Robin McKinley does some interesting things with the “psychic link with magicalanimals” theme in Pegasus. The main characters are Sylvi the fourth child of the king, and Ebon, the pegasus she is friends with. In Sylvi’s country, due to the terms of an Alliance made with the pegasi, the royal family is bound to the royal family of the pegasi via a spell which is supposed to create a bond that will help them understand each other. Oddly enough, these spell brokered friendships do not seem to create much in the way of mutual understanding, and in the normal course of things, most pegasus and human pairs only meet on special occasions.
Sylvi and Ebon are different in that they can speak to each other immediately, before having actually gone through the ritual. Since it had always been assumed that the only way pegasi and humans could communicate was through specially trained “Speaker” magicians, their relationship is immediately considered unnatural and dangerous. During the course of the story it becomes clear that many people–especially the very magicians who enable communication between the two species–would prefer that pegasi and humans did not interact with each other at all.
The book has some of the same feel as Dragonhaven with its attention to the differences between pegasus anatomy as compared to that of a horse or bird. It also felt somewhat like the Damar books, in which there are various kinds of monsters that (however intelligent) cannot be reasoned with. (The main reason for the Alliance is because the pegasi were surrounded by various species of monster who though pegasi were tasty.)
While this is a fantasy, there were some of what I consider to be science fiction themes in the story. For example, there were themes of “first contact” and the main theme of the story involves the problems inherent in two very different species attempting to communicate with each other when their physiology and mindsets are completely different. (Of course, these same themes are somewhat lamp shaded by Sylvi and Ebon who have very few misunderstandings between them.)
The one thing I find frustrating about McKinley’s work is that while the worldbuilding is often amazing, her habit of dropping you in the middle of it without explanation can be a little daunting. (Granted, most non-earth fantasies do this but with McKinley, I feel like the drop is especially high.) One aspect of the story was a little confusing: there is a random mention of archive guards who were given magical earplugs. (Apparently, so they could not learn anything they were not supposed to.) I am not sure why one would bother deliberately deafening someone, instead of using guards who were born deaf.
The book ends on a disastrous note, and I am hoping for a sequel, because too many thing were left hanging by the ending.