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Pegasus, Robin McKinley


Robin McKinley’s novels are always received with great anticipation and expectation by her long-suffering fans, who have to put up with long delays, inconclusive endings, and the idiosyncrasies of the authoress. I can tell you upfront that this novel is no exception — it ends on a TERRIBLE cliffhanger, and almost makes me wish I hadn’t read it. The sequel isn’t due to be published until 2012.

The premise of this novel is that the native population of pegasi, under threat from predators, has made a treaty with a recently arrived band of humans, who agree to drive out the attacking creatures. McKinley provides historical context for the treaty between the humans and the pegasi, and though there are significant differences in the bonding relationship developed between individuals, many readers will instantly think of Mercedes Lackey’s “Companions.” All of this information is related through the studies of Sylvi, the young daughter of a diplomatic king, a soldier queen, and youngest sister to three princes. Sylvi is preparing to be bound to a pegasi on her thirteenth birthday, in a mysterious ceremony performed by the magicians, who are the only ones who can speak both to the pegasi and the humans. Sylvi finds this rather annoying, especially as she tries to learn the pegasi sign language in order to communicate with the other pegasi of the court. To Sylvi’s delight, she feels an immediate bond with her pegasi, Ebon, and is able to speak mind to mind with him; of course, the magicians are dismayed at this, since it threatens their prestige and position as mediator between the races. And as Sylvi and Ebon explore their new bond and its implications for their respective people, there are a number of people who are watching these developments closely and seeking ways to turn them to their own benefit.

Although I always look forward to McKinley’s novels, I have gotten to the point where I pick them up almost expecting to be disappointed. Her earlier works, especially “Beauty” and “Deerskin” are so well written that some of her more recent novels have been great disappointments. However, Sylvi is a curious, engaging character, and watching her relationship with Ebon develop is intriguing, especially as Sylvi begins to realize that the pegasi are people who have a history and culture and language, not just companions or subordinates to the humans. It is also fascinating to see the change in politics as power shifts amongst the pegasi, royalty, and the magicians. In particular, I also enjoyed seeing Sylvi’s change in thought as she experiences the pegasi culture and begins to realize what it must be like for the pegasi to leave their homes and spend time in the human royal court.

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