White Stag by Kara Barbieri

“Bad dreams are better than no dreams. At least they tell you what you’re afraid of knowing.”

White Stag Cover

Goodreads || Amazon || Kara’s Twitter

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.

DISCLAIMER: I received an eARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

EXPECTED JANUARY 8, 2019

2 STARS

TW: mutilation, violence and gore, sexual assault, animal death, torture, one fade to black sex scene

After taking an entire three days to finish White Stag instead of my usual three hours, I think it’s safe to say that this wasn’t the book for me. I guess I should have known, based on the summary: I tend to steer clear of fae/goblin books because there’s so often an immortal (or near-immortal)/human romance, which usually makes my skin crawl, among other things that just never seem to sit right with me.

That’s not to say this book was bad. There were some things about it that I liked! The emphasis on saying what you mean, being careful about how you phrase your words, appeals to me and my riddle-loving nature. And because high stakes bargains are always interesting, too.

And the setting was interesting, too! The Permafrost seems at first glance like an icy wasteland, but it’s full to bursting with life if you look in the right places. It’s a harsh land, but not a barren one. It requires a certain hardness to survive, a willingness to make sacrifices and a suspicion of everyone, because trust is luxury no one can truly afford.

Also, that cliffhanger ending? Interesting enough I almost want to pick up the sequel when it arrives. That’s a strong ending for a book that otherwise didn’t have me looking forward to any sequel.

But on the flipside, I think I disliked it first for the immortal/human romance (I just can’t get behind them, ever; it never happens). Beyond that, I think I’m burnt out on stories about embracing a darkness of nature in order to do the right thing. I’m craving stories about characters who hold to what they think is good and right in an effort to be just and kind, not characters who cross their moral boundaries to save the world. This morality mixing and talk of who’s really a monster and perspective, while it can be valuable, is a little lost on me.

Sometimes, you just want to slay the beast and know it was evil, to know the fight was well worth it, well won, and that this victory will make things good and right. Also, nice, compassionate characters AREN’T boring when they’re written right, and anyone who says otherwise is wrong. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Just the truth, thanks.

I also wish I knew more about the Permafrost. I got the sense that this had a heavy helping of Norse mythology in it, which helped me find my way a little, but the lore and rules of the Permafrost were so expansive and so many, and it made it a little hard to feel any real sense of depth. On one hand, magic is wild and doesn’t always need hard and fast rules. On the other hand, when it’s an old, established magic that everyone is supposed to understand, these fleeting glances into how it works felt shallow and left me wishing there was more depth to it overall.

So really, this comes down to wrong reader at the wrong time. I’m not a goblin or fae fan, and if it’s not a story about a triumph of justice and compassion without giving into darkness (whatever form that may take) along the way, then it needs to work a thousand times as hard to keep my attention. And White Stag just didn’t do that for me.

Maybe it’ll work for you, though! It comes out January 8th  (yes, that would be tomorrow!), so if you’re into high stakes, goblins, adventure-based fantasy, and romance, this might just be the book for you!

2 thoughts on “White Stag by Kara Barbieri

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