Series: Permafrost #1
Written by: Kara Barbieri
Published: January 8, 2019 by Wednesday Books (Macmillan)
Synopsis: 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.
I love YA fantasy and I read a lot of it. So when I heard about White Stag it sounded like an interesting book and I was excited to read it. And while there were some good things about this book, I didn’t quite enjoy it in the way I was hoping.
One thing that I did really like about this book was the world. I’m not a huge fan about books with goblins, they are often too similar to fae for me, and I don’t always find them very interesting. But here, the author did a great job in creating goblins that were the perfect combination of dark, brutal, and compelling. There is a history and mythology to the world, complete with a frost-filled land of magic and a human world destroyed by the goblins. It pulled me in and captured my interested for what was today.
Unfortunately, what was to come was not very much. My biggest problem however is with the plot and pacing. Honestly, this felt like two different books. The first half of the book is a character-driven fantasy about a person trying to figure out their place and where they belong despite being torn between to two worlds who distrust here. While an interesting concept, that’s not often the kind of plot that I enjoy. Add to that romantic tension that I wanted nothing to do with and you have a book I think a lot of people will like, but I don’t. But then the last third of the book completely changed course and became more of an adventure. This was the part of the plot I enjoyed with a mission, and a goal, and daring escapes. But in terms of a cohesion, there really wasn’t much. It felt like two different stories, just with the same characters. Personally, I wish the plot lines from the second half were more detailed and took up the whole book. But I know this was originally written for Wattpad and so perhaps it is meant to be more serialized, which would explain this. But I just had to struggle through the exposition.
As far as the characters go, they were kind of hit or miss for me. One of the characters I did like was the main character of Janneke. She had some real strong Sansa Stark vibes as she is help captive in a court she doesn’t want to be in only to be abused by the the king. She was an easy character to empathize with and when she snapped and fought back you were completely on her side. But she was the only character whose side I was on. The main villain of the story was ruthless and terrible, the kind of character who you completely detest. But then there was Soren, who I know I was supposed to like but I didn’t. Even her kinder moments I felt myself not being very impressed. He just felt like a cliche fantasy live interest and I wasn’t interested.
Which about sums up my feelings on the romance in general. I am totally romancephobic and one of my biggest frustrations is when romance is shoehorned into the story without giving it enough build up. This book did exactly that. I knew going in that there was going to be this romance so it wasn’t a completely surprise but I still wasn’t shipping it at all. It just felt so sudden and like a complete flip for the character. I like a hate to love romance but it actually has to show me that there is mutual affection between the characters and not just a few moments where they talk casually and then suddenly they are deeply in love. Maybe people who are bigger fans of romance will enjoy this one but for me, it was a miss.
There were some good aspects of this book but it did not blow me away. It’s not the next great YA fantasy for me, just another okay read that wasn’t for me.
I give White Stag by Kara Barbieri 7 out of 10 starsBuy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. I would recommend this book to fans of romance heavy fantasy like A Court of Thorns and Roses that is more character-driven. It wasn't my type of read but I feel like in the right hands this is going be a very loved book.
About the Author:
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.
Have you read White Stag? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!