by: Robin McKinley

Published: 1993

# of pages: 309

Robin McKinley is one of my all time favorite authors. As a matter of fact, her book The Blue Sword is what introduced me to my love of fantasy. Fantasy is my favorite genre (can you tell?) but before reading McKinley's books I had only started to read a couple of fantasy books that I didn't enjoy enough to finish. McKinley opened up my world and once I realized I loved escaping to another world through a book I was able to give so many other great fantasy books a chance.

I hadn't read Deerskin before now because I had heard hints of what happens in the story and I was a little nervous to read it. However, although some of the content was disturbing, it wasn't as graphic as I thought it would be. This is definitely an "adult fairytale" as I've heard it described many times, but it isn't crude. I actually think it was great that McKinley chose this fairytale (the original fairytale's name is "Donkeyskin") as one to rewrite in more detail for the modern age. Horrible things happen in the book, but they are overcome and good prevails.

The story is about Lissar, a princess and daughter of the most beautiful woman in seven kingdoms. Lissar spends her life in solitude being overshadowed by her beautiful mother and her majestic father. Her dog, Ash, becomes one of her only companions and sticks with her when she is finally singled out for a terrible disaster. Lissar and Ash keep each other alive and stay together in the months and years after they are forced to flee from their home.

The story is very emotional. The narrative describes everything that Lissar and Ash feel and we don't read much dialogue. The narrative also describes who said what, etc. Normally I find this very frustrating, but I discovered that it didn't annoy me at all in this book. I think one reason is because it does allow us to step back and not become too involved. It might have been overwhelming otherwise. The style fits with Lissar's personality and how she lives her life. It's interesting that it is told this way. It makes me want to go back and re-read my favorite books by McKinley to see if they are in a similar style that I didn't notice before.

I was also wary of reading this book because of the dog. I sometimes get bogged down in stories that feature animals as prominent characters. There was a part in the middle of this story that was a little long for me because of all the dogs. However, it didn't bore me and it wasn't too much of a chore to read through it. Just when I started getting tired of all the puppies/dogs the story shifted and the dogs weren't the main priority.

I was pleasantly surprised by the book and admire McKinley for choosing this tale to explore furthur in a very well written manner. I recommend this book to adults who enjoy fantasy and fairytales. Very sensitive people may not enjoy the book, but I still think you should give it a try. If you are interested in any of McKinley's other books I recommend The Blue Sword/The Hero and the Crown, and Beauty...these are my favorites by her and out of all the books I've read. Enjoy!

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Nymeth said...

I liked the bits with the dog litter :P But yes, it did go on for quite a while. I'm glad you enjoyed the book, Andrea. I agree that she handled the difficult subject matter very well, and the book isn't crude at all.

I also really enjoyed Beauty, but I haven't read The Blue Sword or The Hero and the Crown. I need to get to those!

Andi said...

I haven't read this one (or any of McKinley's stuff, actually), but a professor friend of mine that teachers children's lit courses at a nearby university loves this one and teaches it often. It sounds like I need to hurry up with it!

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