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5.0 out of 5 stars Fairy tales don't come true ... and that's ok.
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...
Published on May 19 2004 by Raein2001

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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 thus, was very distracting to me. I kept looking for parallels to the original story, and didn't find them. The only part that followed, in fact, was the first section, where Lissar's mother...
Published on Jan. 11 2004 by Kieri


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4.0 out of 5 stars But what of the child of a "true love" story?, July 6 2004
By 
Mary Gollihugh "aka 'Ash' or Mariance" (On the Lake Erie Shoreline, PA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Deerskin (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
By 
Raein2001 "raein2001" (Modesto, CA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Deerskin (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. There are no cheap Nora Roberts-esque graphics here.
In a nutshell, this is a great survival story of the Robinson Crusoe variety. And don't worry, the bad guy gets what is coming to him.
Although Deerskin is a Reality Tale, it never loses its lyrical quality, and it contains enough traditional magic and myth that the fantasy reader is completely satisfied. Now, please excuse me. I have to go read it again...
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3.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, but NOT the fairy tale!, Jan. 11 2004
By 
This review is from: Deerskin (Mass Market Paperback)
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 thus, was very distracting to me. I kept looking for parallels to the original story, and didn't find them. The only part that followed, in fact, was the first section, where Lissar's mother dies, and her father declares his intention to marry his daughter. When Lissar refuses, he rapes her and leaves her for dead. The next morning, she flees the castle with the clothes on her back and her faithfun sighthound, Ash.
While I did love the made-up mythology, and the subplot-which-rapidly-became-the-plot about the dogs and the Moonwoman, the repetitive nature of the early parts of the book ("Your mother was the most beautiful woman in the world" repeated five or six times a page for about fifty pages) and Lissar's disconnectedness from the world around her following her assault drove me crazy. Some numbness I would certainly expect from a survivor or a brutal rape, but her inner monologue became tedious in the extreme after a short while. "It is getting cold. It is also getting dark. White stuff is falling out of the sky. What is the white stuff called? Oh, it is called snow. It is falling on this...stuff growing out of my head. I think the word for the stuff that grows out of my head is hair."
Such a person, you'd think, would have lasted approximately ten minutes in the deep woods. But no. She suddenly morphs into an experienced woodswoman, all while maintaining this disconnected demeanor.
On the flip side, though, I do have to give McKinley kudos for...adjusting...some aspects of the original fairy tale that never made sense to me. For example, in the original story, the unnamed Princess, now called Donkeyskin, escapes to the neighboring kingdom and proceeds to make the prince of that land fall madly in love with her. I always though, "What? How many friggin' princesses can there BE in a 50 mile radius? Why doesn't he recognize her?" McKinley handles this by disguising Lissar--AND her dog--so that no one can tell where they came from.
Despite the lyrical, haunting prose, I got the feeling that McKinley tried to be daring by pickig one of the more gruesome fairy tales out there to retell, but then wimped out before going the full monty and telling the full story of the sun, the moon, the stars, and, of course, the donkeyskin.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Hrm, May 2 2003
By 
Katie (United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Deerskin (Mass Market Paperback)
I have mixed feelings about this book. Most of the reviews that I've read for it have mentioned the metaphorical and vague voice. Indeed, most of the book feels like a dream. Sometimes I had to reread parts to check if they had actually happened or not. In fantasy this can be a good attribute; however, it really got tiring. I am a huge fan of Robin McKinley's, but somehow her style seemed different in this book.
I did not like the sudden interest of Lissar's father in his daughter; because until then he showed absolutely no sign of attraction to her. I wish that McKinley would have delved into it more and given him more of a motivation. I realize that he made a promise to his wife, but certainly that is not enough cause for raping your seventeen-year-old daughter.
There were parts that were very compelling and that sucked you in; however, there were also rather tedious parts to go along. For example, Lissar's physical healing seemed to take ages. I understand that it would have taken a while and McKinley probably wished to convey this... but really, it got to be so detailed that it felt almost arduous. Is it really necessary to know how Lissar used the bathroom?
The biggest problem that I had with this book, ironically for a fantasy novel, is that magic. I love magic in novels, but the magis in Deerskin felt almost contrived. The part with the moon woman, for one, was unbelievably strange, and the tale that accompanied it felt like a rushed excuse for her present. To make matters worse, Lissar eventually turned into the woman. Yet she didn't. Confused? Yes, so was I. In fact, as much as I reread that last scene, I barely caught what was going on.
I blame the last part, also, to the problem that I mentioned before: the vague voice. It was beautifully written, like Shakespeare, yet required much concentration and thought about what exactly was occuring. In a novel with such a gripping plot, one does not have the patience to go back and figure out what happened, because they want to learn what happens next. Perhaps that is why the whole book seemed to be unraveled, and loosely hanging together.
Many complained about the love story, but I found that one of the more enjoyable parts. I guessed from when Ossin sent that puppy that the two would end up together, and I was right. However, even if it was predictable, I still liked it. I especially enjoyed the physical descriptions, because it reminds me of stories like Jane Eyre where the love interest isn't handsome by normal standards, but grows attractive to the girl because she falls in love with him.
Lissar was a sympathetic heroine, but I was often frustrated with her actions. While I can understand why she fled, from a reader's vantage her flight after Ossin proposed was very anti-climactic. I hate to admit it, but I skimmed the next few pages.
What could be called "the final battle" was also a letdown. Somehow, Lissar's confrontation with her father lacked something; even though in the scene she was described as "fiery" and "passionate" in actuality her speech to her father was dry.
I could ramble/rant on some more, but I'll spare everyone and simply sum up my thoughts on the book: It has its redeeming moments, but also many letdowns. However, all in all it is enjoyable, and a different kind of fairy tale for once. Instead of a quest for treasure or to stop an evil sorcerer, this one is to heal the shattered mind and soul of a girl. I immensely enjoyed the psychological aspect, and wish that McKinley would have mainly stuck to that aspect instead of all the strange magic, which honestly just seemed like plot contrivances.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Lissar and Ash, Dec 23 2002
By 
"celes1" (Havre de Grace, Maryland United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Deerskin (Mass Market Paperback)
Princess Lissar leads a very lonely life until her mother dies and she is sent a puppy as a gift. Lissar grows up with her dog, Ash, as her closest friend but as she gets older she looks more and more like her mother. After she is abused by her father Lissar and Ash run away from home. She lives in the woods for months not remembering her past but knowing something awful happened to her. One day she goes to a city and falls for the prince who sent her Ash but she cannot get over her past.
This is a much more adult fairytale than McKinley's other works but it is also a more realistic one. It deals with deep psychological pain and love isn't a cure for everything. It's also not a book for everyone. If themes of incest and rape bother you then you should avoid this book. I'm not saying that this book is a completely sad one though. The sad beginning makes the happy moments and the journey to get there very satisfying. This is the best book I've read in a while and any fairytale fan is sure to enjoy it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars autobiography and this novel, Dec 21 2002
By 
"timbolectable" (Walnut Creek, CA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Deerskin (Mass Market Paperback)
In The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown, Robin McKinley creates her own legends. In Deerskin, she seems to me to do the opposite: she takes a legend, one that, unlike Beauty and the Beast, genuinely stems from that strange, undeniable brew of the universal subconscious, and personalizes it so highly as to be almost autobiographical. Possibly this novel is the worse for the lack of objectivity that McKinley seems to bring to the story. But I cannot fault her involvement.
Deerskin is almost too personal to read. Written in prose that occasionally becomes over-mesmerized with its own beauty, but often doesn't, it is a thorough exploration of brutal pain and pain's brutal repercussions. "Thorough" is to be emphasized. McKinley holds back no detail. She talks through the rape itself. She talks through Lissar's tiny solutions to her tiny, though life-threatening problems in the mountains. She explains exactly Lissar's position in the Goldhouse castle. She is specific about Lissar's borrowed finding-magic, specific about exactly from what Lissar pulls back in Ossin's proposal. She does not generalize about Lissar's final renunciation ritual. Not all of it is extroardinarily fresh or exactly homogenous. The explanation of the Moon-woman, though specific, lacks too much the feel of legend, for instance. But all of it together is a wealth of specificity, of detail.
This is why I find Deerskin autobiographical. McKinley works through Lissar's tragedy with a vengeance. She holds exactly nothing back. And in doing so, McKinley invests the Donkeyskin legend with a viewpoint so totally her own that it becomes a manifesto to what she hints at in other books: peace and happiness come at an almost unpayable cost, and they come not as what is expected--glamour, beauty, excitement--but as something much truer, stranger, and more wonderful.
I want to end on an autobiographical note of my own: I picked this book up around seventh grade, when I was searching for an acceptable way to put names to frightening things. I don't think even I can estimate how much this book helped with that exploration, because it didn't take up terror and leave it, but followed it through to an end that was both triumphant and terrifyingly, wonderfully human. I'm not saying it's a book for kids. I'm saying it helped me to become an adult. Thank you, Robin McKinley.
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5.0 out of 5 stars autobiography and this novel, Dec 21 2002
By 
in_earnest (Walnut Creek, CA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Deerskin (Mass Market Paperback)
In The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown, McKinley creates her own legends. In Deerskin, it seems to me that she does the opposite: she takes a legend, one that, unlike Beauty and the Beast, genuinely stems from that strange, undeniable brew of the universal subconscious, and personalizes it so highly as to be almost autobiographical. Possibly this novel is the worse for the lack of objectivity that McKinley seems to bring to the story. But I cannot fault her involvement.
Deerskin is almost too personal to read. Written in prose that occasionally becomes over-mesmerized with its own beauty, but often doesn't, it is a thorough exploration of brutal pain and pain's brutal repercussions. "Thorough" is to be emphasized. McKinley holds back no detail. She talks through the rape itself. She talks through Lissar's tiny solutions to her tiny, though life-threatening problems in the mountains. She explains exactly Lissar's position in the Goldhouse castle. She is specific about Lissar's borrowed finding-magic, specific about exactly from what Lissar pulls back in Ossin's proposal. She does not generalize about Lissar's final renunciation ritual. Not all of it is extroardinarily fresh or exactly homogenous. The explanation of the Moon-woman, though specific, lacks too much the feel of legend, for instance. But all of it together is a wealth of specificity, of detail.
This is why I find Deerskin autobiographical. McKinley works through Lissar's tragedy with a vengeance. She holds exactly nothing back. And in doing so, McKinley invests the Donkeyskin legend with a viewpoint so totally her own that it becomes a manifesto to what she hints at in other books: peace and happiness come at an almost unpayable cost, and they come not as what is expected--glamour, beauty, excitement--but as something much truer, stranger, and more wonderful.
I want to end on an autobiographical note of my own: I picked this book up around seventh grade, when I was searching for an acceptable way to put names to frightening things. I don't think even I can estimate how much this book helped with that exploration, because it didn't take up terror and leave it, but followed it through to an end that was both triumphant and terrifyingly, wonderfully human. I'm not saying it's a book for kids. I'm saying it helped me to become an adult. Thank you, Robin McKinley.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Discovering a Heroine, June 28 2002
By 
"sarahbeth05043" (Ramsey, IN United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Deerskin (Mass Market Paperback)
This book echoes a story out of Grimm's fairy tales about a princess who is the daughter of the most beautiful queen and most fair queen. When her mother dies, her father falls in love with her and wishes to marry her. She asks him to give her three dresses each as beautiful as the sun, the moon, and the stars before she flees to a castle of another king disguised as a kitchen maid. She charms the king to fall in love with her before he discovers she is a princess.
In this book, the princess is a young maiden who feels ignored and shadowed by her parent's fame. Her mother does die which leads to her father's falling as a king. He then recognizes that his daughter is much like his wife, so he soon decides to marry her. She is young and frightened and refuses, but her father rapes her sending her fleeing into the forest of her fears with her only companion, a faithful dog, Ash.
Near death and barely clinging to life, she finds herself lost in a place desolate of hope. She clings to the thought that she may forget what happened that made her insane. Her dream comes true when a fairy of the forest, the Moon Lady gives her two gifts. The first is a disguise, and the second is time. Both she needs to overcome her fear of her father and the evil of people.
She becomes an image of the Moon Woman, black turned to white. She wears a white deerskin dress and remembers nothing of her past. Her Ash, now changed to a longhaired fleet hound, follows her on her search for self-discovery.
She runs far and wide to a kingdom not as rich as her own was, and there she meets a quite odd prince who has a love of dogs. There she becomes known as Deerskin, the Moon Woman, and many other things all mysterious.
This book is good, but the plot is drawn out. I find myself going back to reread only my favorite parts in the middle and near the end, but the whole book is a prize in my house. It has fantasy, love, and self-discovery. Truly a great discovery!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing yet haunting, March 10 2002
By 
L. Park (Alberta, Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Deerskin (Mass Market Paperback)
Deerskin is a very different sort of book from what Ms. McKinley normally writes. True most of her novels are her version of popular fairy tales, and indeed Deerskin is her version of Donkeyskin. As with her other novels Ms. McKinley again writes of fantastic adventures, of a daring heroine trying to find herself, of the love the characters happen upon along the way, and of the bond between animal and hero (think of Talat and Aerin, in this one it is Ash and Lissar). But that is the end of the similarities. Deerskin is a very dark novel, and it's very much more a psychological battle with herself that the heroine Lissar is fighting, rather than the typical 'bad guy' vs. 'good guy'. I think this novel was fascinating beyond belief, as it delves more into the psychological aspects of characters, rather than their actions. Things like why the perfect queen faded away and died, what the perfect king was like after his queen's death, how he dealt with it, the trauma after a personal violation, trying to recover, trying to trust in love again, and the ghosts that haunt us all. Those are some of the things I found most captivating. Ms. McKinley's writing is very poetic, as with all her novels. There is a great amount of description and I suppose it does add a lot of depth and feeling to the novel. However by reading the book within two days all the description was almost overwhelming, though to me it stopped just short of taking away from the richness of the text. Overall this book was an interesting and absorbing read. I devoted two days of constant reading in order to get through it and I think it was worth it. The characters are interesting and actually have depth and humanity to them, the writing was elegant, the plot was not too complex so as to let the focus rest on psychological aspects, and it was a beautiful, if haunting, read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Dark yet Beautifully touching, March 2 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Deerskin (Mass Market Paperback)
I am a big fan of Robin McKinley, first hooked on her writings with Beauty, and so I decided to pick this up. Let me tell you, this is very different from beauty. This book was not written for younger readers looking for happy, fluffy fairy-tales, but it is an engrossing tale, rewritten in a way that captured my heart. Enough of how much I enjoyed it, explaining the plot may be useful.
Loosly based on the fairy-tale Donkeyskin, McKinley tells of a kingdom where the rulers are perfect, but yet negelect their daughter, forgetting she exists. When the most beloved and beautiful queen dies, Lissar's (main character) father grows mad with grief, and as Lissar grows up with her only companions being servants and her best friend Ash, a hunting dog, soon her father takes more intrest in her. As horrible events take place, so does Lissar's transformation into Deerskin, and her journey to find herself and overcome her horrible past. Dark and depressing in the beginning, but don't give up, by the end it's heartwarming and Lissar is a character I shall not soon forget.
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Deerskin
Deerskin by Robin McKinley (Turtleback - July 1994)
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