I don’t really know what to say about this book. I requested this book via NetGalley due to the synopsis alone, and when I was approved, I was quite excited. But then I started reading it and I felt “meh” about everything.
Thank you to Wednesday Books and NetGalley for providing a free, digital copy in exchange for an honest review.
TRIGGER WARNING(S): Abuse, rape, sexual violence
Title: White Stag (Permafrost #1)
Author: Kara Barbieri
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Release date: January 8, 2019
Genre: Young adult, fantasy
Length: 368 pages (hardcover)
Synopsis (via Goodreads): “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.”
This is a heavy book, mainly in terms of its content. I can appreciate a dark fantasy with twist and turns, but I honestly don’t know what to make of this book. I do love how the overarching theme has the main character coming to terms with what happened to her in the past and how she’s strong despite it. The first half of the book was really slow, and it didn’t pick up until they part one particular character. Everyone else before then was really just fodder for the plot. I thought the plot has a whole was interesting, especially toward the end with the stag.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t connect to any of the characters. The main character, Janneka, strongly dislikes the goblins due to what her previous master, Lydian, did to her. After a long while with Soren, her new “master”, her feelings morph in a positive way, especially when she’s confronted with her past. I enjoyed Janneka and Soren together, and their playful bits, which increased even more when they met Seppo. I think most of what the main character did was for her own strength and good, not necessarily in a way to prove herself to anyone. Along the way, we meet a few unsavory creatures, which adds some layer to the story and the world-building, which I thought was a bit vague.
Honestly, I don’t have much to say here. The author writes action really well, but there was nothing to keep me on the edge of my seat, nothing that really pulled at my heartstrings. And maybe that’s why I wasn’t able to dive fully into the book. Toward the end, it felt a bit like a chore, but I wanted to finish the book. It just took me a longer than I had anticipated. 😅
You can check out these reviews as well:
- Austine over at NovelKnight rated the book the same as I did.
- Harker from The Hermit Librarian hosted a blog tour and reviewed the book, too.
- Sheila of Foals, Fiction & Filigree loved the book!