Kara Barbieri’s debut novel White Stag is a fresh, fun take on an epic fantasy. Instead of your traditional elves, White Stag is all about goblins and her take is so interesting.
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.
I really enjoyed White Stag. The book flowed together well, and kept me intrigued. When I wasn’t reading, it was knocking around in my head, and ultimately the end of the book surprised me. Some elements were predictable, but the final twist was a welcome surprise.
Janneke/Janneka is a fierce survivor, living through a century of horror. I admired her strength and drive and really felt her struggle. She fights for her future, for choice, for her own freedom. Her relationship with Soren, her captor and companion for decades was interesting to watch unfold. It may not be the hot, passionate declarations that are so popular and pervasive in fantasy right now, but watching Janneke decide if Soren was truly trustworthy or not was wonderful.
The Permafrost is a wonderful and richly imagined setting. Barbieri’s system of power and magic is fresh and one I’m looking forward to exploring more of.
White Stag is on shelves now and is a debut not to miss.
Thank you to Wednesday Books for providing me with an eARC in exchange for my honest review.