The brunt of Mark Twain's satire and criticism of Cooper's writing, Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses (1895), fell on The Deerslayer and The Pathfinder. Twain wrote at the beginning of the essay: "In one place in Deerslayer, and in the restricted space of two-thirds of a page, Cooper has scored 114 offenses against literary art out of a possible 115. It breaks the record." He then lists 18 out of 19 rules "governing literary art in domain of romantic fiction" that Cooper violates in The Deerslayer.
In Carl Van Doren's view the book is essentially a romance, at the same time considerably realistic. The dialect is careful, the woodcraft generally sound. The movement is rapid, the incidents varied, and the piece as a whole absorbing. The reality of the piece comes chiefly from the reasoned presentation of the central issue: the conflict in Leather-Stocking between the forces which draw him to the woods and those which seek to attach him to his human kind. Van Doren calls Judith Hutter one of the few convincing young women in Cooper's works; of the minor characters only the ardent young Chingachgook and the silly Hetty Hutter call for his notice.