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Showing 1-10 of 22 reviews(4 star). Show all reviews
on August 31, 2013
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. So I checked it out and I'm quite pleased that I did.

Was it the best thing I've ever read? Certainly not. It dragged in parts - especially when it came to the minutiae concerning dog raising - and could have easily told the same story in a third the length. However, when it came to dealing with the topics of betrayal and lost innocence that come with child abuse, McKinley did an absolutely remarkable job. She treated the subject tenderly and with real heart and everything about Lissar's journey of healing and self-discovery resonated very deeply within me. I appreciated that the romance aspect was "unsatisfactory" as some reviews have said, because it felt realistic and keeping with everything that Lissar was going through.

I do wish McKinley had spent more time refining the climax of the story and tying up loose ends that she started and never quite finished instead of spending SO much time explaining little unimportant details of the main character's day-to-day life, but overall I was very moved by this book and I would recommend it for ANYONE who has had experience with Lissar's trauma.
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on May 5, 2008
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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on December 11, 2007
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. Many others have commented on this as well -- but I just had to restate it.

Regardless, I did enjoy the story, but it will not become one of my favourites and as such, I think it will be a very long time before I reread it.
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on July 6, 2004
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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on June 28, 2002
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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on March 10, 2002
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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on May 23, 2001
Robin McKinley has really outdone herself! This novel is beautifully written and achingly poignant, however it does deal with "adult" themes and can be quite disturbing at times. I would not recommend it to children, nor, perhaps young adults. This said however, "Deerskin" is perhaps one of the best retelling of Fairy Tales out there. The story follows McKinley's penchant for retelling Fairy Tales, this story is hauntingly familiar and very much like "The Porcupine Princess" a story of a young princess who escapes from her palace home and her father, the king, because of his horrifying announcement. In "The Porcupine Princess" the young princess inadvertantly tries on the ring of her dead mother, a ring that was bequeathed to the king with the stipulation that whomever the ring fits will become his next wife. When the ring fits the young princess the king has no choice but to announce that he will marry his own daughter. The princess flees and hides herself within a porcupine disguise.
Robin McKinley's "Deerskin" is much more indepth and a lot more substantial. Lissla Lissar the beautiful princess in this story is also to wed her father but her father is a man who is obsessed with her beauty because it reminds him of his deceased wife. He brutalizes his daughter and leaves her for dead, she escapes and finds santuary in the woods where she "changes" into the images of a doe...her hair turns white and she wears a white deerskin dress. Eventually Lissla Lissar finds her way to another kingdom where she meets and falls in love with the Prince Ossin, but she can never truly be his until she deals with her demons from the past....
Robin McKinley has taken a lesser-known fairy tale and transformed it into a serious, well written and very disturbing read. I couldn't put it down, I truly cried with rage at what happened to Lissla Lissar and bit my nails with anticipation at how her story would end. For anyone who wants to be transported to another world this is the book for you, however it is not for the faint of heart.
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on December 18, 1999
This isn't a book that everyone would identify with, but for those who do it's wonderful. It's about abuse of power as well as sexual abuse, rape and incest. Heavy subjects. One of the things I liked about it, though others I know did not,was the powerful description of exactly what it feels like to experience dissociative amnesia about a traumatic experience. This is not a subject that I see addressed very many places, and many times those who do address it get it wrong. McKinley gets it right.
The writing is a bit uneven. I don't like the wrap-up of the story much -- it seems to me that Lissar's father caves in much too easily and that doesn't ring true. But I do love the ending -- the fact that Lissar is not made healed and whole by anything that anyone can do. That rang much truer to me than a conventional happy ending where the protagonist is "fixed" by the end of the book. Real life isn't like that, and I like reading fantasy that mirrors real life in the character reactions and feelings.
Overall I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who wants a lighthearted escape, but I would recommend it to sexual abuse survivors and people who want to deal with difficult issues in a fantasy context.
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on July 12, 1997
Unlike some other readers, I had been forewarned that _Deerskin_ dealt with darker issues than her other novels, which it does. Even from the beginning, when McKinley paints in glowing colors a court bewitched by the splendour of its king and queen, there are shadows standing at the edge, warning us that all is not perfect--or at least, that all will not remain perfect.

Yet, despite the brutality with which Princess Lissar's innocence is shattered, the tale is not unremittingly dark or horrifying. The Moonwoman offers Lissar hope and healing, as do the love of her dog and the kind people of the kingdom to which Lissar escapes. The ending may be predictable, but McKinley's warm portrayals of Lissar and her friends, as well as the fleethounds, are touching rather than trite.

Don't tell me that _Deerskin_ is too horrible to be a fairy tale. Too horrible for the sanitized, Disneyfied fairy tales that children are treated to nowadays, yes. The original versions of such tales as "Sleeping Beauty" and "Snow white" dealt with passion and blood and betrayal in magical trappings; the Victorians did not believe in coddling their children, it seems. In the original (or one of them), Sleeping Beauty is raped in her sleep; at the end of "Snow White," the wicked stepmother dances herself to death when red-hot shoes are put upon her feet. If anything, McKinley has revived that old power and redeemed it with hope and, yes, even a happy ending.
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on October 8, 1997
I thought Deerskin was certainly unique in the "shock" value of the storyline -- not just another young adult tale in that sense. What has impressed me each time I read it is that Ms. McKinley chose to take on a topic like sexual abuse (a serious social issue) and deal with it through the medium of a fairy tale. Deerskin tells the truth about this issue in a way that more "realistic" stories can sometimes cloud. I like the fact that Deerskin moves from being a victim without the will to make things happen for herself to a mature woman who makes the choice to not be a victim. It's an important message for all of us,whatever our circumstances and I think it makes Deerskin a success (at least for me!). It's not as "fun" as Ms. McKinley's other novels but it is powerful in a way that they aren't.
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