I received this book via Netgalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of this review.White Stag by Kara Barbieri
Series: Permafrost #1
Published by Wednesday Books on 2019-01-08
Length: 368 pages
Reviewing eARC from Netgalley
Reading Challenges: #NGEW2019, 2019 New Release Challenge
White Stag, the first book in a brutally stunning series by Kara Barbieri, involves a young girl who finds herself becoming more monster than human and must uncover dangerous truths about who she is and the place that has become her home.
As the last child in a family of daughters, seventeen-year-old Janneke was raised to be the male heir. While her sisters were becoming wives and mothers, she was taught to hunt, track, and fight. On the day her village was burned to the ground, Janneke—as the only survivor—was taken captive by the malicious Lydian and eventually sent to work for his nephew Soren.
Janneke’s survival in the court of merciless monsters has come at the cost of her connection to the human world. And when the Goblin King’s death ignites an ancient hunt for the next king, Soren senses an opportunity for her to finally fully accept the ways of the brutal Permafrost. But every action he takes to bring her deeper into his world only shows him that a little humanity isn’t bad especially when it comes to those you care about.
Through every battle they survive, Janneke’s loyalty to Soren deepens. After dangerous truths are revealed, Janneke must choose between holding on or letting go of her last connections to a world she no longer belongs to. She must make the right choice to save the only thing keeping both worlds from crumbling.
Where do I begin?! White Stag by Kara Barbieri is the book I was waiting for. I’ve been craving a fantasy that could sweep me away from reality for a little while, and this was it. A hunt, a dead king, Goblins….it’s all very Labyrinth-esque. To be honest, I was a little hesitant going into the read. While I was excited, I was remembering my disappointment in Wintersong. Y’all there’s no comparison. While Wintersong was romantic and whimsical, White Stag is dark and haunting. Be prepared for a dark read.
Dropping the reader right into the action, the author creates a suspenseful read from the first page. Janneke is a thrall (re: slave) of a high-goblin lord, and as a result is perpetually 17. At the opening of the book, she’s been 17 for almost 100 years, taken as a slave after her village and family were killed. Now she is fighting becoming a changeling, fighting her growing feelings for the goblin who keeps her enslaved, and fighting to return to the human world. Janneke isn’t an easy character to empathize with. She is dealing with a lot of trauma (i.e. rape) and not fully recovered from it.
Soren, Janneke’s owner (I don’t think that’s the right word, but I’m going with it), comes off as a little cold to start. However what isn’t obvious to Janneke is very clear to the reader: he cares for her.
When the Erlking dies, the stag awakes and runs off, starting the hunt. This is the main plot of the story and follows Soren and Janneke as they hunt. I struggled a bit through the middle of the book. The writing felt rushed and dialogue stilted. I needed more detail personally. I also felt that the book itself needed a polish with an editor. (Please note though that I read an advanced copy, I’m hoping these issues have been resolved prior to release).
Overall, I liked White Stag and cannot wait to read more of Janneke’s story in the second book. If you enjoy high fantasy, suspense, and a little romance, I recommend it.