Title: White Stag
Author: Kara Barbieri
Published by: Wednesday Books
Publication date: January 8th 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
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.
• • • REVIEW • • •
As a goblin-infested novel, White Stag is filled with chilling thrills and the gruesome politics of the goblin world. As a human living in the goblin realm (Permafrost) for over 100 years, the main character, Janneke, is hardened by the brutality she encounters in this cruel world. Janneke is always in a fight instead of flight mode in order to survive the monstrous acts of the powerful goblins that surround her.
At the beginning of the book, the pacing of White Stag was very choppy and abrupt, but once Janneke joins the White Stag hunt, I was ingrained in her mindset to fight, survive, and escape. The reader is often thrown into Janneke’s memories and flashbacks of being tortured, mutilated, and raped, which triggers unsettling emotions and fear, so be aware that this novel may be upsetting, triggering, and too graphic for some audiences.
Overall, White Stag is a very unique fantasy that brings a new story to goblin lore. As imagined in one of my favorite goblin-narrative poems “Goblin Market” by Christina Rossetti, goblins are also brutal creatures in White Stag. But through Janneke’s experiences, she notices that humans can be monsters too. Beyond the abrupt flashbacks that provide Janneke’s distressing backstory, the novel is littered with action-packed fight scenes and the hint of a possible lovestory brewing.
Kara Barbieri is a writer living in the tiny town of Hayward, Wisconsin. An avid fantasy fan, she began writing White Stag at eighteen and posting it to Wattpad soon after under the name of ‘Pandean’. When she’s not writing, you can find her marathoning Buffy the Vampire Slayer, reviving gothic fashion, and jamming to synthpop.