Review: Deerskin (Robin McKinley)

Deerskin by Robin McKinley was a deal on Google Play books so I decided to pick it up.  Once I started reading, I got engrossed pretty quickly.  Not for any of the usual reasons I get sucked into a story, but because it is so different from other books I’ve found over the past few years.

There is a strong trend (and a lot of discussion) around “character driven” stories. They frequently draw on all the senses in very powerful ways: like “X smelled the perfume of rose and lavender which brought back all the memories.”/”The softness of the cloth made X’s skin tingle….” yadayadayada. McKinley doesn’t do that.

Lissar is one of the most blank-slate characters I’ve ever seen.  She is often moved through the world instead of moving herself. And it is done beautifully.

And let me repeat – it was so well done I wouldn’t change it.

Almost all of this is due to the tone McKinley used to write this novel. Written like a fairy tale, there are no details. There are very few descriptions, even the “yellow city” is only given a conversational description. The queen who is “the most beautiful woman in seven kingdoms” is really so vaguely defined she is could be almost any beautiful woman you imagine. The princes, ministers, servants… almost everyone is an “every-blank” character. Interestingly enough, thinking about it – peasants/”simple” people had personalities while the nobility and their ilk were these blank slates you can draw on. Which is so very true of fairy tales.

Anyone who enjoys fairy tales, should read this book. If you ever read Thousandskins  (usually a version is included in Grimms collections) you know some of the basis of Deerskin.

I give it a good solid 7/10. There were no surprises and there was a point where the wording was so convoluted I actually read two pages aloud to make sure I was following it correctly. Even so, this was one of my favorite fairy tales growing up and McKinley did it full justice.

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