This evening I had a dreadful shock.
It was during that breath-snatching, heart-freezing, brain-missing moment that book lovers will recognize when you’ve reached the end of a long and glorious novel, only to realize that it is indeed the end–no really, it’s the end–and you were finally getting those vital questions answered only to have a billion more left unanswered and it makes you shout to the sky (or the ceiling of your fifteen passenger van) “It’s OVER? How can he/she do this to me!?!?!”
Robin McKinley did that to me.
I suppose I should write a review of Pegasus rather than just rant in caps and italics being that I need to leave one for my Shelfari account.
Well… here goes.
Quite simply put, Pegasus is about the friendship between a young princess and her pegasus. I admit that one-line summary conjures images of magical ponies prancing on rainbows with vibrant colored sparkles in their manes; something akin to a Barbie film you get caught watching as intently as your little sisters if only because you can’t look away. But I know Robin McKinley’s books and I know she’s a brilliant writer. Thus, I did not pass by the opportunity to read something new of hers. She’s proven time and time again that a true master of words can make anything feel as real as it is remarkable so that it wouldn’t matter if the story was one of flying ponies that sneezed clouds, so long as the storyteller was gifted. Gifted, by the by, seems too mundane a word to use in regards to Robin McKinley, but it’s nearer what I mean than any other word in my head, so there it is.
Pegasus is wonderful. Again, the English language fails me, because wonderful isn’t strong enough a term to describe how I adored this book.
The best thing about McKinley–which I’m discovering is the very thing I struggle most with in my own writing–is that she gives the reader the benefit of the doubt. She draws you into the story and paints a world with the most lovely descriptions, but never with a sense of dumbing down. She never spoon feeds the reader with unnecessary reiteration that so often makes one feel as if reading about strangers. When something is repeated, it’s simply that important, and you feel the weight of a monumental thing.
While giving us a look at these entirely new worlds; this impossible collection of creatures, families, and kingdoms; the rise and fall of social standards and political intrigues, she does so in a way that is natural and confident. You don’t stop to question the impossibility of feathered horses that can sculpt and plait and fly. They simply are. While wrapped in the fantastic cocoon of McKinley’s making, the pegasi are no more impossible than true love. And yet they are that impossible, and wondrous as well. Her characters–or the characters that chose her–don’t litter the pages with justification for their thoughts or deeds. We see it all through the world around them that McKinley so vividly maps out. She knows that we will remember, and understand.
A less seasoned author would be tempted to bore us with too much explanation. Robin McKinley does it just right. Even the romance–if it can be called that–forgive my cheap words–is a subtle undercurrent in the story. In fact, I’m convinced I only picked up on it so early in the narrative because I’m a hopeless person when it comes to hints of romance, and each of the princess’s encounters with a human male made me hope he was ‘the one.’ (Unless this whole ‘romance’ angle is entirely made up in my mind because I’m really that hopeless. In which case, I apologize. While holding fast to the belief that there is, indeed, a romance.) But even my distracted nature couldn’t keep me from enjoying what this book is essentially about.
And suddenly with that thought, I’m overwhelmed with the idea of having to put down the essential theme. Picking one would only rob it of the rest. You’ll just have to read it yourself and know that way.
I must warn the impatient reader, for they may have trouble. McKinley’s novels are not to be scuttled through like the absent-minded skimming of a TV guide. Nay, they are to be savored– rather, absorbed. In an age of instant dinners and speed texts, I find it refreshing to sit down after work with a piece of real literary achievement and lose myself to the fantasy world Robin McKinley chose to share.
My only complaint is that the book ended. And not only that it ended, but at just such a moment when everything in Princess Sylvi’s world was crumbling apart. It was wretchedly cruel, and yet I can’t blame my favorite author for doing what the story compelled her to do.
If only the sequel will compel her to write extremely fast.
Now I’m off to try finishing this story for Mara’s Challenge. Wish me luck, duckies!