Pegasus, by Robin McKinnley
I've been slowly rediscovering author Robin McKinnley, and am enjoying every minute of it. Pegasus, her most recent novel, is a story of friendship, love, family, loyalty, and growing up. As a member of the royal family, Sylvi is bonded to a pegasus in an important ceremony on her 12th birthday (every little girl's dream, right?). This tradition is part of the treaty forged between humans and pegasi when the human's discovered the pegasus country and helped them defeat their enemies. For the most part, humans and pegasi must communicate through magicians and shamans, but Sylvi and the pegasus Ebon are able to communicate in the unspoken and telepathic way most pegasi communicate. Their unusual relationship is unusual and challenges centuries old traditions. And has some rather unintended consequences.
The characters in the book are very well-drawn. I love the picture of Syri's family; it's family in which people are encouraged to be themselves, yet fulfill their duty and responsibility as a monarchy. The families (both royal families -- human and pegasi) love each other. I also enjoy the development of Syri and Ebon's relationship. Because they are two different species, McKinnley is able to show the development of a real, loving, deep frienship without any of the expectations (and sometimes hinderances) of a romance. (not that I don't love a good romance -- because I do. But life is more than romances). I also love watching Sylvi and Ebon grow up, watching them go from enthusiastic kids, to young adults who have to face some pretty heavy stuff -- and some pretty intense consequences to their unusual relationship. The story jumps a bit between the reveal of the history of this land and the current events. But it has the rambling quality of listening to your Uncle George tell you a story. There aren't "history breaks"; it's more narrative. Sometimes I can get put off by rambling, but in this case it's charming and cozy.
I'm pretty sure there is going to be a sequel. If not, I'm going to be banging on Robin McKinnley's door asking her why she is so cruel!
Bottom line: excellent book!