Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Deerskin” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


3.88  ·  Rating Details ·  17,338 Ratings  ·  1,085 Reviews
As Princess Lissla Lissar reaches womanhood, it is clear to all the kingdom that in her beauty she is the image of her dead mother, the queen. But this likeness forces her to flee from her father's lust and madness; and in the pain and horror of that flight she forgets who she is and what it is she flees from: forgets almost everything but the love and loyalty of her dog, ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published May 3rd 2005 by Ace (first published June 1st 1993)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Deerskin, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Ronnie Catcus Creatures like 'ootag' and such? They're entirely the creation of McKinley to add to the fantasy feel I believe, and they are mentioned in passing in…moreCreatures like 'ootag' and such? They're entirely the creation of McKinley to add to the fantasy feel I believe, and they are mentioned in passing in a few of her other books.

I think she's stated that the primary inspiration is Donkey Skin by Charles Perrault. But there are a lot of tales similar to this such as: The King Who Wished To Marry His Daughter, Little Catskin, Katie Woodencloak.

There's a lot of similarities between Artemis/Diana and the Moonwoman/Lissar. Lissar has to learn to hunt, Artemis is the goddess of the hunt. The book focuses on the moon, Artemis is the goddess of the moon. Artemis is the goddess that helps women when they're sick and protects girls.

I hope this helps answer your questions. (less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Lizzi Crystal
Jan 08, 2008 Lizzi Crystal rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book strikes such a discord in me that I have to start reviewing before actually finishing it. Halfway through, the writing is beautiful, exquisite, but circles around and repeats itself so often I was on page 90 before anything had actually happened, which would be fine, except for the hazy treatment of rape and incest. It doesn't capture the seriousness or tragedy.

...And having finished it, I think the same. Boring is a mild word for it - I've never read anything that dragged, and dragge
McKinley has covered many fairytales in her novels, but this is the one that haunts me the most.
Based on Perrault's "Donkeyskin" Deerskin is the story of princess Lissla Lissar, daughter of the most beautiful woman in the world. Her mother's dying request is that her husband only marry a woman as beautiful as her - and that becomes her daughter.
(view spoiler)
Gloria Mundi
Having just read and adored McKinley's Sunshine and The Blue Sword when I started this book, I was full of love for the author and expecting great things. This book is a re-telling of the Donkeyskin fairytale, which I actually do remember from when I was little, though I have to say the incestuous subtext did go completely over my head when I was 5.

Princess Lissar Lisslar is a lonely and awkward child who grows up obscured by the shadow of her glorious parents who are so completely obsessed wit
Lake Oz Fic Chick
Apr 03, 2007 Lake Oz Fic Chick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookreviews
With Deerskin, Robin McKinley moved from writing award-winning children’s fiction (The Hero and the Crown) to writing adult fantasy. In fact, this novel is so adult (the story includes rape and incest) that McKinley says it’s the only book for which she’s received hate mail. Inspired by aspects of “Donkeyskin,” a little-known fairy tale by Charles Perrault, the journey of heroine Lissla Lissar is a harrowing but deeply affecting story about the power of love and the possibility of healing from t ...more
Originally reviewed on The Book Smugglers

Trigger Warning: Rape, abuse, incest.

Princess Lissla Lissar is the daughter of a heroic and handsome king, who won the hand of the most beautiful woman in the Seven Kingdoms. Every night, Lissar listens to her nursemaid spin the same tale - the story of her father, winning her mother's hand over the other six Kings by completing an impossible, superhuman task. Every day and every night, Lissar hears the story of her mother's incredible beauty and her fa
Bark's Book Nonsense
Dec 03, 2010 Bark's Book Nonsense rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 28, 2011 Sandra rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone not afraid of emotional agony.
Recommended to Sandra by: NPR
Shelves: fantasy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Carmen Maloy
Oct 22, 2007 Carmen Maloy rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: All who enjoy fantasy and fairytale
McKinley's writing is amazing, dreamlike, gutwrenching & heartwarming. This book is not for everyone. It has a very dark tone & the first few chapters are very painful to read. Your heart will be ripped to pieces several times before the book ends. BUT despite all of this I found it to be a very uplifting story of triumph & love.
It is the story of Princess Lissar, who at first glance appears to live a charmed life. Actually, once we dig a little deeper we realize Lissar is very alon
Jan 09, 2009 Eleven rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fantasy lovers, people who like a good story, fairy tale readers
A fairy tale in only the technical term, Deerskin takes place in a nameless land within the "seven kingdoms", where a young princess is known for nothing but being the daughter of the best king and most beautiful queen ever. She grows up hearing the story of her mother's courting, the accomplishments of her father and other such things that have instantly become legend in their lifetimes. When the queen falls ill and dies, a few people turn their attention to the princess, now of age to marry, a ...more
Jul 27, 2007 Casey rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who know the donkeyskin fairytale
I love this book. It's incredible. Robin McKinley did an amazing job of taking a fairy tale and creating a beautiful story of strength and survival out of it.

If you are not yet coping with a sexual abuse trauma, don't read this book. If you have no sexual abuse trauma, or are dealing with it, this book is wonderful. If you are in that first category, I think it would be too jarring, too raw, too something.
Feb 11, 2017 Bec rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, read-2017
I've been wanting to read this for SO LONG and finally bought it. Read like a fairy tale and was a slow fantasy, but I really did enjoy it. Ash is the best dog and I want one.

Kind of wished for a bit more time seeing the Ossen and Lissar interact and a bit more after the wrap up for ship reasons. Also ended rather abruptly. I kind of wanted more answers about the Moonwoman and exactly how/ why Lissar's appearance changed, as well as a bit more explanation about what exactly happened during some
Oct 20, 2015 ❀angela rated it really liked it
I know 4 stars seems like a high rating, but honestly I'm disappointed I could not give this book 5 stars. It has all the ingredients of my 5 star books: princes, romance, intelligent heroines. There was loyalty and puppies and a beautiful princess. And I loved the story, especially told in Mckinley's pretty prose. But this book dragged, and I mean DRAGGED. I like books that make me savor each and every word but this one made me skip entire pages because absolutely nothing was happening for page ...more

This was so different and so good. Fantasy, magic, tragedy and a bit of romance rounds out this beautifully written book. I've read 'Sunshine' by this author and liked it, but this was on a whole other level.
The circumstances of Lissar's escape were heartbreaking and brutal. There is incest here, so if that's a trigger then avoid this. However, if that's something you can handle in the context of an amazing story of resilience, hope and new beginnings, then read this book.
I genuinely feel at a loss for words when it comes to Robin McKinley, not because her work inspires speechlessness, but rather because it doesn't. After finishing The Blue Sword last year, I realized that much of McKinley's charm was lost on me. I found one of her best pieces of work to be dull and in need of desperate polishing. Thus, I didn't really intend to read Deerskin but the premises sounded too intriguing to pass up.

A beautiful princess, largely ignored for much of her life, comes to t
Aug 08, 2008 Isabel rated it did not like it
Shelves: fantasy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
S.A. Parham
Aug 13, 2007 S.A. Parham rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
This is a story based on Charles Perrault's darkly adult fairy tale, Donkeyskin. 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 Part One, and a weak ending to indicate happy ever after. I found Part One (84 pages) very tiresome and tedious, with the language very 'fairy-tale-like', which is great in a short fairy tale but not so fun in a book. However, I slogged throu ...more
Lauren (Shakespeare & Whisky)
"I am ways you cannot see, and that I cannot explain, even to myself, but only know that they are there, and a part of me, as much as my hands and eyes and breath are a part of me."

This book seemed like a less sophisticated ancestor of Tender Morsels. I got a bundle deal on several of Mckinley's works and so I went into this novel with no idea what it was about.

It was a tiny bit of a shock.

I really enjoyed this book. It inspired a deeply emotional response. Recently, I've been less i
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
I’m going to be explicit about some plot details, because most of the criticism of this book seems to come from people who didn’t know what they were getting into. So: Deerskin is a fairy tale retelling about a princess who is raped by her father. If you demand that your fairy tales be lighthearted, or your rape/trauma stories 100% realistic, this may not be the book for you. For what it’s worth, I think it’s a fantastic book, although there were times I put it aside for something more cheerful. ...more
It's difficult to know what to say about this book, and I can't decide whether I enjoyed it or not.

I think if you're considering reading this, you need to be aware that rape is a major theme. It might be a spoiler, but no one should stumble upon that by accident so I'm leaving it out here for all to see. Deerskin is essentially a story of a neglected girl who's raped by her father, and her lengthy, challenging, journey to get to a place where she can live her life outside the shadow of that trau
Feb 14, 2014 Sarah rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jackie "the Librarian"
Robin's darkest fairytale retelling. Not for kids.

Spoilers to follow:

After the death of her mother the queen, Princess Lissla is completely ignored for years by her father, the king. Her one companion is her dog, Ash, a condolence gift from Prince Ossia, and the two are inseparable.
As Lissla grows, she comes to resemble her mother both in looks and in beauty. When her father sees her, he insists that she must marry him, to fulfill his promise to her mother that he marry only a woman as beautiful
Nov 07, 2008 Nikki rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, fairytales
Deerskin is based on a fairytale, a pretty disturbing one in which a father decides to marry his daughter, because she is the only one equal to his dead wife in beauty. McKinley's version is darker, because of the detail of it. I found it desperately uncomfortable to read, and the pay-off really wasn't worth the discomfort -- for me, anyway. I read somewhere about a therapist suggesting a client of hers, who had been raped, read it, and that it was helpful in that case. But for me, reading it on ...more
Nov 13, 2010 Elizabeth rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction-fantasy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
A Robin McKinley book is never bad. Like a Jane Yolen book is never bad.

Deerskin is based on "Donkeyskin", a Charles Perrault tale that is usually neutered and deals with the theme of incest. "Donkeyskin" appears in other collections in variations such as Thousand Furs. These tales are related to "Cinderella" but are darker in nature for the princess flees her father who wants to marry her.

McKinley's retelling is a study in the recovery from abuse and assault. It is more of a inner journey than
16 March 2015: $1.99 on Kindle

4 March 2015: $4.99 on Kindle
On sale today, 3.16.15 on Amazon for $1.99 on kindle.
Repetitive, yet wonderful. Telling more than showing, yet almost perfect the way it is. Not for every reader out there as it is pretty slow, but it's just the story for this particular reader here.

The author herself has said that this story is a retelling orCharles Perrault's story Donkey Skin * and while I admit that there are some similarities between the tales, this one is far more grimmer with the topic of incestuous rape as the first dark thing coming to mind. Deerskin is far more difficult
There are books you come across that you know will be 5-stars even after a few pages. This book was one of them. I hadn't read any Robin McKinley before; but I often recommended her stuff to people at the library looking for really good classical fantasy. I should have taken my own advice much sooner. I was blown away by this writing. The beauty of it just hit you over the head; it's a use of language you don't see often and it totally works for the feel and setting of the story. Some may consid ...more
Aug 13, 2012 Chris rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone old enough to be confronting the idea of rape and incest
Compelling and disturbing, a Fairy Tale that confronts Reality: do not make the mistake of assuming "Deerskin" is a typical fantasy... yet its value lies most in what makes it atypical.

First, and in a lighter vein, it shows how near-isolation of a child can inhibit that child's understanding of humans and human interactions. Lissla Lissar grows up the neglected and ignored child of parents so enamored with one another that they rarely see her, and even to her nurse, she is of value only as her m
Nov 05, 2012 Karen rated it it was amazing
Sometimes I’m just in a Robin McKinley mood, and nothing else will satisfy me. After rereading “Beauty” and “Rose Daughter,” I found I needed a little more Robin McKinley on top of that, so I reread “Deerskin.” “Deerskin” isn’t a book I’m often in the mood for. It’s not that is isn’t wonderful and beautiful and outstanding—because it is—it’s just that this book is such an emotional commitment. It takes a lot out of me to read about the terrible things Lissar goes through at the beginning of the ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Vaginal Fantasy B...: Deerskin Critique 1 140 Mar 26, 2014 09:13AM  
Into the Forest: Deerskin Spoiler Discussion 16 94 Jan 29, 2012 05:47PM  
Into the Forest: Deerskin Spoiler Free Discussion 1 21 Dec 01, 2011 11:22AM  
  • Black Thorn, White Rose
  • Winter Rose (Winter Rose, #1)
  • Tam Lin
  • White as Snow
  • The Magic Circle
  • Fitcher's Brides
  • The Wild Swans (Faerie Tale)
  • The Black Swan (Fairy Tales, #2)
  • Heart's Blood
Born in her mother's hometown of Warren, Ohio, Robin McKinley grew up an only child with a father in the United States Navy. She moved around frequently as a child and read copiously; she credits this background with the inspiration for her stories.

Her passion for reading was one of the most constant things in her childhood, so she began to remember events, places, and time periods by what books
More about Robin McKinley...

Share This Book

“It is a much more straightforward thing to be a dog, and a dog's love, once given, is not reconsidered.” 65 likes
“Then marry me. For I love you, and I do not believe there is anything so wrong with you. You are fair in my eyes and you lie fair on my heart.” 23 likes
More quotes…