Thursday, January 3, 2019

Blog Tour ARC Review: White Stag by Kara Barbieri

Title: White Stag (Permafrost #1)
Author: Kara Barbieri
Publication Date: January 8, 2019
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Pages: 386
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//I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review//
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.

White Stag has been one of my most anticipated 2019 reads since I first saw the cover. I'm a sucker for anything goblin related. (The tall, handsome kind, of course.) This book ended up leaving me with extreme mixed feelings. On one hand, magic and goblins and romance! On the other hand, there were definitely some issues.

The most important thing that needs to be mentioned before anything else is that this book contains a ton of abuse including rape. It is discussed at length and is a major source of the main character's development. If these are not topics you are comfortable reading about, this book is not for you. I've noticed this subject matter coming up in YA fantasy more often in the last couple years and, while I understand that it's a real-world issue, I do wish it could be toned down just a bit.

Moving on.

Janneke is the MC of this story, a human who has been given unnaturally long life. She has been living in the Permafrost for an extremely long time, essentially as a slave to the goblins. I thought she was a likeable character who was easy to sympathize with. She was also a very strong heroine who continued fighting from the start of the story until the very end, despite all that was thrown at her. And it was a lot.

The first goblin to enslave Janneke is Lydian, the absolute worst villain I think I've read about in awhile. He has not a single redeeming quality. Usually even the worst villains are able to make you remember something about them fondly, but not this one. This one is solely responsible for the aforementioned abuse. Janneke is then passed to Soren, Lydian's nephew, who does treat her much better, but is still her captor at the end of the day.

Soren and Janneke together were difficult for me to wrap my head around. I did like Soren as a character, mostly because he's the type weird goblin character I enjoy, but it took him far too long to give Janneke the agency she deserved. Characters who make decisions for another person based on what they think is best are one of my biggest pet peeves and Soren fit that mold for sure. It was also very strange to see characters who had known each other for a century act like total strangers. I did warm up to them eventually, but I felt that their relationship could have been better tackled.

My other main gripe is the overabundance of deus ex machina. While I am able to suspend my disbelief a great deal for a fantasy novel, especially ones about beautiful goblins, there were just too many instances of characters being saved in the nick of time through absolutely ridiculous means. I want my main characters to save themselves because they're badasses, not because they have to stay alive by any means necessary for the sake of the plot.

Now for what I loved about White Stag: the world. In the world of the Permafrost, the Erlking (Goblin King) lives in a palace until he's killed, and the white stag disappears, thus starting the hunt which will determine the next Erlking. I am SO here for this kind of magical, frosty fantasy world full of magical creatures and beasts. The white stag itself was a fascinating bit of mythology. I loved the uniqueness of the hunt and the passing on of power. Janneke and Soren's journey was filled with fantastic places and creatures, battles and excitement.

Overall, I did enjoy White Stag! It certainly had its issues, but it was also a pretty unique fantasy novel with an amazing world and really cool creatures. I also really enjoyed the two main characters even if they took awhile to win me over as a couple. If you enjoy goblin books and fantasy, you will probably like this one!

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. You can visit Kara on Twitter @PandeanPanic or follow her on Goodreads.