Deer Life

Written By: Ron Sexsmith

Published By: Dundurn Press

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


                I was delighted when Dundurn told me I could have my pick of books to review.  I was especially intrigued by a dark fairytale written by an award-winning recording artist.  And so, I asked for a chance to check out Deer Life by Ron Sexsmith.

                We find ourselves in Hinthoven, a small town with people living a simple lifestyle.  Hunting and planting are still the best ways to feed a family here.  Inns are for travelers, not vacations.  Stories and tales are ways to teach children and keep them in line.  One such tale speaks of witches with powers of transformation and dangerous magic.  Never in his wildest dreams would Deryn Hedlight believe that these tales were real, much less that he would become part of one.

                Years ago, Derynís father died in a freak accident.  Now a teenager, Deryn has decided that, as man of the house, it was time he went hunting and contribute food to his home.  His mother is uneasy about the idea, but Deryn is adamant and trundles off into the woods with his fatherís rifle and cart.  Unfortunately, though it is deer he is looking for, he accidentally kills a witchís companion.  In return, the witch, Eleanoir, rewards him by turning him into the very animal he was hunting for.

                Now a deer, Deryn must learn how to survive in the forest amongst the animals and the human hunting him.  Meanwhile, the witch, Eleanoir is attempting to assimilate herself into the town, attaching herself to Magnus Hinterlund, the wealthiest widower in the area, much to the chagrin of the housekeeper who loves him and his daughter, Claira, who has a sneaking suspicion about this woman.  Only former innkeeper Chad Grimsby knows the truth of what Eleanoir is about.

                Together with Derynís mother, Maggie, Claira, and a deer with a disturbing sense of knowing what the humans around him are talking about (Deryn), Chad must find a way to stop Eleanoirís evil plans, preventing her from destroying the lives of the people of Hinthoven the way she destroyed his so long ago.

                Being new to this sort of medium, Ron Sexsmith brings a unique style to his storytelling.  I believe he would have done well as a bard back in the days in which his story is set.  I can imagine him traveling from town to town, creating stories accompanied by lyre music.  The style in which Deer Life is written is very reminiscent of the style of the traveling bard.  It is as if the narrator is telling the tale as it is taking place, never quite sure where the tale will take us until we arrive there.  Also unique to this tale is the artwork Ė hand-drawn pictures created by the author himself, so the reader can see exactly what Sexsmith had in his mind while he wrote this tale.

                I actually found Deer Life to be quite an enjoyable fairytale, with its bits of humor mixed in with the serious parts of the story.  Itís a tale of magic, love, unexpected friendships and a bit of revenge.  The story flows well and is innocent enough to be enjoyable for children, while being mature enough to be enjoyable for adults as well.  The ending also has a bit of an unfinished feel, perhaps hinting at more tales from Hinthoven to come.  For a tale written while touring and making records, Deer Life is an excellent first story by Ron Sexsmith.  Iím interested in where this new author will take us in the future.


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