This is a spoiler free review of White Stag by Kara Barbieri! This book was so thrilling, and I have so many words about it. From the atmosphere, to the characters, and the themes, this was a fantastic read to start the year.
Thank you Wednesday Books for inviting me to be part of the blog tour to celebrate the release of this book. As such, I have received an ARC of White Stag from Wednesday, however all opinions are my own.
Title: White Stag
Author: Kara Barbieri
Genre: YA Fantasy
Release: January 8, 2019
EBook ISBN: 9781250149596
My rating: 5/5 Stars
Warnings: Mentions of rape, violence, slavery, and self harm
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.
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.
Wow, when I said I had a lot of words, I meant it. All good words.
As some of a backstory, I know Kara by “Pan”. I originally spoke to this spectacular author on Wattpad, where her username is Pandean, and I began following the first few chapters of White Stag there. When she announced it was going to be published, I stopped reading so that I could wait to read the finished, published version. I’ve been so excited for this release, and I mentioned it in my books I’m excited for in 2019 blog post.
There are a few things to be aware of in the book before you read it. There are a few mentions of rape, violence, slavery, and self harm.
This was a wonderful debut, and I am so grateful I had an opportunity to read an ARC! I was in love with the world Kara (it’s going to be weird not saying Pan throughout this review) had created. There are hints of norse mythology, a spin on the tales of goblins, sprinkles of romance, a vivid setting and the book was stunning thematically.
The characters were great. The angst was great. The romance was great. I absolutely loved the dynamics between Jenneke and Soren. Jenneke grew throughout the story, which was a plus as well! I loved the side character’s just as much! There were laughs and tears, which is always a great combination.
One of the themes of this book is what qualifies a monster to be a monster. It’s not often a book makes me think this deeply, but this one really did! A not-as-obvious-but-still-kinda-obvious theme is accepting ones self. Kara beautifully executed Jenneke’s character arc.
I loved the fantasy Kara created. The goblins are described as being ethereally beautiful, which is something not seen in tales in goblins. Only when they engage in powerful fights do they exude a monsterous exterior. And I loved that. There are also hints of norse mythology, and as a total nerd for norse related things, I adored these bits! The land of the Permafost was super interesting, too, and I really enjoyed how even the land itself played a role in the fantastical bits.
I could probably ramble forever with how much I loved this book! I read it in two sittings and stayed up until nine in the morning until my eyes burned during one of those sittings because I was so addicted to the story. I can’t wait for the sequel!
Overall, I rated this book a solid 5/5!
Spectacular setting, characters, and fantasy. 5/5 rating.
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.