Deerskin - Robin McKinley
I cried happily at the end of this book, not because the story was grand or the characters superb, but because it was finally over.

The book's blurb describes the story as: "As Princess Lissar reaches womanhood, it is clear to all in 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 (on Amazon, you will see 'lust' added, which SHOULD be there on the back of the book as well). 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."

To start off, this is a completely misleading blurb. There is no grand adventure, no 'finding the key to survival' and the kingdom she hails from finds her wretched, and continue to feel that way until the end, because despite the vileness of the villain and the entire first part of the book's setup for the fall, it fails to deliver. The ending is weak, contrived and hollow. It was a terrible letdown to an already disappointing book.

McKinley has a gift for description and making her characters FEEL varied, however, all of them have the same voice and thoughts, and many feel placed by the author to simply move the plot along and pass on information that Lissar isn't asking for but the reader needs to know. The story drags a lot, mainly from McKinley repeating herself over and over as if the reader has forgotten. I grew to feel sorry for Lissar's dog Ash, that she had to be around such a vapid, pointlessly dull character all the time. McKinley also chose to write in 3rd person-unlimited, switching to other people's POVs quickly and without reason, often for only one paragraph at a time, confusing me through most of the book.

Without giving many spoilers, I'll give my impression of the three parts:

PART 1 - The first three chapters of the book (29 pages) are all about a woman who has no real part in the story. It is basically a prologue disguised as being part of the novel. We don't get to see the inside of the main character's head until Chapter 4. It was pointless, in my opinion, given the ending of the story, because none of the story has any bearing on the rest of the book, except to explain in too great of detail how beautiful Lissar's mother was. By page 15 I was bored and wondering what the point was. The book has intense parental incest/rape scenes at the end of Part 1, not that it would have bothered me much, except it felt sudden after 80 pages of a slow crawl.

PART 2 - (SOME SPOILERS) This section of the book is a mixed bag. I struggled through the entire thing. Lissar struggles with her past; she does some innane chores, repeat, over and over and over. By the end of the second part, I felt that the book's blurb should have read "Hermit woman is transformed into mystic-who-doesn't-know-her-mystical-powers. Hermit woman goes to city. Hermit woman gets puppies! Hermit woman loves puppies, puppies love her. Feel good puppy vibes. Oh, there's a 'not handsome' prince that is obvious love interest." The first part of the story basically disappears into oblivion, and I'm left wondering why I even bothered reading it. The positives? I loved the dogs. They were great. I also liked all of the side characters, though some were introduced as if we should remember them and then are promptly never spoken of again. Negatives? Robinson Crusoe meets Anastasia.

PART 3- (END OF SPOILERS). The ending was horrible. What little had been redeemed of the book in the puppy scenes is lost in the climax, which focuses less on a grotesque revenge against her father and more on a romance which, while natural in Part 2, is too shallow to offer conclusion. I also feel compelled to mention, because it was a huge part of the letdown for me, that I was expecting to see some of her father's thoughts to come up against his daughter again, but there was nothing. Absolutely nothing. This felt strange given the POV of the whole novel, and it just made me feel like he was written in just to be a villain--the author had no idea how to conclude or express his demise.

In short, don't read it. Maybe McKinley's other works are better, but this one wasn't worth the effort.