Deerskin isn’t a light read. It deals with the aftermaths of brutal violation; how a person can deal with it and rise above it or not. So people looking for bloody battle scenes and a few titillating rape scenes are going to be disappointed.

The story starts in a fairy tale manner and it does have a fairy tale-like quality to it through out the story. However, it’s far more darker than most modern, sanitized fairy tales. Also, this story does appear to happen in the same world as The Blue Sword and the Hero and the Crown. There is one sentence that talks about Aerin and the Dragon. There are a few small dragons in the story as well, which remind me of tHatC’s small dragons.

Once upon a time there was princess who was the most beautiful woman in seven kingdoms. Her father loved her so much that he set impossible tasks to the suitors. But one of the princes captured her heart and managed to do him tasks. And so they were married. However, this is not their tale. This is the tale of their only child, a daughter who grew up so much in the shadow of her magnificent parents that practically nobody even remembered her, not even her parents and certainly not the people she was destined to rule one day.

When she was still a little girl, her mother the Queen fell ill. Everyone where frantic and especially her father the King who seemed to go mad with grief. In time the Queen died and the whole country mourned for her forgetting everything and everyone else. The King received many, many grand mourning gifts but her daughter got only one: a fleethound puppy from a young prince. The puppy, Ash, brings love and hope to the princesses’ life and she founds out that she isn’t as powerless and insignificant as she has thought. She makes some changes in her life; she has never had a friend before but now she finds a friend in Ash and then Viaka, another girl at the court, and later an old herbalist who teaches the princess the use of some plants.

But the princess starts to take after her mother in beauty and eventually the courtiers and even her father notices this. She tries her best to continue in her live and ignore this even though she starts to feel that something is wrong. Then comes her seventeenth birthday and the ball where she was supposed to meet her first suitors. But her father doesn’t want that. He dances with his daughter the whole night and then the King announces that he will marry his daughter.

The poor princess goes half mad and barricades herself into her room with her beloved dog since everyone else has abandoned her. Alas, the half-mad king forces his way into her room, almost kills Ash, beats her, and rapes her. She almost dies. Her beloved Ash brings her back to life. She has lost most of her memory and staggers out to escape the castle. Her beloved dog with her, she sets out to survive a harsh winter on her own and to continue with her life.

McKinley writes a heart-wrenching tale about the love and devotion between a girl and her dog, and the girl’s struggle with identity after her ordeal. She can also surprise the reader. Just when I thought I knew what would come next, most of the time I was wrong. I was even wrong about how it would end. And her language is absolutely beautiful, dreamy and horrible at the same time.

Some people might have trouble believing that a princess could grow up so forgotten and sheltered; that someone would at least try to take advantage of an only heir. But that part isn’t meant to be believable. It has a fairy tale beginning showing what can happen if the people involved could be as beautiful and perfect as they are in the tales.