I've had an up and down relationship with Robin McKinley's works, some I've loved (like The Blue Sword), others I've thought were okay (such as Chalice) and some I had, issues with (Sunshine). So why keep reading her works? I suppose it's because her books sound interesting and I just can't tell which ones I'm going to like. But I was curious about this book, it's the first in a two book series although McKinley says it's just one story, she just writes so slow that it would take her years to write one, 800 page book (this one is 400 pages so I suspect the second is of similar size) and couldn't keep living on the money from her other books that long (which is perfectly fine by me, especially since an 800 page book would be unheard of for a YA book, I can't think of more than a few, if that many, over 600 pages). According to her website the second part won't be out until 2014 (this book came out back in 2010, I can see now why she was worried about writing it all in one go) so I'll probably have to reread this one at least once between now and then.
Pegasus by Robin McKinley
A very nicely done cover, it follows the rule of thirds so it feels well balanced, the left and right feel balanced yet are not entirely symmetrical (and it's heavier on the left, ie, the side that most people who read left to right look first) and the characters look the way they are described in the book, I like it.
Summary: Since Sylviianel is the princess of the kingdom of Balsinland she is bound to a pegasus of the royal pegasus family, following in a nearly thousand year old tradition from when humans first settled these lands and created a treaty with the native pegasi. But she and her pegasus, Ebon, are different, they have no need for the cumbersome sign language and specially trained speakers who traditionally mediate between the races but can instead speak mind to mind, an unheard of break from tradition that sets all the human magicians on edge. As the country comes under attack from the other legendary creatures that reside there, many who have been seen in generations, the human magicians point to their "unholy connection" as the reason but the pegasi instead see them as the solution to this growing problem.
The Good: Some mythical creatures appear in modern day fiction less often than others and, while not unheard of, pegasi fall into this group and it's always nice to read something a little different. McKinley has also created a rich and complex background for the pegasi, quiet possibly with more detail in it than she put into the human side of things, and I really enjoyed those parts. I also liked how pegasi weren't the only mythical creatures but rather that there are many that everyone has to deal with regularly*. It was also nice to see such a close, platonic female-male friendship (as opposed to a romantic one) take center stage since that's a bit rare for YA fiction and I generally prefer platonic relationships to romantic ones. Sylviianel and Ebon's relationship is certainly the heart of the story and it was paced just right to feel completely believable.
The Bad: I had a few problems with Sylviianel which I believe were similar to the problems I had with Sunshine as well, a confident character has a fairly reasonable viewpoint of the world, viewpoint changes due to events in the story (which is entirely understandable), and then they become rather wishy-washy and don't do as much. I don't like this as much since I like characters that DO things, a story is a set of connected events where something happens after all, and it's entirely possible that she will do more things in the sequel but I found the end of this book to be rather dull and it really shouldn't have been dull. So I guess what I often don't like about McKinley's books are the general types of characters she often uses and I really hate I don't hate the next book for that.
So, excellent setting and I enjoyed the central relationship but I'm not so happy with Sylviianel's character development of sorts. Hopefully I'll like the second book but since I liked Spindle's End right up to the very end before getting annoyed I won't be holding my breath.
*One of my random pet peeves is that I'm really bothered by stories where there is only one kind of mythical creatures and that's it, probably because there's rarely a good reason for it and they come off feeling more like a plot device than anything else, the exact opposite of what is going on here.