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3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  13,953 ratings  ·  847 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)
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Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson LevineThe Goose Girl by Shannon HaleBeauty by Robin McKinleyThe Princess Bride by William GoldmanFairest by Gail Carson Levine
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26th out of 1,543 books — 6,821 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Lizzi Crystal
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)
Bark's Book Nonsense
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
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 fat
Jul 19, 2011 Sandra rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone not afraid of emotional agony.
Recommended to Sandra by: NPR
Shelves: fantasy
Oh my, I scarcely know what to say about this book. It's actually not quite 5 stars, but I'd feel bad only giving it four.

It's wrenching, maddening, lyrical, unflinchingly honest in the way of fairy tales, and it's terribly sad. If it weren't for the dogs, I'm not sure I could've read it. I knew it was about a woman who was raped by her father when I bought it. It was on a list compiled by NPR of books about strong women. That's why I bought it. I thought I was prepared for it. I work as a pract
Carmen Maloy
Oct 22, 2007 Carmen Maloy rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
S.A. Parham
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
Jan 09, 2009 Eleven rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 30, 2007 Monday rated it 5 of 5 stars
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.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 04, 2009 Diana rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: 15+ girls and women in need of some empowerment
McKinley is one of my favorite young adult writers and this book is my favorite of hers. I love the empowering journey that Lissar takes in the novel. What I especially like here is that Lissar succeeds on her quest - both an external and internal quest - NOT by donning or adopting traditionally masculine traits or behaviors, but by relying on what can be called traditional feminine qualities. It shows that women and girls can turn the qualities that have all too often been regarded by society f ...more
Sonia Mcintosh
am a romantic so I love a good fairy-tale with princes and princesses and true love which conquers all. This is what lead me to pick up the book Deerskin by Robin McKinley who has done some great retelling of traditional fairy-tales (often found in the teenage collection). So when I saw this in the adult fiction, I prepared myself for a good read and I wasn't disappointed.
The book begins where most books leave off. The Prince has found his Princess, they marry and take over ruling the kingdom.
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 13, 2012 Chris rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
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
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
The original fairy tale of "Donkeyskin" by Perrault is one of the more uncomfortable and un-fairy-tale-like stories you may ever read. It's about a girl whose mother dies after extracting the promise from her husband to only remarry someone as beautiful as she is. Since she was the most beautiful woman in the world, naturally he doesn't think about marriage--until his daughter grows up and becomes as beautiful as her mother. Ew. He prepares to marry her, and despite the daughter's best efforts s ...more
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
This is not one of McKinley's best books (personally I was quite taken with Sunshine, and how can you beat The Blue Sword). What this book did very well was paint a picture of severe trauma and its sequeli. The main character was compelling and the story of how she was first emotionally (and physically) wounded and then healed (through her own actions as well as deus es machina intervention) was interested. However, it did lack that tang of reality that makes even fantasy stories feel relevant. ...more
I read about 50 pages of this book and gave up. It wasn't that it failed to entertain, I just couldn't handle the way in which it is written. If I am not mistaken, it was written in 3rd person omniscient, which I do not like. Just give me plain old 3rd person or 1st person.
This book was tough. It isn't anything like Beauty, which remains my favourite book by Robin Mckinley. It deals with painful issues, rape, incest, the loss of a child of rape, escape and eventually healing. It is beautifully written in a dreamy fashion. Wonderful.
Austen to Zafón
Pretty dark rendition of Perrault's already-dark French fairy tale about incest called "Donkeyskin." I read this in my 20s and still remember it, but I didn't really like it.
3.5 stars. This is a beautifully written dark fairy tale. The opening chapters are deliciously creepy, as we learn that it's not all fun and games to be the daughter of the most beautiful woman in seven kingdoms.

I knew the general outline of the story before I began, but I was taken aback by the abruptness of the violence against Lissar, especially after the exquisitely slow buildup of the subtle wrongness of the court and the kingdom.

I liked Prince Ossin, of course - there's nothing to dislike
Deerskin is the story of a young woman who survives a dismal childhood ended by a brutal act of violence. The story is mainly about her struggle to grow and heal, but is intertwined with magic, romance, and a the loyalty of an entertaining and intelligent dog. At the end, the writing gets a little abstract and difficult to understand, but this appears to be a bit of a pattern with McKinley. Don't try to hard to understand it, just let your own interpretation run wild, and move on with the story ...more

I was enthralled by this book immediately. I tore through it only stopping when I had to catch some sleep before an early day the next morning. This book is leisurely, the sentences dense, but somehow this washed over me like poetry. This was a captivating world and I really, really cared about the main character.

Deerskin is a re-telling of the fairy tale Doneyskin, bringing into focus the aspects of the story that have always disturbed me. This is ultimately a novel about recovery from tra
Stephanie Ricker
I read Deerskin by Robin McKinley (of The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown fame) in a couple big gulps this week. I think anything would’ve gone down smoothly, after gnawing on the Divine Comedy for so long, but I particularly enjoyed this book. It’s based on the Donkeyskin fairy tale, collected in several fairy tale anthologies though probably first appearing in Perrault’s collection. Doesn’t sound any grimmer than any other original telling of the rather bloodthirsty fairy tales we’ve Dis ...more
EZRead eBookstore
Even readers who never have worn a cloak and spoken in a fake British accent while wearing elf-ears can appreciate a good fantasy. Robin McKinley turns fairy tales into plain old good literature, versus a spin-off of a spin-off of spin-off. She creates something I like to call “cozy” fantasy, which has a double-shot of beautiful forest and a triple spritz of great female leads. Completely aside from my love of her previous “The Rose Daughter” and my perspective on fantasy, can this EZ Read inter ...more
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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...
Beauty (Folktales #1) The Blue Sword (Damar, #2) The Hero and the Crown (Damar, #1) Sunshine Spindle's End (Folktales #3)

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“It is a much more straightforward thing to be a dog, and a dog's love, once given, is not reconsidered.” 60 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.” 21 likes
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