I cannot rave enough about the wonderful author Robin McKinley! Her fairy tales always feature very strong female protagonists, well-drawn characters and imaginative stories. For fairy tale-lovers of all ages I wholeheartedly recommend The Hero and the Crown (about the fiery-haired dragon-slayer Aerin) and The Blue Sword (about a woman named Harry who found her purpose as a warrior against evil) - they were some of my most favorite books growing up!
Now, as for Deerskin, it is most definitely an adult novel as it deals with a very disturbing subject. This book is loosely based on the little-known Charles Perrault fairy tale called "Donkeyskin."
From the publisher:
As Princess Lissar reaches womanhood, it is clear to all the kingdom that in her breathtaking beauty she is the mirror image of her mother, the queen. But this seeming blessing forces her to flee for safety from her father's lust and madness. With her loyal dog Ash at her side, Lissar will unlock a door to a world of magic, where she will find the key to her survival-and an adventure beyond her wildest dreams...
There was some serious Oedipal shiz going on in this book...whoa! A story that includes rape and incest is...uh, difficult reading to say the least. However, the latter two-thirds of the novel focused on transformation, hope, love and a bit of magic. In a way, this book is an ode to the power of a relationship between a woman and her dog...how they give each other strength to persevere (awww).
While I did like the story, I enjoyed my childhood favorites much more than Deerskin. It's not actually due to the disturbing nature of the story (which I thought might be the case) but more due to Lissar's interludes in the cabin which dragged a bit for me. Also, it was pretty obvious where - or should I say, to whom - Lissar's journey would take her (although there were plenty of surprises along the way). Yet overall, I thought this was a good book. One of my favorite things about this novel is that the characters seem less idealized and more realistic. While romanticized characters can make for a more entertaining read, realistic characters (especially placed in a fairy tale) make for a far more interesting one!