Monday, May 12, 2014

Robin McKinley - Deerskin

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 wrath. With her loyal dog Ash at her side, Lissar unlocks a door to a world of magic, where she finds the key to her survival - and an adventure beyond her wildest dreams...

Comment: I had my eye on this one for a long time before deciding to buy it. I got it this past january but only last month got to it at last. I got it mostly because it was a retelling of a fairy tale. I don't look for these taht much but if they come my way I read them. This book in particular crossed my path after more than one book and I always kept this one in the back of my mind, but never went for it. Now I took a chance to see if it was as good as it promised.

This is a retelling/retake of the donkeyskin story, this time with the author's POV of the events that shaped the story from the beginning. Lissar suffers an attack and flees, living as deerskin, a woman many think magical, when in reality she's just a princess running from something shameful. She thinks herself unworthy until she falls in love and knows someone close to her beloved will marry a man she knows is evil, her won father. This story combines fantasy and the power of love as the main keys to happiness.

Well, I can't say this was as wonderful as I imagined. The story itself was interesting and it has strong enough moments to be truly special. But I couldn't dismiss the writing, which was too elaborated and fairy tale alike to be edible for a long time. It was a very whimsical and ethereal writing style and it was hard to follow throughout the whole book. It got better when things became more objective, more about the action on sight, but there were parts where things were so aloof and dreamy, in a very fantasy tale way, which can be the goal here, but as a full length story it can be difficult to maintain.

The story follows Lissar and her growing up, the expectations around her because she's the daughter of the most beautiful woman in the world. Then something bad happens and she flees and finds love in another place. There is a sort of mid part between these two different focus on Lissar's path and the ending, so three formal parts withing the story and my own fourth part between parts 1 and 2. Of course this serves to explain Lissar's growing up mentally and physically, but also to explain why things happen the way they do.
I think most readers agree, the best part is the second when Lissar is learning to see her value and it's also cute to see her fall in love with Ossin, which is a prince but not handsome and perfect like in most fairy tales. I liked this part. When he tells her he loves her is such a beautiful speech....

I think the story didn't end as well as it could. The same moody tone keeps up and it's really hard to go past the writng style. I really thought this would be told in a contemporary vibe or mode but it wasn't so. Not just because the story is magical and fantastic enough to ask for a different style. I just had an idea of how this would go and everything is so... distant in terms of reader connection. It's one of those cases where the author could have told this from a contemporary perspective or if she still wanted to keep this style, at least the writing could have been more modern because this way can be a negative point for some, like me.
Anyway, this are the way they are. The story focuses only on Lissar, which is great, but I'd have liked to see Ossin's POV more too. Lissar leans a lot during her life, she has to deal with memories and disappointments that shape her way of being with other people, but her path is full of interesting mantras and in a way, there are lessons to learn with. Still, her transition from one identity to another wasn't as objective as that and I'd have liked to see her more confidant and through a different POV as well.
Of course, Lissar suffers a crime and that shapes her. I won't tell spoilers, of course it's a part of the story with huge impact in everything, it was subdued enough but once more, the story was too whimsical to have a bigger impact on the reader, I think. I keep saying, it should have been told with a different style.
Plus, I thin some key ideas from the original story, such as was the skin she used weren't as well used as that, it was almost a down play...I didn't expect that to be as unimportant as it was.

All in all, a good enough idea but the execution wasn't to my taste. I fully expected a different writing and wasn't aware of the author's style before, although I knew it would be adult fantasy. Everything together didn't put this on the level of best books for me, but the idea and some scenes and thoughts were enough to keep this in the positive. Still, I don't thin I'll be curious about more retelling from the author so soon.
Grade: 5/10

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