Title: White Stag
Author: Kara Barbieri
Pub Date: 8 January, 2019
Company: St. Martin’s Press
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.
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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.
If you love action, which we all know you do, you’ll be pulled into Janneke’s story from page one. In just the first chapter, we learn that Janneke has been through some traumatic events, but she’s strong and she’s made it through. Just in case you need convincing of her mental and physical strength, she sees her torturer and fends him off, never backing down from the fight and willing herself to be in control. Then the White Stag, the symbol of the emperor’s power leaves.
You better believe I turned the page to find out what happened next.
But then the action stopped. And I found myself in a world of stilted dialogue and flashbacks and I was bored. I didn’t want to be bored. Look at that cover, look at that summary. Goblins! Goblin kings! Hunts! Action! Perhaps… romance?
When the narrative was in the action, it was wonderful and I couldn’t put it down. But the lulls in between make it difficult to review this title because I kept putting it down and picking it up. And I could see myself easily not finishing it at all.
Ultimately, White Stag wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either.