Convictions & Comforts

Of Robin McKinley and Pegasus

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!


15 thoughts on “Of Robin McKinley and Pegasus

  1. This made me giggle, especially the line “it makes you shout to the sky (or the ceiling of your fifteen passenger van)”. I’ve only read one Robin McKinley book and I didn’t love it, but from your review I might give her another chance. :)

    1. Heheh. Thanks. :)

      I have a good blogger friend who didn’t like the Robin McKinley book I recommended her. (“Chalice”) Which makes me really sad, but also realize that McKinley is not for everyone. (A concept entirely beyond me because I think she’s absolutely brilliant.)

      Maybe it’s her propensity to draw out the surroundings so well before getting into conflict and action. I think “Beauty” is the most… easy? of a read. It’s a lovely retelling of Beauty and the Beast. I’d start with that. Or if you’re more into vampires, “Sunshine” is boss. ;) Hope you do acquire a taste for her books. They leave me quite breathless with excitement, and in a dreamy state for days after they’re done.

  2. I should add this to my to-read list.

    I actually wasn’t too fond of the first Robin McKinley book I read (The Hero and the Crown). I really didn’t like how she wrapped up the whole thing. But I’ve enjoyed the ones I’ve read since then.

    1. Well, if you read above comments, you’ll see that I’m a rare breed of reader. ;) So I don’t expect everyone to be as enthralled with her as I am.

      Well that’s the beginning of a series, you know. It’s not wrapped up at all. Of course, I say this not having read it yet. I’m kind of scared to. I’ve read pretty much all her other novels and I’m terrified that if I start that series it’ll somehow… not be as good. Which is ridiculous, I think… but I’m scaaared! *sniffles*

      1. A series? But she didn’t leave off as if it would be continued! When I said that I didn’t like how she wrapped it up, I didn’t mean that she wrapped it up poorly—in the sense that she left loose ends—because it was definitely an ending. What I meant was that I didn’t like the ending itself. It felt like McKinley . . . cheated. The main character didn’t suffer a loss when I thought she should have. She got exactly what she wanted, and that bugged me.

        Another thing I didn’t like was that there was a mention of sex. No scene, of course, just a hint . . . but you know it happened. And that also bugged me. Of course, that’s only a minor detail. Still . . . it’s unnecessary.

        How many books are in the series? I know there’s a prequel called The Blue Sword, but I don’t know of anything else. Then again, I didn’t really look for any more books, because I thought the story was over.

      2. Oooh. Well I knew it was more than one book… maybe I got that and the prequel mixed up. Let me find out really quick…

        Yeah, my bad. Apparently there are just the two.

        I guess I’d have to read it to know exactly what you mean. Yeah, wow, that’s … well, I shouldn’t say surprising because I’ve read two other McKinley books that had sex mentioned. But one was not… consensual, so it was kind of necessary for the plot. I know that sounds bad, but… yeah. And it was really vague and you had to piece it together to understand what happened. But I know what you mean there.

  3. I’ve just finished reading it, and it was amazing. ;)

    Your reactions were mine exactly! If I tried to tell someone what it was about, it would sound so silly and childish . . . but it’s not! McKinley writes in such a mature, beautiful way. She makes everything very real and very NOT silly.

    I didn’t notice any romance, though. Seriously, who? The footman?

    Also, yes, I find that her books are very slow (I think I was reading about 25 pages an hour) but very enjoyable. Definitely meant to be savored!

    1. EEEEEP!!!! :D I’m so excited that you loved it as much as I did!!

      Yes!! Precisely! It’s like you’re there and you can picture it so perfectly that it doesn’t need further explanation. I remember reading other people’s (and my own) synopsis on the book and I always get frustrated because it’s like, “That doesn’t do it justice!” but nothing does, really. Except the book itself. ;)

      Oh my goodness!! I must have a McKinley romance radar! Or just a romance radar in general. I think the guard. Is he a footman? In the end when the big council is going on and she faints, he’s the one that catches her. And that’s when all the little hints I’d been picking up on them seemed confirmed. Of course… he is her guard, and that’s his job, but it’s the way it all happened that makes me believe there’s a romance. Maybe I am crazy and making mountains of molehills, but I’m familiar with her writing and I’m learning to pick out early on who’s going to end up in love. That’s another thing I love! The romance is so subtle! It’s like a secret!! You should read Spindle’s End!! It’s her version of Sleeping Beauty and I love it to bits!! :D Also very slow, but very beautiful.

      I just bought a Kindle and I know all the things I’m going to add first (besides the classics) are Robin McKinley. :D

      1. Yes, him! That was my guess for what you were thinking, but I don’t think so at all. He seems like more of a caring, guiding type. Then again, you’re the McKinley expert here, so maybe you’re right.

        Spindle’s End happens to be sitting in the middle of one of my library book piles in my room as we speak! (I have about 25 books out, separated into several different piles.) I hope to get to it soon.

        Oh! I reread my comments from when you first posted this, and I feel that I wasn’t very clear about The Hero and the Crown. I did enjoy the book. It was only the ending that left me annoyed with it. :D

      2. Well, but that’s my favorite kind of romance! Where the guy is a caring, guarding, guiding type! Just thinking about it makes my heart flutter! I need to read Chalice again… :)

        EXCELLENCE! :D Ooo, wow. I’m having trouble reading just three books at once. One’s a really little book and mostly just for kicks. It’s the 900 pager and The Moonstone I’m really having trouble with.

        Well I’m sure I’ll read it eventually. :) It’s just not top priority. Especially as long as there’s hope for a Pegasus sequel…

      3. Yes, but . . . some fictional men are platonicly caring and guiding. And I like to think that that’s what he is.

        I’ve read Spindle’s End. It’s good! The world is really creative, and from the moment I started reading I was fascinated by it. I actually think it has a faster pace than some of her other novels; it could almost be another author’s book. The beautiful diction and syntax are very McKinley, of course, but the actual structure of events is very chronological and not as slow as her other stuff. The whole bizarre Pernicia showdown, though, screams McKinley and wouldn’t pass as anyone else’s work. ;)

      4. That’s true; some are. But if I know anything about McKinley it’s that she likes to weave that romance in so very subtly so that you could hardly tell there was a romance until they’re embracing fondly at the end. Didn’t it seem like that in Spindle’s End? With the blacksmith. But yeah, he was a lot older than her and just this guarding, quiet type and I almost didn’t even catch it before it happened.

        And… hmph. I do not like to think the guard is platonic in those things. :P

        AAAAHH!! I want to read it again!! It was the first book I bought for my Kindle! :D The rest were classics that I downloaded for freeee.

      5. Well . . . I guess we’ll see. You’re the McKinley expert here, so you could very well be right. And she’s a good enough author that if she puts the two together, I might fall in love with the couple after all.

        The first, really? Even before Phantom?

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