Saturday, October 12, 2013

Book Club Friday: Two Novels by Robin McKinley

I'm surprised I haven't reviewed any of Robin McKinley's books before, aside from listing Sunshine in my list of Fantasy Fiction Recommendations. She's basically the queen of retold fairy tales, which usually feature strong female protagonists, and her children's fiction is so brilliant that even adults can enjoy it.

Thanks to my awesome local secondhand bookstore, I've had the chance recently to read two more of her books.

Deerskin is based on the fairy tale "Donkeyskin" by Charles Perrault, which I had actually never read before. The fairy tale, and thus the novel, is actually pretty dark.

Book description: As Princess Lissla Lissar reaches womanhood, it is clear to all the kingdom that in her beauty she is the image of her dead mother, the queen. But this likeness forces her to flee from her father's lust and madness; and in the pain and horror of that flight she forgets who she is and what it is she flees from: forgets almost everything but the love and loyalty of her dog, Ash, who accompanies her. But a chance encounter on the road leads to a job in another king's kennels, where the prince finds himself falling in love with the new kennel maid . . . and one day he tells her of a princess named Lissla Lissar, who had a dog named Ash.

The Outlaws of Sherwood is obviously a retelling of Robin Hood, but told in such a way that it feels like a genuine work of historical fiction.

Book description: Robin is an apprentice forester in the woods of Nottingham, but the sheriff's men harass him at every opportunity. When he accidentally kills a man in self-defense, he flees into Sherwood Forest, knowing he will live the rest of his days as a hunted man. But his friends believe the disaster is also an opportunity: an opportunity for a few stubborn Saxons to gather in secret under Robin's leadership and strike back against the arrogance and brutality of the Norman overlords.

I mentioned that Robin McKinley writes great female characters, right? Deerskin features a young woman recovering from a horrific rape. Although the protagonist of The Outlaws of Sherwood is obviously Robin Hood himself, the large and diverse supporting cast includes three strong women. 

It's been a long time since a book has affected me in such a way that Deerskin did. Parts of it are, frankly, horrifying. But the journey that Lissla takes is beautiful and inspiring, if heartbreaking at times. This is easily one of the best books I've read this year.

I confess I don't know all that much about the legend of Robin Hood. Sure, I've seen the Disney film, and, even better, Men in Tights (TIGHT tights!). Thus I was able to enjoy The Outlaws of Sherwood without any expectations or preconceived notions of how the story should go. Robin is only an average archer who spends most of his time worrying about the practicalities of his camp and the safety of his "merry men." Although not quite as captivating as Deerskin, I still enjoyed reading about all the adventures of Robin Hood and his outlaws. My favorite part was a surprise twist on one character's identity.

Even though it's technically early in the morning on Saturday, I'm still linking up for Book Club Friday!

Have you read any books by Robin McKinley? Share your favorite in the comments! 

Edited to add that this post has two Amazon affiliate links, so if you decide to buy a book based on my recommendation, I get a teeny tiny kickback.


  1. these sounds like books I would enjoy. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I really love Robin McKinley's books. Definitely check them out!

  2. I love love love Robin McKinley's books. Deerskin made me cry! It was so beautiful. And frankly, scary at times too! I love her devotion to her dogs!

    1. Robin McKinley is one of my favorites! I haven't reviewed much of her work on my blog, but only because I read so many of her books well before I started my blog. Sunshine is one of my favorites, but I'm also partial to Beauty, the first book of hers I ever read.

  3. Yay Robin McKinley!!! You know the love affair I have with her... I think Deerskin is one of her best. She is able to capture psychological nuances so poignantly with her distinct and beautifully abstract style.


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