Book - 2005
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"A fierce and beautiful story of rage and compassion, betrayal and loyalty, damage and love...A fairy tale for adults, one you'll never forget."--Alice Hoffman, New York Times bestselling author of The Rules of Magic

The only daughter of a beloved king and queen, Princess Lissar has grown up in the shadow of her parent's infinite adoration for each other--an infatuation so great that it could only be broken by the queen's unexpected passing. As Lissar reaches womanhood, it becomes clear to everyone in the kingdom that she has inherited her late mother's breathtaking beauty. But on the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Lissar's exquisite looks become a curse...

Betrayed and abused, Lissar is forced to flee her home to escape her father's madness. With her loyal dog Ash at her side, Lissar finds refuge in the mountains where she has the chance to heal and start anew. And as she unlocks a door to a world of magic, Lissar finds the key to her survival and begins an adventure beyond her wildest dreams.
Publisher: New York : Ace Books, 2005, c1993.
ISBN: 9780441012398
Characteristics: 375 p. ;,21 cm.


From the critics

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Jan 19, 2019

I really liked this book. It definitely has some mature points in the book.

Oct 14, 2018

My favourite book ever. Deeply disturbing and ever so beautiful.

Dec 18, 2014

Heart-wrenching story, but I love Robin McKinley's writing. I truly don't believe this is good for younger reads that some of her other books attract - it has some gruesome acts in it. But I still like the worlds McKinley builds.

Aug 15, 2014

This is a beautiful, emotionally challenging book about rape, child abuse and recovery. It's definitely for adults. I read it many years ago and it stayed with me. The focus is on Lissa's healing.

Nov 26, 2013

Robin McKinley deftly weaves a heart wrenching adaptation of Perrault's "Donkeyskin". Wandering away from the adornments of the original fairy tale, McKinley makes the novel grow and twist and turn into something new, with an ethereal atmosphere no basic fairy tale could every hope to reach. I was surprised at the passing over of minor, but important details, only for them to make a quick and thoughtful appearance later in the book. Although McKinley does not stick to the original fairy tale, whose very nature is dark, the base of the story stays the same. The story is not for the faint of heart, but neither was the original so it shouldn't be a problem.

Mar 15, 2012

This book has remained a favourite read since I first picked it up in my late teens. I often re-read it and I always find a new favourite section.

I agree with the other reviewers' statements that this book does have a dark side which can make it unsuitable for younger, or less mature readers.

I find that McKinley's talent for weaving legends into the main storyline is particularly well done in this novel. If you are looking for a less dark, but equally enjoyable novel from McKinley, I highly recommend "The Blue Sword".

Oct 05, 2011

A good read, but not nearly as full of action and adventure as usual. Much more of a personal journey.

Jun 29, 2011

This book was breathtaking, not only because of its poetic telling, but because of the heart of the story. I do think, however, that children and most young people shouldn't read this if they are not ready for its dark, adult themes and other things it contains. Some scenes stick in your memory forever because they are so vivid and terrible, or sinister and beautiful. I felt like I had grown after I had finished, and the ending was the most beautiful thing I have ever read, that I read the ending three times over. I found it dark, at times disturbing, and definitely intense, but unique and lovely at the same time.

FairyGirl Mar 09, 2011

Well written but I found it so disturbing that I was unable to enjoy it.

Dec 01, 2010

Wonderfully written. However, this is definetly one of McKinleys darker novels as the main character deals with inner turmoil and fear, surronding topics that we usally avoid. Once again her writting opens our eyes, showing us the world from a unique point of view.

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Mar 14, 2016

blue_dove_304 thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 14 and 30

Nov 26, 2013

domboch thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

Mar 15, 2012

M_L_E thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over


Add a Summary
Nov 26, 2013

Although Lissar is the daughter of the most beautiful queen and most handsome king in all the land, she is a lonely child whose only true companion is her dog, Ash. She is mostly ignored during her childhood due to the fact that her parents were the two most splendid people in all the seven kingdoms. Lissar's mother falls ill and starts to lose her beauty. This causes her to lose her will to live, because she wants to be remembered as the most beautiful person, and nothing less. She sends for artists from all the kingdoms, and eventually one is chosen to paint a portrait of her as she was before her illness. He works nonstop, as if driven, for a fortnight until the painting is completed and shown to the queen. After looking at the painting, she forces the king to swear that he will only remarry if he can find a bride more beautiful than she, and after he acquiesces, she dies. This seemingly impossible condition is not, however, insurmountable: as Lissar matures, she becomes not just very image of her mother, but more beautiful than her parents. The king becomes obsessed with his daughter, and insists that he will marry her. Lissar refuses him and locks herself in a room. Eventually the king finds a way into the room and rapes Lissar and almost kills Ash. Lissar and Ash escape from the king and find their way to a cabin in the mountains. Lissar, impregnated by her father the king, miscarries and nearly dies. Lissar is saved by a moon goddess, who gives her a white deerskin dress (referenced in the title) and alters both Lissar and Ash so that they are unrecognizable; Lissar's hair changes from black to white, and Ash grows a coat similar to that of a borzoi. As another gift the goddess gives Lissar time to heal and makes her forget what happened to her. Lissar travels to a different kingdom and offers to work for the king. The prince, Ossin, assigns her to raise a litter of puppies whose mother had died. The goddess's alterations, however, were more than physical. Lissar, now identified as Deerskin, discovers that she has supernatural powers, including the ability to find lost children and objects. She falls in love with Ossin and he with her, but, still burdened by her past, she flees when Ossin proposes to her at a ball and returns to the cabin in the mountains with Ash and the puppies. After spending the winter recovering, Deerskin feels compelled to return to Ossin's city, following an urgent call. As she nears the city, she hears about a wedding and assumes that it is Ossin's. She realizes to her horror that the king, her father, is going to marry Ossin's younger sister. Deerskin reveals her true identity as the bridegroom's daughter and calls her father to account for his actions, using the goddess's powers to punish him for his crimes. Confronting her father finally frees Lissar to accept Ossin's love. The story ends with Lissar tentatively coming back to Ossin's arms, offering to give their relationship a chance.


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Aug 15, 2014

Violence: rape


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