Pegasus by Robin McKinley, published by Puffin on 7th July 2011
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 its 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.
I want to preface this review by saying that I am a fan of Robin McKinley and I've enjoyed several of her earlier books in the past, including Beauty' and 'Spindle's End' which are big favourites of mine. I was excited to start 'Pegasus' as it's a book which has been on my radar for a while and I couldn't wait to pick it up and start reading it when it arrived.
'Pegasus' is actually the first of a planned two book series. The concept of the series is highly original and unique and really grabbed my attention from the beginning. It's based around the relationship between humans and pegasi who are bonded together when they reach a certain age. A lot of time is spent on explaining the history between the two but although this was interesting I did find that it slowed the flow of the story down quite a lot. Therefore, although the idea for the story was extremely original and appealed to the part of me that loves fantasy and magic, I kept waiting for something to happen in the first half of the book which never materialised.
Some parts of the story were wonderful and gorgeously descriptive and evocative but others were too long and failed to keep my focus and attention. I alternated between wanting to put the book down and have a break and wanting to read on in case something amazing suddenly happened. This meant that the overall flow of the story was rather up and down and didn't consistently keep me immersed in the plot. Also although McKinley has a wonderful talent for vividly painting a picture of a scene or place, I thought that some of the descriptive passages in the book were a little too much at times.
As a fantasy, McKinley's created an incredible world which features a whole host of new creatures which you won't find among the pages of any other book. At times, although I liked the magical element of this, I had to keep re-reading sections to try and keep all the characters straight in my head and I have to say that I really struggled with some of the names. This meant that I was often concentrating quite hard on trying to remember who everyone was, rather than completely connecting with the characters and letting myself be swept away by the story.
One of my favourite bits was seeing the bond between the main character Sylvi and her pegasus Ebon being formed almost instantaneously on their first meeting. Although Ebon is obviously not human, their relationship still came across as one of best-friends who would do anything for each other. The sense of closeness between them really came alive and they certainly bring out the best qualities in each other.
Overall, I think that the style of this book just wasn't for me. I do love fantasy so the genre itself wasn't a barrier to me enjoying the story but I just couldn't completely give myself over to the tale of Princess Sylvi and her pegasus however hard I tried.