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Deerskin [Paperback]

Robin McKinley
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (134 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 3 2005

From the award-winning author of Sunshine comes a novel that "will involve readers from the first to the last page with its sheer beauty, its anguish, agony, horror, despair, and, ultimately, its joy" (Kliatt).

As Princess Lissar reaches womanhood, it is clear to all the kingdom that in her breathtaking beauty she is the mirror image of her mother, the queen. But this seeming blessing forces her to flee for safety from her father's lust and madness. With her loyal dog Ash at her side, Lissar will unlock a door to a world of magic, where she will find the key to her survival-and an adventure beyond her wildest dreams.


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From Library Journal

Heir to her late mother's legendary beauty, Princess Lissar becomes the victim of her grief-maddened father's desire. Fleeing her home, she seeks solace and solitude in a great forest--and discovers a magic that leads her toward healing and justice. Loosely based on "Donkeyskin," an obscure fairy tale by Charles Perrault, this story of a young woman's survival and recovery is both a classic hero's journey-tale and a parable for modern times. Award-winning YA author McKinley turns her storytelling acumen and stylistic grace toward an adult audience, handling incest and rape with unflinching honesty while at the same time building a case for hope and renewal. A good choice for fantasy collections.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

A first foray into adult fantasy for the author of such well- received children's books as The Outlaws of Sherwood (1988), etc. In an unnamed, standard fantasy kingdom, an unnamed queen dies after bequeathing to her unnamed king a portrait capturing her surpassing beauty. Their daughter, the princess Lissla Lissar, is the very image of her mother, even to her black-red hair. On Lissar's 17th birthday, the king announces that he will marry his daughter! Horrified, Lissar locks herself away, but the king breaks in to beat and rape her. Barely alive, Lissar escapes with her dog Ash to find sanctuary in the mountains. The moon goddess, the ``Lady,'' heals Lissar--suppressing the dreadful memories, changing her hair to white, giving her a stainless white deerskin dress--and four years pass in what seems a day. Now Lissar enters a neighboring kingdom, where she meets the dog-fancying prince Ossin. As she slowly regains her memory, so she falls in love with Ossin, who proposes. Unable to tell him of her past, Lissar again flees into the mountains, returning the following year ready to denounce her father, regain her black-red hair, and marry Ossin. Turgid, lurid, soporific fluff. Might have made an adequate fairy tale at a twentieth of the bulk. McKinley will have to do much better than this to capture an adult audience. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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MANY YEARS LATER SHE REMEMBERED HOW HER PARENTS HAD looked to her when she was a small child: her father as tall as a tree, and merry and bright and golden, with her beautiful black-haired mother at his side. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars pretty good May 5 2008
By elfdart TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Mass Market Paperback
this is a retelling of the story donkey skin. a short summery of the book would be; after the death of a girl's mother, her father abuses her out of grief and she runs away, and i think she takes her dog with her (it's been a while since i've read it). she kind of looses herself because of her grief at what her father did in the wilderness and after a while comes to this castle, wearing a deerskin dress, and they take her in and call her deerskin, and there's a prince etc. i won't spoil the ending.

there is an odd obsession with dogs in this book, as the girl (princess) has her own dog and also takes care of the prince's puppies. i don't have a dog or care about them much, so while fascinating, this part of the book didn't really draw me in and dragged on a bit at parts. there was a nice symbolism present and the heroine did regain a sense of herself and an acceptance of herself by the end of the book. overall not my favourite read, but decent. worth it if you put in the time, but nothing mind blowing.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Mixed feelings Dec 11 2007
By Jana
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I think my true rating for this novel hovers somewhere between 3 and 4, and to be honest, having just finished this book -- I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it.

Some points:

-- In the begining, I really enjoyed the somewhat vague voice of Lissar as it seemed to fit well with the fairy tale elements of the novel, but by the end I found it frustrating, as despite the very detailed descriptions of pain, sorrow, misery, etc. we were given, I never felt as though I actually got to know anything about her.

-- Why did her physical healing seemingly take an insanely long amount of time? Months? Years? She really spends five years in the mountains??? Why does it seem only like one winter before spring arrives and Lissar ventures from her hut again?

-- I like my villains fully developed. The father was not. In the end as she confronts him -- it's very dissapointing. I would have liked a greater insight into his mind.

-- I really wish that Ash had been made a male dog instead, because I couldn't distinguish in many sentences whether Lissar or Ash were being refferred to!

-- The writing is quite beautiful and intelligent and suprisingly free of cliches, especially considering this is a fantasy novel -- but it could have done with some more careful editing because many sentences are rather clunky and confusing.

-- As Lissar is an only child and the princess and heir of a vast and rich kingdom, I find it hard to believe that either her parents or court would have actually neglected her to the point that they did.

-- Her journey of self-discovery and healing is the essential part of this novel, but did it have to be so LONG and REPETITIVE?

-- The romance was dissapointing. Very, very dissapointing.
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4.0 out of 5 stars But what of the child of a "true love" story? July 6 2004
Format:Hardcover
I just finished rereading "Deerskin", which was part of the origins of my alias "Ash" on various music message board (like ChrisCaffery dot com - of the group "Savatage") Great book.
Good font, easy one the eyes for anyone with less than perfect vision.
Smooth writing style, great rewrite and update of the fairy tale "Donkeyskin", which I now wish to find!
Recommeded for anyone that has a fondness for animals, primarily dogs. If you have a greyhound ("Fleethounds" in this story) or know of one, you can see that the perspective is excellent. Please e-mail me if you are interested in rescuing a greyhound - in real life, October is the Killing Month, since that is when the racing season is over. Perhaps having had a greyhound makes this story even better, closer to the heart, for me.
Good characters (a few slips in the logic area) with a touch of mythology. (the Lady, Moonwoman etc)
The premise starts with a "true love" story of the 'most beautiful woman in seven kingdoms', and the man that wins her heart ... these two people, royals at that, are so in love to the exclusion of every one else ... they make an excellent team as King and Queen ... what is left for their daughter?
She is smart, but one really cares or notices until after the Queen dies. Lissar, the princess, and her true friend, the fleethound "Ash", stumble through the king's dementia over the loss of his queen, giving Lissar memories that she dares not remember. She takes the name of "Deerskin" after being gifted "the gift of time" as well as a few other things (such as a white deerskin dress that never needs cleaning - oh I wish!)
Some sexually explicit scenes., so it isn't suitable for young children, but reads as easily as a YA book.
Definately a 4.5 star book, one I recommend, and is a reread and a keeper.
For anyone grieving a loss, the truth is often that the only true thing that will help is that gift of time.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fairy tales don't come true ... and that's ok. May 19 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I love this book. I've read it 4 times.
It begins like a classic fairy tale as the Princess Lissla Lissar learns about the courtship and marriage of her parents. Their history together is the stuff of myth and legend, and their fairy-tale romance has made them the most popular, fashionable couple in the Kingdom's history. Even the language lends itself to classic tale-telling--it is lyrical and visual with plenty of superlatives (ie. Lissar's mother is the most beautiful woman in seven kingdoms.) But the author asks herself some important questions: What if it were true?? What if a woman really was that beautiful? What if her intended really did risk life and limb on an impossible quest to win her hand? This stuff happens in fairy tales all the time, but what if it happened in real life? The answer is one that many fantasy readers aren't ready for. McKinley postulates that such a relationship would foster a sick co-dependence and any children in the equation would be mere afterthoughts.
There are several clues right from the beginning that all is not well, but they are subtle. Many previous reviewers don't understand how things could suddenly change from fairy-tale perfect to dark horror, but they have missed the important point that things were never REALLY perfect! The story is written from the point of view of a child who grows up to realize her parents aren't the heroes she believed them to be (don't we all?). As she learns, the clues become less subtle and more internal to the character's perspective.

Isn't it always great tragedy that sets up the opportunity for tremendous human kindness? This story is a beautiful example of just that. Yes, it deals with incest and rape, but is does so briefly and tastefully.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Not the best, but still quite good...
I came across this book as a "suggested read" in a self-help book for female survivors of childhood sexual abuse and I was intrigued that a fantasy book had made the list. Read more
Published 13 months ago by katcosplay
5.0 out of 5 stars Not great, But so what?
Well, I will admit that I didn't really like reading all of part one, mainly at the beginning becuase all it was was explaining a bunch of stuff that I pesonally realy didn't think... Read more
Published on Nov. 15 2005
1.0 out of 5 stars Worst Book I Ever Read
I just loved Robin McKinley's 'The Blue Sword', it is one of my favorite books of all time. Her book about Aerin was Okay, not one of my favorites, so I did read some of the... Read more
Published on June 11 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars One of her Best
I've read Deerskin at least four times! I find it extremely interesting and enjoyable. There is a rape scene, which can be disturbing, but isn't as graphic or... Read more
Published on May 30 2004 by Rachel
3.0 out of 5 stars Take the Good with the Bad
It's the tale of your usual most-beautiful-princess - with a twist. Her father decides to marry her after her mother's death, the tale has a rather graphic assault scene to end... Read more
Published on April 15 2004 by Essay
3.0 out of 5 stars Not too good, but not bad either.
While I wouldn't go so far as to say this book was excellent, I would have no qualms about giving it to children just because of the incest themes. Read more
Published on March 29 2004 by Nonesuch Explorers
2.0 out of 5 stars Not worth it
If you're looking at this because you're a fan of the other McKinley books, I'd skip it. It has a disturbing rape scene at the beginning & is definetly not for children. Read more
Published on Feb. 17 2004 by Michele Slack
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favorite books
This is one of my favorite stories. It's so well-written that you're kept entertained even at relativly "static" periods, such as Lissar's journey through the woods. Read more
Published on Jan. 28 2004 by Sarah Courtney
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, but NOT the fairy tale!
I read this as part of a bundle of retold fairy tales, and was insanely confused. This book bears very, very little resemblence to its parent story, "Donkeyskin," and... Read more
Published on Jan. 11 2004 by Kieri
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