I dropped Magic Shifts off at the library yesterday and decided to take my own advice, so I re-read Deerskin.
Lissar is the only daughter of a completely self-involved king and queen. The most beautiful woman in seven kingdoms and the prince who won her by impossible feats. They’re so wonderful that when the queen starts to die of some mysterious illness (hint: she starts to age) she has an impossibly perfect portrait painted and makes the king promise to not marry anyone less attractive that she was.
Then Lissar grows up and turns out to be as beautiful as her mother.
Robin McKinley writes incredibly good fairy tales. Not Disney fairy tales, but the original ones they’re based on. So bad things happen and people die and all is not sweetness and light at the end, but generally things do work out as well as can be expected.
The bulk of this book is the story of how Lissar and her dog escape, build a new life on the buried ashes of the old, and eventually become strong enough to pull the memories out of hiding and limp forward towards recovery. There are moments of pain, moments of heroism and, eventually, moments of love. It’s a deeply touching story – highly recommended.