable bones. They also have tiny feather-hands at the end of each wing, but they envy humans’ strong, versatile hands. The problem is that the humans and pegasi can’t really communicate with each other, since the pegasi use a type of telepathy mixed with sign language among themselves. They rely on Speakers, members of each species who are more skilled at understanding and translating the other language. But how much have they all been misunderstanding each other all these centuries, and could someone be deliberately misinterpreting the pegasi to keep them from getting too close to humans?
The binding of a human to a pegasus is mostly a pomp-and-circumstance ceremony. It’s a symbol of friendship and goodwill between the two species, and it’s a tradition reserved only for important people, like the royal families. So Princess Sylvie, the youngest in her family and the only girl, is bound to the pegasus king’s youngest son, Ebon. But during their binding ceremony, they discover that they have an unprecedented bond: they can fully understand each other and communicate in their heads. This makes them both very valuable and very dangerous: they could learn so much about the other’s culture, but they could reveal secrets that some of the Speakers don’t want getting out.
The best thing about this book is how fully McKinley imagines the pegasi. Have you ever watched Star Trek and wondered why all the aliens are still humanoid, and why none of them are completely different? Or read Michael Crichton’s Sphere, where the characters consider an alien race that has a completely incomprehensible form of communication? These are the things I thought about when I read about the pegasi. How do you even begin to translate pegasus sign language into human speech, or vice versa? And yet, the relationship between Sylvie and Ebon seems very natural. The cementing of their friendship comes the night of their binding ceremony, when Ebon flies into Sylvie’s bedroom and says they’re going flying. There is a rule among humans that you are never to touch the pegasi, nor ever to ride one, because it is rude and likens them to a horse. But thanks to their special bond, Sylvie is able to find out from Ebon that the pegasi have no such rule, but that they abide by the custom because it seems to make the humans happy!
I loved Sylvie and the way she was continually outraged that she was short, that she always wanted to learn to fight with a bigger sword, and that she loved flying with Ebon more than anything, even though it was forbidden. And the scenes where she visits the pegasi’s homeland (the first human to do so) are absolutely lovely and ethereal.
It’s clear by the end of the book that this is only the first in a trilogy or series. There was a lot of backstory and history and story-setting in this one, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but I’m hoping there is going to be lots of sword-fighting and monster-slaying and awesome pegasus air battles in the next one!
P.S. I want to marry the cover art for this book. I am so in love with it. PRETTEH. *strokes book cover*