White Stag by Kara Barbieri
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 want to start this with some warnings. Abuse, graphic fighting, death, animal death, and rape.
I’m having a hard time gathering my thoughts for this one. I enjoyed this book, but also felt that certain parts dragged a bit. The fighting scenes made up for it. I think it was repetitive at times because Janneke had so many doubts and also relived things often. She was in her head a lot which was understandable. It just made it a bit slower for me.
Janneke has been living in the Permafrost for about 100 years. She is still human, but also changing into a goblin. She feels human, but there are things she is noticing. She was originally taken by Lydian. He was abusive and raped her. She was his property. She was eventually given to Lydian’s nephew, Soren. While still a powerful goblin, Soren treated Janneke differently. They fought together and he didn’t touch her in a sexual way at all. He does have feelings for her, but Janneke still believes goblins are monsters.
When the Erlking dies, it starts The Hunt. Lydian and Soren are the strongest goblins, so one of them will become the new Goblin King. Janneke and Soren battle different creatures along with goblins. They find a new friend in Seppo, a halfling that was fighting with Lydian. During this time, Janneke not only battles to live, but she battles with her feelings about goblins and her past. She realizes that everyone can be a monster. Not just goblins, but humans, too.
Normally I’m a huge fan of the female characters in books, but I actually liked Soren and Seppo more than Janneke. Maybe that will change in book two, but they were favorites for me. The ending was interesting and I’m looking forward to seeing where the story will go.
I gave this one 3 1/2-4 stars (rounded up to 4). I think it’s a good start to a series. I tend to like book twos a bit more, so I definitely want to read the next one.
Thank you to Wednesday Books and Netgalley for my copy for review.
Have you read White Stag yet? Is it on your TBR? What are some other goblin books you have read and enjoyed?