I genuinely feel at a loss for words when it comes to Robin McKinley, not because her work inspires speechlessness, but rather because it doesn't. After finishing The Blue Sword last year, I realized that much of McKinley's charm was lost on me. I found one of her best pieces of work to be dull and in need of desperate polishing. Thus, I didn't really intend to read Deerskin but the premises sounded too intriguing to pass up. A beautiful princess, largely ignored for much of her life, comes to the attention of her father, the King, after her mother passes away. The Queen, known to be the most beautiful woman in all the Seven Kingdoms, makes her husband promise not to marry a woman who is of lesser beauty than she, which shockingly causes the King to announce his intentions to marry his daughter, just two years later. After beating and raping her violently, leaving her for the dead, the King leaves Lissra to her fate.But she survives. And as a survival tale of courage, this book excels. Lissra is poignantly written and her brutal rape is delicately handled. Furthermore, despite its darkness, I enjoyed this tale. It is beautifully written in a gripping, fairy tale style, and the relationship between Lissra and her faithful companion, the dog Ash, is beautifully depicted. Even the eventual romance with the plump, but kind, Prince Ossin is sweet. I was willing to forgive the slow passages in-between in favor of a 4 Star rating as well - that's how well this book was shaping up - but it seems I am doomed to give McKinley's novels no more than a mere 3 Stars. Unfortunately, where this book lost me was in Lissra's ultimate healing. While her mind buried the events of her past and she gradually came to know the truth, I was disappointed by the heavy guidance of a magic that dictated her actions. Lissra finds help in the form of the Moonwoman who heals both her mind and body, but throughout the story - and especially during those last scenes - the Moonwoman helps Lissra to confront her father. For me, this lacked the strength of Lissra's own courage and will to stand up to her oppressor.Additionally, the romance that gives Lissra a new life was paced slightly abruptly. I found that the line between trust and love, friendship and romance, was drawn too faintly and that jump made far too quickly. I cannot deny, however, that Deerskin is a beautiful novel. For once, I have no real qualms with McKinley's writing and have come to admire the deft manner she dealt with the more complex issues in this story. And yet, no matter how much I wish to embrace McKinley as a fellow fantasy lover, I seem unable to fall in love with her books. Maybe Beauty or Rose Daughter will change my mind yet.