Review: Pegasus by Robin McKinley

Pegasus by Robin McKinley – Putnam Juvenile – Novel: Fantasy, Young Adult – Buy it here – Our rating: Two Pipes

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 it’s 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.

As an avid reader of fantasy and fiction, I find myself reaching a point with each new novel at which I long for a greater degree of immersion into the main character’s world. Novels feel real to me when authors provide enough details for me to clearly imagine scenes without any uncomfortable moments of, “But what is Character X doing?” or “Wait – what color was that?” Beyond the disquieting feeling being out-of-the-know provides lies a profound sense of literary disappointment. At these moments, the whiny child in me surfaces and whinges: “Your book jacket promised me a world of fantasy, and you barely told me what the world was like at all! If I wanted to read something short on atmosphere I would have read a math book; it was like I was promised an ice cream sundae and given an apple instead!”

Luckily, McKinley’s work doesn’t make me whinge, and Pegasus is no exception to that rule. Her novel is detailed, and more than adequately indulges my frivolous desire to immerse myself in a world of princesses and magical creatures. I absolutely adored this book. I devoured it. There were points in the reading process where I was so happily absorbed in Pegasus’ fantasy world that I took breaks so as to extend the amount of time the reading process would consume.

Here’s the issue I have with this book: when McKinley sat down to write Pegasus, she openly admits (via this blog post) that she “whacked it in half – well, in two-thirds, and one-third.” There’s not a single word about it on Pegasus’ cover, back cover, or inserts, but Pegasus is the first book of a trilogy. A second book titled Ebon is slated to be released in 2014, and no news yet on when the third book, currently titled The Golden Country, will appear.

After reading about McKinley’s self-professed plot slashing, and reflecting on the plot I was given in this first third, I was left with the unsettling realization that McKinley’s book is awkwardly constructed because of its bizzarre plot sequencing. Pegasus  ends on what is obviously a single story’s climax, which the entire book plods towards with such shocking slowness that, as I read, I futilely hoped  merely constituted a subtle buildup for an amazing novel-resolving plot twist. Sadly, nothing happened to give me even a minor feeling of resolution. While I understand that the atmospheric descriptions I so enjoy reading take time to dream up and space to describe, it occurs to me that McKinley may have focused on atmosphere because she knew she couldn’t deliver Pegasus’ plot, which is usually considered a novel’s lifeblood, its raison d’etre.

In sum, I’ve been duped into reading a particularly thin third of a story, and even worse, persuaded, by beguiling yet lovely atmospheric diction, to like said duping; thus, I am left waiting an unwarned 3+ years for a trilogy to resolve itself. Taken with the added plot consolation the following novels are bound to provide, this book would probably be a joy to read. Do yourself a favor and leave Pegasus in its pen until McKinley reveals when the third book will arrive; you’ll be able to enjoy the high atmosphere, low plot, and consequently slow pace of two of the three existing Pegasus trilogy books by then, and you’ll also be able to anticipate the third without forgetting the (arguably thin) storyline of the first and second.

– Kristen

P.S. Word-Weary will keep you updated on any Pegasus release dates, and will surely be covering the trilogy’s subsequent books.

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