Pegasus by Robin McKinley

About a month ago, I spoke of two releases I was anticipating, and though Towers of Midnight was the first to arrive on my doorstep, I immediately moved on to Pegasus after finishing it, filled with expectation not only because of its beautiful cover but because of the promising plot as well.

, a young adult novel by Robin McKinley and first in a planned duology, is about a mythical land where humans and pegasi live united by an eight hundred year old alliance. Because of this alliance, every human child of royal blood is bound to a pegasus. Sylvi, fourth child to the king, is bound to Ebon. However, when the bond between them turns out to be much more powerful than any before, it offers new opportunities and threatens the status quo of both their peoples.

Fairy tale
Robin McKinley is well-known for her modern fairy tales, and though I am new to her books, I can see why. The world she has created in Pegasus is wonderful, unique, and pulls the reader in like a perfect piece of poetry. That world is inhabited by creatures that feel both alien and identifiable. The way she has written them is not only poetic, but almost philosophic. Reading about them felt like walking in a dream I didn’t want to wake up from. Furthermore, the characters of Sylvi and Ebon felt very real to me. I could identify with their struggles, their love for each other and with the way they had to find a way to communicate regardless of their differences.

Poor start
However, it took me a while to get to the part where all that marvelous world building really started working, and the characters finally began distinguishing themselves. The first two hundred pages of this four hundred page novel are very slow and made me want to put this book down a couple times.

McKinley starts Pegasus with thirty pages of raw world building, where she essentially sums up a list of facts, disguised as Sylvi’s school lessons, in the form of reading a historical journal. This journal was written in old English, or something that was supposed to look like it because the only thing that McKinley did was change all instances of the word “the” into “thee”. I’m no expert, but I have never seen this happen in old texts before. Of course, much can be excused when reading a young adult novel, but the way these opening chapters were handled felt very cheap to me.

The first very slow half of the book does contain a couple great chapters where Sylvi and Ebon first get to know each other, which are sadly followed by a three year jump in time. The three years that were lost are then caught up by a hundred pages filled with flashbacks, in flashbacks, in flashbacks. Though seeing the story from the eyes of Sylvi was very adorable, it still left a very chaotic and tedious impression.

Suspense and foreshadowing
When the story finally does pick up, it does so at full throttle, never slowing down again until the very ending. Be warned, Pegasus will build up suspense until that very ending. On her blog, McKinley said of book two:

It’s going to be a sequel like The Return of the Kings is a sequel to The Two Towers. Remember the last line of Two Towers? ‘Frodo was alive but taken by the Enemy’? Yes… You’re going to hate me for the ending of Pegasus.

She’s right. The ending feels just like that, and though I normally hate cliffhangers, I think this one was the best of this book’s features. Not only did McKinley create an amazing cliffhanger, she has been foreshadowing it throughout the book, by leaving hints in pretty much every aspect of the story, giving the reader a feeling that some epic secrets are bound to be revealed, but not giving away any of those secrets until the very end.

Why should you read this book?
You should probably read Pegasus when you love fairy tales or young adult novels, but I could really recommend it if you just need a smaller, lighter book to read in between the more heavy material. This book reads like a dream: when you close your eyes, you will still see pegasi flying over idyllic green meadows. In the end, however, I do feel disappointed with a book that could easily have been great but turned out only half good.

About Stephan van Velzen

Stephan van Velzen
A 31 year-old Communications student, Stephan loves publicity and design, particularly web design. When he’s not designing websites, he can be found in a comfy chair reading a fantasy book. In The Ranting Dragon, he has found a way to combine these passions and discover a new love for writing to boot. Stephan lives in a small town in The Netherlands with his wife Rebecca, an editor for The Ranting Dragon, and their two cats.

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  1. Thank you so much for this review. I have my eye on this book as well. I just need to find the time to read it now. 🙂 Great to hear such a great pacing once the story gets going. Thank you!

  2. I found this review after finishing the book because my immediate reaction to the ending was wtf?? I’m glad to know there will be a second book. I agree wholeheartedly with the entire review, the beginning was definitely slow, but there were many parts of the book that made my heart pound with passion.

    Robin McKinley’s writing is so beautiful, my first and still favorite of her books is Spindle’s End. Every word is poetry and the rhythm of the story is one with the rhythm of a spindle. If you haven’t read this you need to!

  3. That beginning sounds difficult, but that amazing cover does draw me in. If the second half’s good, I think I can try to bear the first half…

  4. I love this book. I don’t find it a half-good book, but I’ll admit the journal (Balsin’s correct?) was not my favourite part. I love fairy tales and can just imagine tasting fhwfhwfhwa. I found this book all alone on a shelf and thought ‘I need this book. I’m getting this book.’ I can’t wait for the sequel or if it’s already out, to get it. But, really, if I were Sylvi, I never would have left Rhiandomeer in the first place…

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