Title: White Stag
Author: Kara Barbieri
I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
This was a buddy read with Breanna from Paws and Paperbacks.
The first book in a brutally stunning series where a young girl 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.
Janneke/Janneka entered into the Permafrost after her entire village was destroyed. For the last 100 years, she has been living with goblins. With only the hope of once again returning to the human world, she bears the suffering she has been given. One day, the white stag leaves the current Goblin King, meaning he no longer bears the most power. In a race to power (and to kill the white stag), no one is safe.
We are all monsters in some ways.
On initial thought, this reminded me of the Wintersong series. A girl is taken “prisoner” into the goblin world, only to fall in love with the person she serves. However, the goblin in this story, Soren, I actually adore. He cares more about Janneke than having power over her, even if it means losing a large majority of his power, and possibly death.
What I enjoyed most about this novel was the growth the reader experiences from Janneke. We see her become a strong, confident woman who faces her fears instead of running from them like she did in the past. She embraces the idea that every person (or goblin) has their own fate. Not only that, but not everything is as it appears. The novel ends with Janneke becoming an inspiration for those around her.
This started out fast, slowed some, and then sped up again. I wish there were more details in the last battle, because we only received the viewpoint of Janneke, so we didn’t know everything that happened in the battle (and I love battles!). Overall, this was fulfilling, didn’t contain too much romance (yay!), and gave the supporting characters some love. This would be a perfect read for those who enjoyed the Wintersong series and The Cruel Prince.
Expected publication date is January 8, 2019.