- Mass Market Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Ace; Reprint edition (July 1, 1994)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 044100069X
- ISBN-13: 978-0441000692
- Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.8 x 6.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 315 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #407,212 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Deerskin Mass Market Paperback – July 1, 1994
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“A fierce and beautiful story of rage and compassion, betrayal and loyalty, damage and love.” –Alice Hoffman
“An enormously powerful novel…dreamlike, urgent, inexplicable…Robin McKinley has created a world where nightmare and hope exist side by side.” –Patricia A. McKillip
“Superlative.” –Chicago Sun-Times
“A wonderful story, wonderfully told.” –The San Diego Union-Tribune
“I did so much enjoy Robin McKinley’s Deerskin…I respect her writing and reread her constantly, finding new perceptions each time.” –Anne McCaffrey
“Deerskin is a subversive fairytale with an element of myth, but most of all it is a psychological novel of great depth and power, using fantasy in the service of truth.” –Locus
“Well-chosen details, characterization is superlative.” –Booklist
“McKinley’s writing is amazing, dreamlike, gut-wrenching, and heartwarming…A very uplifting story of triumph and love.” –Under the Covers
About the Author
Robin McKinley has won various awards and citations for her writing, including the Newbery Medal for The Hero and the Crown and a Newbery Honor for The Blue Sword. Her other books include Sunshine; the New York Times bestseller Spindle's End; two novel-length retellings of the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Beauty and Rose Daughter; and a retelling of the Robin Hood legend, The Outlaws of Sherwood. She lives with her husband, the English writer Peter Dickinson.
Top customer reviews
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GENERAL SPOILERS AHEAD:
The first half of the book is really about the traumatic aftermath of a violent assault and rape by the heroine's own father. These dark themes are handled appropriately, realistically, and with great compassion but they do make for some hard reading. If you have any experience with trauma and/or assault, you'll likely recognise a lot of the ordeals and emotions that our heroine processes. There's a lot of darkness in this book and, though beautifully written, absolutely not for the faint of heart (or young readers).
Throughout her suffering, our heroine is supported by her loyal sighthound; her only true friend and family in the world. Possibly a windhund, or long haired whippet, based on the description, though various covers for this book have shown a greyhound and borzoi, respectfully. Either way, if you have ever had the privilege of living with a sighthound, you will recognise so much of their loyalty, grace, and sweetness in this book. Lissar's connection to her canine companion is a huge part of what attracted me to this book, and kept me reading through the painful passages.
The last half of the book is about Lissar healing and joining the world again. Of course, dogs are a huge part of this process; bridging the gap between herself and a young prince who loves and understands dogs almost as much as she does. Her peace is threatened with the return of her father, and the realisation that he might soon hurt another young girl like he once hurt her. This spurs Lissar to face her demons and pull on the strength that was always within her. I honestly found her rising up in protest so powerful; her spirit just burns with the need to protect those who come after her.
The ending is hopeful but makes no foolish promises. Lissar, like all survivors, is forever changed by her trauma but she is also solely in control of her own destiny. As readers, we are left with a heroine who has been through hell and back to come through scarred, but standing, on the other side. Life likely holds moments of pain as her previous trauma is triggered but it is also full of hope; hope that she can be whole, hope that she will continue to live (not just survive), and hope that she will one day be able to trust another with her whole self (and heart).
Even though parts of this book almost physically hurt to read ( I cried a LOT; have tissues at the ready!), it has that soulful, almost nourishing, quality that so many of McKinley's books convey. She is a supremely gifted writer, and reading this book was a privilege. I highly recommend it to those who want something beautiful and complex to read.
Much has been made of ‘Deerskin’ being too dark and not suitable for younger kids, and I would advise parents to judge this – and their childrens' reading maturity – for themselves. It is dark, especially in the scenes between Lissar and her evil father, but she is such an irrepressible heroine that I think most teens will love her. And the love between Lissar and her dog Ash, and later between her, Ash, and the puppies she nurtures from near-certain death, more than makes up for the dark stuff.
Is ‘Deerskin’ for everyone? No. But if you go in with an open mind, and read the book’s plot summary first, you will be rewarded with an enchanting, lyrical read.
Lissar/Deerskin survives some intense trauma in the beginning of this tale - it was hard to read, but McKinley hit the middle ground of being just graphic enough to really impress the horror of the assault on you, without being overly graphic. I think it could definitely be triggering, though, so be warned. Lissar survives, and escapes, and spends time healing before going among people again and learning to heal emotionally as well as physically.
The book is predictable - I knew where she was going and who she'd fall in love with from the moment she left home - but no less absorbing for that. I did like that for once, an author dealt with trauma recovery in a realistic manner, instead of just "oh well she loves him so the trauma won't bother her anymore!" because PTSD doesn't work that way.
Deerskin is another enchanting tale from McKinley, with parts that are genuinely hard to read. I wish the description had been more blatant that when Lissar is fleeing "her father's lust" they really meant his assault, not just his desire.