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Permafrost #1

White Stag

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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.

368 pages, Hardcover

First published May 1, 2016

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About the author

Kara Barbieri

2 books396 followers
Kara Barbieri is a twenty-two year old author with a love for the weird and mystic. She enjoys weaving ancient mythology into her stories and writing characters who are strong yet vulnerable at the same time. In her free time she trains with the same weapons her characters use, studies as a linguistic major, and generally tries her hardest not to be normal.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 898 reviews
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,425 reviews9,023 followers
November 2, 2022
**2.5-stars rounded up**

As the sole survivor of a goblin raid on her village, Janneke is wracked with guilt.

As if this weren't bad enough, she is also taken hostage by the raiding army and forced into a life of servitude at the hands of a sadistic goblin, Lydian.

Her life with him is nothing short of hell. We learn about this time through flashbacks, but let's just get the trigger warnings out of the way:

If you are sensitive to these topics, tread with caution. The descriptions of these happenings do continually resurface over the course of the story, as they are a big part of Janneke's character development.

After some time, Lydian grows tired of his plaything and for one reason or another, gifts Janneke to his nephew, Soren. When the story begins for us, Janneke has been living with Soren for 100-years.

At this point, questions may arise for you, as they did for me, such as, how can a human girl live that long?

Let me be frank, I have no idea. I never really understood the concept of time in this story.

She is supposed to have been living with the goblins for hundreds of years, but is still the same as when she first got there as far as outward appearance is concerned.

She is still written as a teenage girl. It is strange. I think it has something to do with the location.

The Permafrost.
The magical land of the goblins.

Soon after the story begins, the current Erlking, leader of the goblins, dies and a new leader needs to be chosen to replace him on the throne.

In their world, the way this is done is through a 'stag hunt'. The magical White Stag is where the Erlking draws his power from, quite literally, during his reign.

Any goblin may become King by slaying the Stag. Hunting groups are assembled, alliances formed, and the hunt begins.

Janneke, trained as a hunter since childhood, joins Soren on the hunt. They are both willing to do anything to ensure that Lydian doesn't become Erlking. They are joined by a ragtag group of allies and the real adventure begins.

On the hunt, things are never boring, there is a lot of action and quite a few violent and intense scenes.

New alliances are formed along the way and one of the best parts of the story for me were the various side characters. They added depth and humor to the story which was definitely needed.

Throughout their journey, Janneke and Soren's relationship begins to change. The intensity of the hunt pushes them closer together and they begin to rely on each other like never before.

I really enjoyed their relationship. Soren is swoon-worthy for sure.

Soren, you might ask? Isn't he a goblin? Yes, but keep in mind, these are not your standard goblins.

Oh no. These goblins are apparently quite attractive and described more like Viking warriors than deformed little monsters. I found it helpful to picture this when thinking of Soren:

Not what you think of when you think of goblin?
Yeah. Truth be told, it was a little jarring at first but I think, again, it has something to do with the magic of the Permafrost.

At one point, Barbieri mentions something about their looks being an illusion. Then in another section, during a fight, you read of their illusion dropping and their true, more animalistic, form showing through.

Ultimately, I am not really sure how it all works as there was quite a bit of ambiguity with the magic system.

Granted, maybe I just didn't get it, but I do read a lot of fantasy and felt this could have been ironed out a bit more. Perhaps we will get more clarification of the world in the second book.

The conclusion is an absolute cliffhanger and I look forward to seeing how Barbieri continues this story. Janneke and Soren both had so much growth here and I am most interested to see if they continue to grow together in the future or if changing circumstances push them apart.

For the most part, I enjoyed diving into the hunt and learning about Janneke and the goblin world.

Was this book perfect?

No, not at all. There were definitely some places that I felt could have been fine-tuned; some repetitive phrasing and unclear magical elements.

That being said, it is impressive that such a young author is getting this out there as a debut novel. The world is vast and I think that Barbieri should definitely be proud. It draws you in.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Wednesday Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review, as well as including me on the blog tour for its release. I truly appreciate the opportunity!
Profile Image for Chelsea *Slowly Catching Up* Humphrey.
1,390 reviews77.2k followers
Shelved as 'dnf-lost-interest'
November 5, 2018
I think I'm going to have to mark this one DNF @ 25%.

I initially requested White Stag because gorgeous cover + Goblin King = a happy Chelsea. The first chapter was incredibly suspenseful, dropping us right in the middle of an action packed, tense scene. It was a fantastic start and I was anxious to see how the author would fill in the backstory, along with bringing us forward in a tense race to hunt the stag. I quickly realized that perhaps this book needed a bit more work before being released via traditional publishing (the first two novels are available to read via Wattpad); the plot halted and it was stilted conversation up until about 20% in to the book. Even once the hunt had begun, I found myself tossing the book aside and picking up other things that were holding my attention more clearly.

I think the author has a fantastic idea here; she's basically taken what S. Jae Jones did with Wintersong and, instead of musical love story, brought a darker, more violent and psychological component to the table. With a little work on developing her characters and adding in copious amounts of world building, I think this book could be something really special. CW for rape, violence, and murder.

*Many thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy.
Profile Image for alana ♡.
640 reviews1,236 followers
January 8, 2019
tw: mentions of rape, torture, violence

Ladies and gentlemen, there's a new Rhys in town and he goes by the name of Soren.

I honestly, didn't doubt for a second that I was going to end up loving this one. I mean, I freaking LOVED Wintersong, and it changed my life basically forever because I am now just one giant pile of goblin trash. So, its not really a surprise that the minute I heard about this book I knew I was going to spend the rest of my days eagerly anticipating the release of this book. I basically fell in love with this story from the first page. It's all the right amount of dark, twisted, and atmospheric.

The story follows Janneke, captured by the goblins at seventeen years old after they burned down her village and killed her family. When the story starts she's currently bound to Soren, but recounts the horrors of being previously bound to his evil uncle, Lydian. Janneke, loathes the goblins but after spending  a century with them she fears she is starting to become more monster than human. Especially as Soren takes her on the Hunt for the stag after the Goblin King is murdered. The rules are simple, whoever kills the stag becomes the next Goblin King, but the stakes are high. If Lydian becomes the Goblin King the world will never be the same, if Soren dies Janneke will be once again bound to the goblin responsible for her nightmares

The world building in this one is off the charts, it was so good and super atmospheric. I basically wanted to live inside of this evil little world, especially with Soren at my side. This book starts off strong and never stops. It's action packed with an tons of plot twists, secrets, and an epic adventure through the Permafrost that will introduce you to monsters straight out of your nightmares.

Janneke, was such a lovable character and I absolutely loved her growth throughout the story. She struggles greatly with her feelings towards Soren, what being a monster means, and letting go of her past throughout the entire story. And while we do see this softer, doubting side to her, she continues to be an absolute BADASS and carry this story on her back. Remember what I said earlier about Soren being the new Rhys? I AM NOT LYING. Soren brought back all the ACOMAF vibes and I was screaming over the slow burn, hate to love, romance between Soren and Janneke. It was the perfect amount of angst and love without ruining the plot. I can't wait to see where the next book goes with the two of them.

The only reason why I couldn't give this five stars is because it was a little bit predictable, but maybe that's just because I've read too many fantasy novels. Even though I figured out the end early on, it was still extremely enjoyable to watch the plot unravel and the mayhem ensue.

Favorite Quotes

"If I stopped because I was in pain, I would have killed myself a long time ago," I said. "I'm a  survivor."

"Things like that stay with you no matter how hard it is to forget them. It doesn't mean you haven't survived. It doesn't make you weak."

"And I don't want to force you into something that will make you unhappy. And if that means that I release you from your bind and you go back to the human world and find a man of your own, then I'll do it. Your happiness means more to me than anything in the world."

"I was chaos and darkness and balance and light"

All in all, if you're looking for an epic adventure, with a fierce female MC, lovable side characters, and lots of secrets than this should definitely be on your radar.

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Profile Image for Caylin.
24 reviews2 followers
December 15, 2016
Mention of rape.

At first, I couldn't figure out what bothered me about this story. I read it, and then read it again, trying to figure out why I just didn't feel comfortable with it. Then, after thinking on it, I realized what was wrong.

The main character's rape is used for shock value. It's brought up again and again, to either reinforce how 'bad' the bad guy is, or to force sympathy for the character. It's a go to whenever the character is upset. It's a constant reminder bashed over our head whenever the author wants to elicit empathy for a character that doesn't deserve it.

The rape is only in the story because the author said, "How can I elicit empathy for this character? How can I make people feel reeeeaaaallly bad for her? I've already tortured her, and enslaved her, and given her severe scarring and mild dysphoria.... I know! I'll have her be a rape victim too."

It is not something handled with the care or delicacy something so horrible deserves. It's just a label thats been slapped on the main character's forehead to create a 'tortured protagonist.'

If it wasn't there, absolutely nothing would change. Nothing.

Now the rape isn't the only issue I have with this book, though it is the largest, and most contributing factor to this review.

The story itself is simply a mix of everything Sarah J. Maas has ever written, with the word goblins in place of Fae. And really. Goblins.

Goblins are more decidedly not creatures of unearthly beauty. Spend exactly five seconds on google images, and you can see that. Goblins are short, sharp toothed, and they like stealing stuff. They look like Dobby after six years of doing meth.

The first time I read the book, I kept imagining a three foot tall monster thing following her around.

The author could have chosen a myth that fit the characters she presented more closely , or taken some extra time and energy and created a race of her own. Hell, even changelings would have worked, with a bit of explanation and worldbuilding.

Speaking of worldbuilding, there was very little. All we know about goblins is that most of them apparently live in the palace, there's ice everywhere, and they like killing each other. How did the humans and goblins come together? Dunno. Why is the stag so important in becoming King? Don't know. (One of the characters later calls it a 'game.') How is this world connected to Norse gods? Dunno. The Stags in Norse mythology
"eat among the branches of the World Tree Yggdrasill," and quite possibly represent the four winds. There's another stag who such large horns that he creates rivers. (I am far from an expert on this, so if I am wrong please correct me,) but as far as I'm aware, there is no great stag in the mythology.

Don't get me wrong, I know worldbuilding is hard as hell, but a loose base can be formed around the ideas of a certain culture. Nothing irritates me more when authors simply pluck out bits and pieces of research that they like, slap it in the story, and wipe their hands of the things that 'aren't important.'

But I've been incredibly negative. The author is a good writer overall. She knows her way around a story, and the pacing was good. I even liked the main character at times, and I think that with a bit of editing, she can be a great protagonist. But the carelessness with which the rape was treated ruined it for me.

I won't be continuing to read.
Profile Image for Mara YA Mood Reader.
332 reviews262 followers
May 2, 2022
Perfect for those who enjoyed Holly Black’s Folk of the Air trilogy although you won’t find a “Cardan copy” (pun intended) here but maybe you will discover something else.

Something magical happens inside me when I see the words Goblin King or Der Erlkonig or Faerie Prince in a book title or synopsis. Where I know I’ll be taken down into the hidden depths of Goblin Grove or a Realm of Faerie and whisked away into a wondrously dark fairytale filled with beautiful yet vicious and passionate otherworldly creatures *long contented sigh*.

Dark, dangerous and bloody, White Stag is not for everyone but it was definitely for me.

Labeled as YA (perhaps because the MC is 17) but I would not recommend for a YA audience of under 17 for its dark themes, violence and triggers of rape (retrospect), some sexual violence, depression, thoughts of suicide. A labeling of Adult or New Adult would be better suited.

I knew all of this before picking up the book, so I knew this is what I was looking for. As an avid YA fantasy reader in my 30’s, while I do prefer and enjoy YA, I’m always left a bit disappointed how mild YA can tend to be due to the targeted age range and I just want my beloved stories to be just a bit darker, just a bit more dangerous, explicit or...well adult. But I struggle to find what I want in the adult genre....so anyway that’s why White Stag was perfect for me! It’s right on that precarious edge of my comfort level, walking the line between YA and adult, a perfect blend.

White Stag is fast paced and sucked me in right from page one. It was driven by a good mix of both plot and character development so that if either slowed a bit, my intrigue of the other carried me through.

Let him know how strong I am now. Let him know what I can do...let him smell the blood of the goblins I killed, let him smell the wild and the wind and the anger in my veins, so he knows I’m not the same as I was before

A human girl many, many years bound to the Goblin world, the Permafrost, in servitude finally finds an opportunity to revive and show her strength and change her circumstances.

Perfect for those who enjoyed Holly Black’s The Cruel Prince! But with cruel and vicious Goblins in glamour to appear more...human like and attractive (and no, thankfully, the MC does NOT let us know every sentence “how beautiful” they are and does not drool about it constantly—kudos to the author).

The original version is available on Wattpad but differs from the version published by Wednesday books.

All I needed to know was Goblin King and dark fantasy !!!

(Also love supporting a fellow Wattpad author getting published!)
Profile Image for Tomoe Hotaru.
247 reviews840 followers
March 25, 2021
There are two ways to judge this book. The first is to see it as a coping mechanism; a cathartic device the author used to deal with her own trauma. She acknowledges so in her preface, and for that reason, it feels a bit icky for me to review this book. It feels as though I'm reviewing her way of dealing with her trauma; that any criticism towards the plot, structure, voice -- is by extension a criticism of her coping mechanism. That saying this could have been written better somehow translates to she could have dealt with things better.

source: Ellen Jewett

So if I read this book solely through that lens, then I definitely understand why things were written the way it was. I can see why the world of White Stag seems to solely rotate around our main character, Janneke; why its secondary characters are little more than cheerleaders to push our MC forwards; why many things were repetitive and half of the dialogue is filled with either reassurances or encouragements; and many more whys that you will see in my review below.
The author needed it to be written that way. She needed that support and development through Janneke by proxy. For that, I concede the potential power this book may also have on other victims of assault -- or even for readers in general -- who desperately need support and encouragement the Real World is yet to deliver.

I don't want to turn you off a book that may potentially help you, despite all my critique below. I also want to warn those of you who did find this book to be helpful and cathartic, that you should probably not read the rest of my review beyond this point, unless you are able to regard this review solely as criticism of the book as a story-telling device, and not as a coping device.


First of all. Two stars, you say. Harsh, much?

Yes, it was a dilemma. But ultimately, this book never passed the "it was okay" margin for me, and that is literally how goodreads describes 2-star ratings.

1) World Building

The first issue came in terms of the world. We learnt absolutely nothing about the world in a larger sense -- yes, there was the Permafrost; cold and pretty much dead . . . and there were the human lands to its southern border. And that is all there really is to it. We know nothing about the history of anything, no deeper cultural insights beyond "Goblins are evil hunters" and "Humans can create things".
So, it's not that kind of Fantasy. Not one where the author focuses on world-building. All right, I can accept that to a point. The only issue is, the lack of expansion on time and setting created a jumble of other problems.

First, which jumped out at me from the very beginning, was the confusion in narrative voice . This is one of those books that tries to pass as a dark, mature fantasy . . . and a setting that could be described as not-quite-medieval-but-not-modern-either. However, the voice did not reflect that.

From the use of modern medical terms:
He didn't even smile when he was killing things; as far as goblins went, that was a symptom of chronic depression.

to US-centric colloquialisms:
I yanked myself away from his grip and suppressed the urge to wipe my hand on my tunic like a child wiping away cooties.

to the use of modern speech tags that aren't even speech tags!:
"Well," Seppo deadpanned, "he really wants to sleep with my mother."

* * *

"You just want to take me in the throes of passion," I deadpanned.

If I read one more book that uses "deadpan" as a verb AND a speech tag . . . I think I might pop a vein. I don't care if google dictionary lists "dead-panned" as a verb -- it sounds far too lowbrow for a narrative voice that wants to be taken seriously.

I could go on with more detailed examples, but at a core level, the narrative voice sounded too much like a modern, US teen for me to ever really buy into the Fantasy world the author tried to set up.

Still related to lack of world-building, is the immense white-room syndrome that hits me almost non-stop. The descriptions were so sparse and threadbare, I found it never took an image in my head.
The entire thing took place in the Permafrost and still, to this day, I do not know what it even looks like other than dead trees and ice. The lack of spatial imagery is even more compounded during actions scenes.
In one particular series of events, I had envisioned some kind of ice forest, and our characters making a hike through the gradually sloping terrain. But suddenly we are ambushed, and we're trapped in some sort of valley between the mountains . . . but yet, somehow, suddenly, we are on top of that mountain because we're falling down a cliff, except we wake up in a cave, and after escaping grave danger, we're diving down some kind of body of water to find a cure . . . and the relation from Place A to Place B and where they all fit together is just an acid trip of whathefuckery.

It isn't merely that any location -- when it is described -- is only ever described short and briskly; it's also the insufficiency in engaging any of the other senses: touch, smell, taste . . . the pacing came at the expense of giving readers any real opportunity to create a connection with the world around them.
Our main character's emotions were only ever related to her trauma, that we never got to experience the physical setting around her in an emotional sense. Except, of course, a scene towards the end when she returned to her long-destroyed village.

Priority was given, sadly, to over-descriptions of our characters -- Soren, in particular. Yes, I know he has lilac eyes. I do not need to read about them every other chapter.

2) Character Relationship

Every other character in this book only ever came into being and remained in the picture depending on how they served the Main Character in her quest for self-acceptance. But this is not a book about one character's personal growth and trauma-healing -- at least, that's not how it was marketed. That's not to say that that can't or shouldn't be part of the story, but it certainly should not become The Sun for all the plot-points and secondary characters to revolve around.

This issue is painfully evident in the interactions between characters. From surface-level dialogue, to core character motivation.

I am not exaggerating when I say over half of the dialogue is basically people giving Janneke encouragement, telling her not to kill herself, and reassuring her of how wanted and special she is:

"You drive me mad, Janneke. Completely and utterly mad. I'm probably going to die in a few days, and all I can think of is you."

The cringe is strong.

"I could be surrounded by unearthily[sic] beautiful, naked women, and I would prefer you as you are, fully clothed."

* * *

"You are so . . . unbelievable. Do you ever stop? You nearly died. Multiple times. Everyone else I know (...) would have lain down and quit weeks ago. And yet you're here, a human for the sake of the gods, running yourself into the ground and somehow continuing to stand. It's unbelievable."

Gee, Seppo, why don't you suck her cock while you're at it?

Even light-hearted scenes were only ever included so far as to further shine that spotlight on Janneke.

The black eye was my fault. When Seppo came back (...), he noticed Soren and me as we'd been before I fell asleep. His laughter and declaration that he knew it would happen was enough to wake me up and make me charge him--completely naked--and give him a few bruises.

I mean, what is he, a child? For goblins claiming to be hundreds (thousands?) of years old, they sure act like fourteen year-old tweens. Yeah, they had sex. Yeah, someone knows you had sex. Get a fucking grip and grow up.

Beyond their job of running around and making sure the stage light hits perfectly on Janneke's face, there is nothing else to our secondary characters. Lydian is the crazy villain, Seppo is the comic-relief, Soren is the brooding love interest. That is literally it.
It does not help that we start 100 years (or so) into Soren and Janneke's "relationship" -- and by that, I mean a hundred or so years since she has been his thrall/sidekick -- and so from Chapter One, we can already tell that Soren is already in love with Janneke, and for the life of me I don't know why. We have skipped every single crucial key point in their relationship, that we just have to take the author's word for it that there is a reason why Soren's madly obsessed with Janneke, and that there is chemistry there somewhere.

3. Plot

Allow Janneke to summarise what happens for 75% of the book:
"(...) Since we went to the Erlking's palace, I was almost killed by Lydian for the second time, got into a fight inside the palace, threw a man over a ledge, killed a goblin at point-blank range, pounded Helka's corpse into pulp, almost burned my arms off in the Fire Bog, fought and fell of a gods-forsaken mountain, had a shitty dream quest with a svartelf, kissed you, killed a fucking dragon, held my breath for six minutes inside a whirlpool in order to sing a song to a senile nokken who almost drowned me so I could save your life, found out Lydian might end up destroying the world, and now we might be facing a mystery monster if the thrice-damned wolves don't get us first!"

That, my friends, is why on top of all my criticism, this book couldn't get beyond "it was okay" for me. The plot is just a series of jumping from one fight-scene to another , all the while grappling for Janneke's eventual self-love. It's just not the story I came in for. I wanted more depth, more gravitas.
Even the impending end-of-the-world crisis did not feel urgent or important. I can't care about a world the author doesn't even portray well enough to feel real or relevant.

Even if you cared for the world, you still would not feel any urgency or suspense over its outcome.

Every plot-point came with its own Deux-Ex-Machina to help solve it; so why wouldn't the ending?

There were points where you would be scratching yourself and wondering why. Such as Soren's decision to only bring Janneke along for the hunt. Apparently, he does not bring more of his allies to join his group, because he doesn't trust anyone not to stab him in the back, which is wont to happen during the Stag Hunt.
OH but he does team up with Elvira and Rekke, the former whom he does not trust AT ALL and whom constantly tries to kill Janneke. So why, again, Soren, did you not bring anyone else from your own House?

And then the fact that Elvira constantly tries to kill Janneke during high-action scenes . . . such as when they are running away from the Fire Bog, or when they were ambushed in the mountains. And these were not, like, low-key assassination attempts; no, Elvira tries to kill Janneke very openly.
But why doesn't she just kill Janneke when they make camp and go to sleep? Your guess is as good as mine. It reminds me of that cartoon; Ralph Wolf and Sam Sheepdog, who punches in for work and proceeds to try and kill each other, only to punch out from work and return to drink tea together at the end of the day.
And when you're writing a serious novel, perhaps being reminiscent of a Looney Tunes cartoon isn't a positive sign.

But going back to the main plot.

Even the answers to what Lydian had cooking up his sleeve literally fell out of the sky when Seppo dropped down to join their side and pour out all Lydian's secrets to them.
When Soren is gravely poisoned, Seppo conveniently knows of a solution that is conveniently very close to where they are.

Even the rules of the goblin-world was so gimmicky and convenient. So, every time the goblin king is too weak, the White Stag will leave it and disappear into the forest. Whoever can kill the stag wins the throne, and the stag will reincarnate to sit beside him until he, too, eventually becomes too weak.

Oh, but they only have one month to hunt, and if by the month is up, no one manages to kill the stag, it will conveniently walk up to the two most powerful contenders (who will conveniently be in the same vicinity as one another, I suppose?) and just wait for whichever one of them to win.

It's like the author ran out of ideas.

Lydian's ultimate goal is to become forever king, and to do that he has to "permanently kill" the stag. Oh, but in order to "permanently kill" the stag, he has to kill the stag on the border between the human world and the permafrost, and he also has to kill his most powerful contender (two guesses who?)

And of course Soren/Janneke can't let Lydian throw the balance off course. Of course they will not let a Mad King rule. Of course they will eventually fight Lydian, with the most foreseeable and predictable outcome ever.

For all her journey for self-discovery and finding the power to make her own decisions, our heroine ultimately has no agency . She has no choice, in terms of plot progression. All the actions that propel this book -- and her -- forwards, is one Permafrost rule after another that binds the plot to one linear conclusion.

And for that, I just could not enjoy it more than the average shrug of the shoulder.

this was a buddy read with HBP
Profile Image for Ashlee » libraryinthecountry.
768 reviews610 followers
January 2, 2019
This isn’t going to be a warm and fuzzy review.

I love dark fantasy stories that involve the folk and jumped on the opportunity to read and review White Stag. I discovered the origins of this story after I had started it (so cool!) and highly commend the author for getting her work published after originally publishing online.

That said, this story needs A LOT of work still. The premise is very interesting and I enjoyed the main characters, Janneke and Soren, but the plot only gets more confusing and is all over the place.

It’s clear the story is meant to read like a dark fairytale but there was far too much modern language in it – creating a huge distraction from the flow of the story. The writing could use a fine-toothed comb. Additionally, the whole story is a mishmash of various mythologies, creating an even more confusing world – that truly didn’t have much world building to begin with. I was so confused about how the lordships worked, where the different lords actually LIVED and just the general lifestyle of the goblins.

And that gets me into another issue I had. When you think of a goblin, what do you picture? Don’t say David Bowie because it’s widely known that Jareth is never said to be a goblin and the general consensus is that he is something else. So, what do you picture when you think of goblins? Probably not creatures with ethereal beauty.

Let’s call a spade a spade here. The author took all of the concepts of faeries and elves and essentially slapped the word goblin on them. But why? I get that goblins are folk as well, but this was not a goblin story. Not to mention constantly referring to them as “men.” These things bothered me throughout the book and I basically just stopped thinking of them as goblins and instead as fae. It helped, really.

Also - Lydian is a terrible creature but also a highly confusing character and antagonist. Sure, he is five blocks away from sane - but there really was NO explanation at all as to his actions and incoherent ramblings. It felt as though we were building up to this huge reveal behind his craziness, but it never came. I have a feeling we could get answers to this in the next book but I really could do without Lydian’s character in every way – not to mention, I’m not sure I’ll even read the next book. Which saddens me, because I was so excited for this and wanted to read it so badly.

Things I did like about this was the romance and growth of the two main characters. I felt like this was done well and felt believable. Janneke and Soren compliment each other nicely. Additionally, I enjoyed the idea of the Erlking and point of the stag hunt. These two things are what kept me pushing through this story, though it STILL took me two-and-a-half weeks to finish it.

Overall - I did read an ARC and can only hope a lot of the plot issues have been cleared up before publication. I also read the synopsis for the second book on WattPad and can REALLY only hope it is greatly altered as I do not get great vibes for the direction it is going and doubt I’ll read it in that case.

TW: rape, torture

Review copy generously provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Monica.
506 reviews156 followers
February 12, 2019
What a fantastic story! ⭐️ Brilliant writing and such originality! This is definitely not what I expected when I read “goblins”. There’s a hint of Beauty & the Beast... but only if Beauty was a terrifying hunter and warrior.

Other reviews mention some trigger warnings and I try to be very sensitive to that as well. The scenes aren’t overly graphic but I suggest reading with caution... would not recommend for young or pre-teens.

Overall just an awesome fantasy that moves at a good pace, well developed characters/creatures who I definitely want to read more about.

Many thanks to NetGalley and publishers for the advanced copy of this book.
Profile Image for Dark River.
135 reviews62 followers
August 9, 2020

I don't even really know what to say.
Was White Stag perfect? No.
Was it my fastest, most entertaining read in months? Hell yeah.

The world is beautiful, the writing fluid and the story action-packed. It really doesn't get boring.
And also let me just say that I loved Janneke as a protagonist. She's interesting and has a lot of baggage that's honestly heavier than I expected going in (the author does give you a fair warning before the start of the book. I mean before I got to that.)

And personal side note: I am an absolute fall and winter child. I could live in perpetual cold year round and not miss a thing, so naturally that is something I seek out in my reading and most certainly have found here.
The fact that Janneke is not yet another blonde, pale snow queen which I would typically find as the protagonist in a setting like this is honestly the cherry on top for me. Nothing wrong with looking like that (that's Soren actually. Pretty, pretty princess Soren 💗 Have I mentioned that I love men with hair that's longer than mine? lol And how very fucking rarely that happens? #longhairgirl4lyfe), but it gets old quickly when it's all you see, ever. Instead I was pleasantly surprised to find that for once, the protagonist actually looks more like me. Sweet.

(Seriously, I'm half convinced I'm a changeling or something, idk how else to explain my love for Goblins in particular. But fuck normal men tbh. Gimme more Jodie Muir art, more Labyrinth, more Wintersong, more White Stag.)

Straight on to book 2!

PPS: I hope there's some more background info on Lydian's crazy ass?? Y'all know I have a soft spot for villains and even though there's pretty much nothing redeeming about this particular hellspawn, I want to understand what happened to him.
(Not a spoiler btw; it's established from the start that he's the villain, don't fucking come for me :) Thx)
Profile Image for Amy Imogene Reads.
882 reviews760 followers
March 3, 2020
3.5 stars

The Goblin King tale re-imagined with goblins who feel like sexy Fae, and dashes of debut tropes and intriguing character dynamics thrown in with sometimes confusing results. This was quite the whirlwind and I'm not sure how I feel about it.

Concept: ★★★★
Pacing: ★★★
World: ★★★
Character arcs: ★★ 1/2
Plot: ★★★
Writing: ★★

White Stag seemed to have everything I ever wanted: the Goblin King, a spitfire female protagonist, a dark love interest, winter vibes. It follows the world of the Permafrost—an inhospitable land home to the goblins. It's a confusing place. For the sake of clarity, I abandoned written descriptions and just thought of it as the land of the goblins in the north.

This sense of abandoning the confusion for the sake of enjoyment followed me throughout White Stag, as I found that the writing itself kept getting in the way of its own story. If I could boil down my muddled thoughts: cool story, singular characters...bizarre lens.

Janneke is a human thrall in the Permafrost serving under a powerful goblin, Soren. She's had a tumultuous 100 years in the Permafrost enslaved to the goblins—including a torturous, trauma-filled beginning with a crazed master—and instead of slowing falling ill like other humans in the Permafrost, Janneke finds herself changing into a goblin. Janneke hates goblins and has no desire to be ruled by a "fight or die" lifestyle, but this change seems inevitable and Soren is pushing her toward this.

White Stag follows Janneke and Soren as they embark on The Hunt—a competition to be the next Goblin King—and their budding romance. There's also a back-stabbing, crazy goblin villain and a host of unlikable/surprisingly likable goblins to keep things interesting. Oh, and the story does not shy away from killing its characters. I respected that.

One of my biggest problems with White Stag was its insistence on victim closure and trauma healing...and then its decisions to ignore those concepts and enforce another version of non-consensual reality on the main character. Spoilers:

I also found the romance—in all of its confusing glory—took away from the plot. Scenes seemed to exist to benefit the romance angle of the story and not the other way around.

Other than the issues with consent and power—which I am not ignoring or trivializing, please see spoiler—White Stag remained a decent story for me and did intrigue with its ending. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens in Goblin King.

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Profile Image for Cindy ✩☽♔.
951 reviews769 followers
January 2, 2019
Rating ~3.5

We are all monsters in some way.

Whitestag tells the story of Janneke/Janneka a young girl stolen away from the mortal world 100 years ago, into the Permafrost, after the death of her family. For 100 years, she has lived among goblins. She has suffered a lifetime of hurt and continues to struggle, but she also to fight. All with the hope of one day returning to the human world, until she learns that she is changing and it may be too late to go back.

White Stag chronicles the journey of a young woman as she comes to terms with who and what she is, and struggles with herself to discover just what it is she truly wants and what sort of life she truly wants to live.

How I feel about the main cast
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Janneke & Soren
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This book was a very pleasant surprise. I'll be honest I was rather charmed from the start because some of the elements are quite reminiscent to a few of my favorites series. That said, the book is a pretty solid read on its own but something about it lacked the depth it needed to make it to the 4 star mark.

*Full review to come*

I received a free ARC copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Huge thank you to Wednesday Books!
Profile Image for ✨ Helena ✨.
364 reviews951 followers
June 27, 2020
I’m so sorry, Tabi, but ... I didn’t like it all that much. 😭 I REALLY WANTED TO THOUGH!

Look, I REALLY ENJOYED the first chapter!!! It was dark and action-packed and I thought it set the tone for the book. But it didn’t.

And then, it went downhill from there. 😔

The modern speech in this wintry, historical fantasy setting really threw me off. And once I got to the hunt...I just lost interest in the book ugh. I kept putting this down in favour of other things, so I think that’s a sign that I didn’t enjoy it all that much.

Don’t get me wrong. The book is ok. But I don’t think that I’ll be continuing on with this series.
October 16, 2019
this was a buddy read with my old pal, the emissary for the abyss of Death, the Guardian of Silence, Sailor Saturn Tomoe Hotaru. her review already says it all, so i won't add much other than to say this was a case of great idea, poor follow-through.

it read very fanficky, is one thing. the main character, janneke, is a mutilated, traumatised, kidnapped slave pretty much, yet the whole thing revolves around her. people bend over backwards either trying to kill her or get in her good graces. everyone knows in the real world, no one further from "colleague-at-work-who-i-occasionally-lunch-with" gives a shit about you that much.

the writing is another. like, you know there are books where details about the world, rules of magic, etc. are given to you gradually and in the context of things. . . .but you know they make sense because you could always feel it; they were foreshadowed in some way; there were already hints of it as you read along. . . . .well, this book tried to go for that effect. unfortunately, the information that came out at us were completely arbitrary, unrelated to anything we've ever known about the world or its rules, and worst---convenient.

it just read like the plot wasn't going anywhere, or the author didn't think that far ahead or how to get from plotline A to plotline Z, so these arbitrary, convenient new rules and plot developments were introduced to try and transition between the gap. unfortunately, it felt forced and disconnected.

finally, the lingering questions.

so, many, questions.

why didn't lydian kill janneke if he knew she was gonna bring about the end of the world?

janneke was "bound" to soren by an oath that is somehow tied to the Permafrost. . . .if soren dies, her "ownership" would revert back to lydian, who originally "owned" her. but soren doesn't just release her of the binding because. . . .she would die? or something like that? but in the end, he released her from the oath anyway, and she didn't end up dead, because. . . .?

i mean, there was a semblance of an attempt of explaining away all those inconsistencies/conveniencies listed above (and many more i didn't even mention). . . .but it was so vague and half-arsed it actually brings more questions.

so, yeah, i didn't enjoy this half as much as i wanted to. might still be your cuppa, though.
Profile Image for Krystal.
1,302 reviews340 followers
January 12, 2019
Here we have a story that's part fantasy, part recovery-from-trauma, and all around SAVAGE. But also loved up. So ... yay?

I'll admit, it threw me a little. The story kinda starts in the middle which I normally enjoy (usually means more action) but it bothered me that it never went back to properly explain things. This feels like one of those times where the author held this story in her mind for so long that some of it got trapped there and never made it to the actual book. There's plenty happening, but scenes are never properly set and, in a fantasy world, that's pretty problematic. I never really fully connected to the world because it was so sparse on detail.

Even Janneke's past is a little sketchy. We're told about the family she was separated from, and that she endured horrible things at the hand of Lydian, but the details are pretty vague which, again, made it harder to connect. I really felt for Janneke with her struggle to overcome trauma, but it would have packed a much more powerful punch if there was more detail about what she went through. Not necessarily the physical, but just that breakdown of the psyche. Trauma is, sadly, quite a relatable topic, so the feelings and emotions that come with those experiences are so important. At the same time, we get a lot of talk about how Janneke is a fighter and she's pushing on and choosing to live and I really loved that. I loved that she has this broken past but she's still so fierce. Just a shame for me it was tempered with all that lovey dovey business.

You can tell from the very beginning of the book that they're looking towards hooking up. Soren is supposed to be a goblin and he's savage and powerful and all but then when it comes to Janneke he's all goo and, quite honestly, I was pretty disappointed. The goblins were such savage, murderous characters so I was really expecting more of that from our leading man, especially with such a ferocious leading lady. Sadly, it winds up being a lot of talk about feelings.

I enjoyed the support characters, though. Not Lydian - that guy is an A-grade A-hole - but Rekke, and Seppo I really liked. They were fun. Again, pretty tame for goblins, but I'll take it.

The goblins in general started out really well but kinda fell apart at the end. They were so brutal and savage which was BRILLIANT but then it all kinda tapered out to make way for the love story and suddenly it became hard to distinguish the goblins from human characters. Definitely feel like that was a weakness of this book.

I LOVED the fantasy of it all, though. Not so much the (bland) landscape but the creatures were fantastic. There was some great action scenes with monsters and the like and I definitely got more invested when one made an appearance. There's a fabulous imagination here, and I'd be curious to read a different book/series by this author because I think there is some real creativity there that needs to be shared with the world.

To be fair, I'm just not big on romance so that taking up so much of this book meant I didn't love it quite as much as I hoped. But I did really enjoy it, and I think the author has a lot of potential so I'll look forward to reading more of her work. The trauma angle was quite important, and though it wasn't handled badly, per se, it could have used a bit more care and detail rather than patching it all up with vague talk. There needed to be more emotion involved, I think, though I did appreciate that she doesn't just 'get over it' - this is genuinely something she wrestles with throughout the novel. Just needed to be more feel and less tell.

This was an entertaining novel but it's certainly not a light fantasy. This is dark and brutal and definitely needs a trigger warning for the talk of trauma, assault and rape. But there is a message of hope in its pages, and I think that's the most important part of this story.

It won't be everyone's cup of tea, but if you want a fantasy story with a darker kind of realism, this one is worth taking a chance on.
Profile Image for Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede.
1,913 reviews764 followers
January 2, 2019
I was a bit worried about reading this book after seeing friends of mine DNF the book on Goodreads. However, I'm glad to say that the book did work for me. Up to a point. Yes, I have some issues with the book, but that has nothing to do with the rape or any abuse Janneke had to deal with. I know that it's a trigger for some readers. But, in this case (unlike some other books I've read that really got to me), did it not bother me. And, that's because the characters were not developed enough for me to feel for them. And, that is one of the big issues with the big. It has so much potential. it's such an interesting book. And yet, I just wish that we, the readers had gotten a better understanding of the world. Instead, it feels like we are dumped in the middle of a story and now we have to puzzle together where the characters are, who they are and what they are doing through snippets of information. Janneke has been held captive for 100 years? It doesn't feel like it to be honest, especially when it comes to her and Soren. Seriously they have spent 100 years together and now they go from hate to love? What have they been doing for the last 100 years? Not talking?

Anyhow, as I read the book did I reflect over the fact that if the story had begun with Janneke as a child and the events that occurred. Perhaps also from Soren's POV would it have been easier to get to know the characters. I can't even say for sure if I liked Janneke or not. One thing for sure this romance between Soren and Janneke definitely didn't help the matter. It felt so ... off. If it had been shown through the years if we had gotten glimpses of it through the years. Then, it would have been a different matter.

The story has potentials. The writing is good. However, this is a story that could have been more developed. Especially the characters. And, I wanted to know more about this world. Odin was mentioned now and then, so I guess it takes place in a parallel world or something? The interesting thing is this the first book in a new series could have easily been at last a trilogy if the history of the characters had been more explored. When I read fantasy series do I expect to get to know a whole new world and species. There is no need to rush the story.

This has turned out to be quite a long review, but I found that I have a lot of thoughts concerning the story. I liked the book, I had issues with the story. Would I read the next book? Yes, I would, despite all my issues do I want to know what happens next.

I want to thank the publisher for providing me with a free copy through NetGalley for an honest review!
Profile Image for Lucie V..
982 reviews1,524 followers
June 27, 2022
✅ Dark atmosphere
✅ Action
✅ Pace
✅🆗 Plot
✅🆗 World-building
🆗 Characters
🆗 Relationships

3.5 stars

Some elements of this book reminded me of the Fae culture we've seen in many books, yet it was weaved through aspects of Norse mythology and since I know almost nothing about it, I really enjoyed this part.

It was nice to read something different than Fae books because even though I immensely enjoy them, it was beginning to all feel the same. This book has a cruel and animalistic touch to it. The goblins can be so inhumanely beautiful, but they also have a barbaric and violent side that we can see well in this book. They also have a more animal and savage aspect when their glamour fall and there are also some scenes when the characters are more animals than goblins. Even the main male character (Soren) is ruthless and bloodthirsty.

The main character, Janneke, is okay, but nothing more... I can't say why exactly, but I just didn't like her this much. Her backstory is traumatic, she was taken from her village (after everyone was killed), abused, and raped (it is mentioned only, no details) for four months, until she ended up with Soren who has taken care of her for the last 100 years. I understand that her very life is traumatic, but her trauma, emotions, and guilt all felt as if these things happened a few years ago and not 100 years ago. I can't really explain it, it just felt off sometimes. Also, she was still thinking and acting like a teenage girl most of the time, even though she has been 17 years old for the last 100 years. I didn't feel 100 years of experience and maturity in her character.

Anyway, overall I really liked this story. I know the reviews are quite mixed and I felt that most of the bad reviews were because of Janneke and her traumatic past that kept surfacing. I can understand that since it was also something that bothered me a little, but the rest of the plotline is good. There is a lot of action like non-stop fighting, fleeing, hunting, and rescuing. The intrigue and the world-building are not overly complicated and the relationship between Soren and Janneke is nicely built (even if her reflections about how awful it was that she didn't hate him anymore were annoying after a while).

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Profile Image for Ellie.
205 reviews63 followers
January 24, 2019
New release Tuesday!

I’m so excited to ring in the new year by participating in the blog tour for White Stag!

Janneke has spent 100 years as a thrall (basically a human slave) to the young goblin lord Soren. Previously, she “belonged” to Lydian, Soren’s cruel and sadistic uncle, and before that, lived in her family’s village before Lydian burned it down. When the goblin king dies, the hunt begins to have a new power on the throne, and Janneke is determined not to let Lydian become the new Erlking. The first to find the mystical white stag and kill it to claim the throne wins.

White Stag is a YA fantasy that takes a new spin on Goblins and changelings and adds a quest or hunt-like feel similar to Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, and also feels like a better-written cousin of the A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas — a young human woman coming into her own and discovering that she is just as powerful as the magical beings around her.

(Also, I do want to note a few quick content warnings: Physical and emotional abuse, several graphic rape scenes/memory sequences, gore, mutilation. This list is not comprehensive and I urge caution if this content may negatively affect your well-being.)

I was given a copy of this book by Wednesday Books in exchange for my honest opinion. Links in post are affiliate links whose proceeds go toward the maintenance of this blog.
Profile Image for Dianne.
6,765 reviews579 followers
October 4, 2018
Raw, gritty and brutally bold, WHITE STAG by Kara Barbieri is a fabulous foundation for a dark fantasy about a young woman whose life was stolen away as she became the prisoner of a sadistic goblin, bent on dehumanizing her in every way possible before sending her on to his nephew.

Janneke was always different, raised as the son her father never had, the sole survivor when her village was burned to the ground, she still has no place to call home, no place to feel safe. Wracked by survivor’s guilt, humiliated and defiled, scarred and scared, she never expected Soren to be any different than his monstrous uncle. But it was Soren who would become both a friend and the person who would show her the beauty in the lie she now lives. Can he show her how to accept herself, too?

Brilliantly dark, brutal and gut wrenching, yet Kara Barbieri manages to create a beautiful story in spite of the ugliness of Janneke’s life. I was horrified at what was done to Janneke, her memories are pure nightmares, but her character is strong in spite of it all.

This is dark fantasy, it is edgy and penned with a bold, no-nonsense hand, but it is definitely an incredible read for older young adults on up. Be prepared for the emotional tsunami evoked within these pages as one young woman learns to accept and grow into the destiny Fate created for her.

I received a complimentary ARC edition from Wednesday Books!

Series: Permafrost - Book 1
Publisher: Wednesday Books (January 8, 2019)
Publication Date: January 8, 2019
Genre: Older YA Fantasy
Print Length: 368 pages
Available from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
For Reviews, Giveaways, Fabulous Book News, follow: http://tometender.blogspot.com
Profile Image for Mitticus.
965 reviews209 followers
February 12, 2019
+e-Arc gently provided by Netgalley and publishers for an honest review+

2.6 iced stars

Trigger warning: rape and PTSD. Tons of angst.

Janneke was abducted by a goblin, Lydian, at age 17, and was brutalized, raped and tortured, by him. Then, and no one explain the reason, she was delivered as a slave to his nephew, Soren. One hundred years later, the Erlking dies and the ritual hunt of the White Stag begins.

I have a question: how can they say that this is Y.A. when the protagonist is the youngest with 118 years of age? Yes. That's what I thought. Soren is about eight hundred years old btw. Of course, they all look young.

Goblins stole humans for work the Permafrost wouldn’t let them do themselves. So many of the things they had — their clothing, their agriculture, their buildings were because humans lived among the monsters doing the skills they couldn’t. Humans created, goblins destroyed. It was known.

The Barbieri's Goblins are more Fae than the subterranean sort, they are beautiful and cruel - more similar to the Malediction Trilogy than the Tolkien kind. They live in the magical land of Permafrost of the eternal winter where when you kill something you absorb therir power.(think of the Quickening in Highlander the series)

Soren, in the other hand, is super comprehensive and patient. And has lilac eyes...hehe.(I know!)

“You’re not just any thrall.” His words made me swallow.
I was painfully aware that despite Soren treating his thralls with a considerable amount of respect, honor, and social mobility, the way he treated me surpassed all of them. “Aren’t I?”

Note: Seppo looks like a trickster to me. Is the character conveniently there.

There are some secrets about the Soren/Janneke situation still not talked after what the lady said. And Lydian ramblings...

The bad: -Janneke is emo-girl, all the time is poor poor me. Realy annoying.
-Also she is really speshul - Mary Sue level.
-The story dump all the Nordic folclore in one place. Maybe the author could better save them for the other book(s)?
-The dialogues of characters are really modern for this kind of darkfairytale style, that feel out of place. After all we are talking of swords , bows and horses. Hunting to feed.

The mostly-Good: She can fight (she was raised as hunter). All the women -or she-goblins- have to (all kill and fight for higher positions)
-Also she is non-white, scarred and maimed.

Every creature is prey of something . . . or someone. That doesn’t mean we’re evil. Besides, I always thought that a being was only a monster when they became blinded to the outcome of their actions.”

After reading:

First thougts: emo-tiresome-marysue protagonist; anachronistic language. tons f myth norse fairies creatures
writing has still 3 or 4 typos.
took me ages to start this story. got more smooth at the end.
Profile Image for Scrill.
407 reviews233 followers
January 11, 2019

This review and others like it can be found on my blog, Vicariously & Voraciously

ARC received via Netgalley for a fair review.

The death of the Goblin king has spurred The Hunt for the white stag and Janneke finds herself in the middle of it. After being a thrall for the goblins for 100 years now she seems to be losing more of her humanity and becoming more like the monsters they are. During this hunt, the goblin who controls her uses it as an opportunity to encourage her to accept what she has become.

The Story-
White Stag is the dark story that follows Janneke as she struggles with humanity versus monstrosity. As a thrall she struggles with PTSD from the tortures she has suffered through, yet also struggles with survivors guilt as she is the sole survivor from her town. 100 years after she was captured, she realizes that she is becoming more like the creatures she deems to be monsters.

The story itself was really easy to read, however, you could tell this was a debut for Kara. While I loved the concept of the story and the pitch of the story, the flow of the writing seemed disjointed at times. I felt that a little more editing could have really gone a long way, and I am eager to see the growth that Kara achieves after this book as the series continues. While set in old timey/fairy tale world the book read much more modern in language. Don't get me wrong, I really liked this book. In fact, it un-slumped me. I went from zero book completion to actually making it through a book, granted it took me a few weeks to do so.

Trigger warnings: assumed rape & torture, kidnapping, & violence

The World Building-
This is where the book really stood out to me. Here we have goblins that fit well into the beautiful fae world that has been somewhat popular lately. There are these beautiful goblin like creatures that remind me of the goblin race you find in other books like Wintersong by S. Jae Jones or Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen. What I love about this goblin race is that it's all sort of just a mirage, as the creatures become more violent or monstrous the more hideous and beast like they become. It is when they are acting somewhat civilized that they resemble the human race.

Again, Kara could have done a little more explaining or developing some details of this world, but there is definitely opportunity as the series progresses. I thoroughly enjoyed some of the additional creatures that were introduced in this book and the role they ultimately played.

The Characters-
I loved Janneke. I love how much she has endured and survived and still clung to the idea of humanity despite her need for retribution. Through her character and her relationship with Soren she shows that the title of monster is loosely applied. I love that she craved more power, yet understood the consequence of acquiring it, both physically and in the sense of the pain as well as what it was doing to her human body. She danced on this fine line of what she was willing to do to live and what she thought was right - yet she stuck with her morality through and through.
Profile Image for lucia meets books.
233 reviews134 followers
January 5, 2019
2.5 stars

TW: Slavery and rape.

You know when you didn't like a book but then you sit to write a review and you don't really know the reason why? That's me right now.

To begin this with I have to say I found our main character, Jenneke, really entertaining to read about. She was so well fleshed out, I could feel her pain and fear but also her need to survive and to not give up on her life. She was so strong and she never backed up from a fight, of course she did it because otherwise the goblins would have sensed her weakness but still she felt very badass to me.

Moreover, I really enjoyed the conversation about what made a monster what it is. It explained how maybe we are all monsters depending on who or what is perceiving us. It really brought joy to my heart because it was said in such a wonderful way without feeling like it was pushed inside this book.


On the downside, though, one thing I really didn't like was the world-building or better off the lack of. Even now that I've finished White Stag, I still have so many questions unanswered. The main issue was that it felt like we were thrown pieces of information to keep the plot going, it felt unnatural and all those times it took me out of the story.


Also, the romance is a big aspect in this book but I didn't feel the chemistry between those two characters at all and it was mainly because one of them lacked depth.

So, now I was able to put into words why I didn't enjoy this book that much, it was because the world-building could have been better and I couldn't connect with the relationship that was a big part in this book. However, the main character was truly a badass without hiding her emotions like fear to herself and it also has a quite interesting conversation about what monsters are so if you think you'll like these things I would recommend you to give it a chance.
Profile Image for Lou (nonfiction fiend).
2,771 reviews1,625 followers
January 8, 2019
White Stag, the first novel in the Permafrost fantasy series by self-publishing success story Kara Barbieri, is a dark, brooding and superb read; in fact, it's difficult to believe that this is a debut, let alone a book written in the authors teen years. If this is the first, I am already ridiculously excited for the upcoming series instalments but also what comes after the too. Brutal and beautiful in equal measure, this is an intricately plotted story with some wonderful worldbuilding.

The atmosphere is ominous for the entirety of this masterfully crafted tale, and you really feel for main character Janneke as she finds her feet in a cruel world that she has no prior experience or knowledge of. The journey she goes on to attempt to save some of her humanity and salvage something meaningful from a time of real despair showed me just how emotionally invested I had become. This is one of those deliciously dark and deviant fantasies that you get most out of from going in blind, hence the intentionally sparse detail. If you appreciate deceptively dark fantasies of just a sucker for a special talent then this is an immensely enjoyable and utterly enthralling book. I hope there isn't too long to wait for the next instalment; I'll keep my eyes well and truly peeled!

Many thanks to Wednesday Books for an ARC.
Profile Image for Tara ☽.
300 reviews233 followers
February 7, 2019
Trigger warnings for this book: Rape, graphic violence and PTSD.

This is probably the grittiest YA book I’ve read in a while. Can it even be called YA? The main character is 17, but she has also been ‘17’ for 100 years, and all the other characters are hundreds of years old. I’m not sure. The line for what constitutes YA has been growing blurrier and blurrier in recent years, so it’s anybody’s guess really.

So, to confess, I had no idea this book was originally posted on Wattpad. Maybe it’s a good thing that I didn’t notice? Either the author is leagues better than most Wattpad authors you see drifting about town, or she has a godlike editor. Either way, if any of you saw the word ‘Wattpad’ and were put off, never fear! This does not read like a Wattpad story.

But what is it about?

Janneke was seventeen when her village was burnt to the ground by invading goblins, and she, being the sole survivor, was taken away to the land of the goblins, the Permafrost. Her captor, the malicious and insane goblin Lydian, abused and tortured her relentlessly. When he finally grew bored of her, he passed her off to his nephew, Soren, to be his human captive.

When the book begins, Janneke has been with Soren for almost 100 years. He has proved to be a much kinder master than his uncle, but he is still a master all the same. Janekke longs for freedom and suffers from intense flashbacks and nightmares of her time with Lydian.

The story kicks off with the death of the Erlking, which leaves the goblin throne open for the taking. Thus begins a hunt for the ‘white stag’, and whoever captures and kills the stag will be the next Erlking. Soren, being one of the most powerful goblin lords, sets off on the hunt, determined to bring Janneke along with him for reasons that become clearer later in the story.

What I liked:

The depictions of Janekke’s trauma and PTSD felt quite raw and authentic for me (bearing in mind that I have no experience with these things myself). She went through some extremely upsetting and disturbing things, and it still has a profound effect upon her a hundred years later. It was upsetting to read some of the flashbacks - while there is never a truly graphic depiction of the rape, it is still mentioned clearly enough to unsettle you. If you are intensely affected by mentions of rape in books, I would probably give this one a miss. I personally liked that it touched on this theme - with YA books, the exploration of the traumatic effects of rape is confined almost solely to ‘issue books’ and those sorts of books aren’t everyone’s cup of tea.

I like my fantasy a little bloody, so I appreciated that the fight scenes were pretty intensely violent. We’ve got people scratching eyes out and plunging axes into stomachs, but again, if graphic violence isn’t something you enjoy, maybe skip this one.

I really enjoyed the first half of the book. I liked the set-up of Janneke and Soren’s relationship. He has never laid a finger on her, and certainly appeared to consider Janneke an equal and a friend more than anything else. I also really liked the introduction of Seppo in the later half - he was a much-needed whiff of comic relief and an entertaining character.


A lot of the dialogue felt a little too...familiar and colloquial...for a fantasy book about goblins. The goblins in this book are very fae-like, which follows that you’d expect them to speak more formally than they do in this book. On top of this, the world very much has a medieval Norse fantasy vibe, so when Soren and Janneke start having a childish “do not”/”do too” argument, it feels rather anachronistic.

Also, it didn’t much feel like Soren and Janneke have known each other for a hundred years. It felt more like they’ve known each other for maybe 5 years. I wanted more of a backstory to their relationship over the past century, and how they’ve come to the point they are at now.

The second half of the book is where it sort of started to fall apart for me. A certain reveal about Soren and Janneke kind of put me off their relationship a little. It wasn’t anything bad, but the story just went down a different avenue to what I was expecting. Towards the end everything started to become very confusing, and I’m still not sure what to make of the ending. It didn’t really make sense from a character point of view, or really even a narrative one.

Overall I enjoyed it, but more so the first half than the second half. I might consider reading the next one, but I’m not sure where the story can really go from here?
Profile Image for Olivia.
2,923 reviews63 followers
November 22, 2018
"White Stag" is a really fantastic YA fantasy that I was absolutely pulled into and found it hard to put down. We mainly follow Janneke/Janneka (male/female declension as she was raised to be a male heir), a human who was captured and brought into the Permafrost by a goblin. Since then, she has been a thrall (slave) to goblins. The first goblin (Lydian) who enslaved her tortured her (see warnings below) before giving her as a gift to his nephew (Soren). Soren has treated her quite differently, as a friend/confidante, and in that time, Janneke has begun to trust him although she has never forgotten what he is (a monster as she was raised to believe).

Janneke both fears and hates Lydian, determined to kill him but frightened of the terrible torture he inflicted on her. At a goblin gathering, she begins to fight with him (and thus Soren joins in to protect her). The fight ends because the Erlking (goblin king) has died and the stag has been released. The white stag is the embodiment of the goblin king's power and belongs to the strongest goblin. The deadly hunt begins, all the goblins who wish to become king heading out to find the stag and become the next king, forming temporary alliances and frequently backstabbing. Before they leave, Soren tells Janneke something she finds quite frightening- she may be joining with the permafrost as a changeling, transforming into the "monsters" she fears- a goblin. Determined to fight it with every beat of her heart, Janneke is thrust even further into the dangerous realm and the deadly politics that are arising.

Full of magical creatures, battles, and even a touch of romance, this book was absolutely incredible, and I really loved every step of the journey. I cannot recommend it enough to anyone who loves engaging YA fantasy. However, I would add warnings for rape (in the past/acknowledged, not described in too much detail), torture (physical and mental), and mutilation (could fall under torture).

One of the major themes of the book is that our choices are what make us monsters, not our very essence, and that everyone could be a monster to someone else/elements of perspective (you are a monster to the animals you kill for food or to the grass that you walk on, etc.). This was a really important and intriguing discussion which underlies a lot of the epiphanies in the book. To add to that, the characters were all very well fleshed out and there were so many I really enjoyed, especially Seppo, but also of course the main two of Soren and Janneke. Although the description talks about Janneke being raised as a male, this was a relatively smaller piece of the story and only mentioned occasionally in reflections/was not as big a part of the book as I expected from the description. Instead, we mostly see Janneke's journey to come to terms with all her past, present, and future and understand/appreciate who she is.

Overall, I really loved this story, and I cannot wait until the next is released. While there's a bit of a lead-in to the next book, this one is wrapped up/not a big cliffhanger. This was an incredible world, and I absolutely loved every second I spent in it.

Please note that I received an ARC from the publisher through netgalley. All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Irena BookDustMagic.
603 reviews472 followers
January 14, 2019
White Stag is young adult fantasy that made notice even before it was released, and now when I read it, I can see why.

This is the first fantasy about goblins that I have ever read, and I can tell you that I have enjoyed learning about these creatures that I knew so little about before (basically, my whole knowledge before this book came from Lord of the Rings movies).

The world was fascinating, and I wish we got to see more of it. Since this is only first book in the series, I hope we will learn more about it in next installments.
I would really want to explore it more, because some scenes (like the one when Janneke looked around her and thought how beautiful this world actually would be if she wasn’t in a position she was) captivated me, so I crave for more of it’s beauty.

I was always fascinated with faeries. They are my favorite creatures, and I loved reading about them even before they were popular in literature.
Goblins have some similarities with them (like, how they can’t lie or how manipulative they are), so it was natural that I was fond of them too.

White Stag is an action packed story. I loved it’s pace and it reads so fast.
There’s an action at the very beginning and it lasts until the end (with some slow parts in the middle).
I liked it, but I wish we got at least two chapters at the very beginning to learn about politics in this world.

What I liked the most in this novel is one phrase that stayed with me, and that is how everyone is a monster in some way (I’m paraphrasing it here so don’t quote me on literal words).
One particular scene when our main character realized that stuck with me the most. Ever since I finished this book, I feel like every day I think about that scene, and her words.

The writing style is solid. I really enjoyed reading Barbieri’s words and I can only imagine she will even get better at times.

Some scenes reminded me of Twilight Saga, but in a good way. I strictly talk here about dialogue.
Also, some sentences in the novel (and don’t take it like a bad thing because it is a 400+ pages long book) reminded me of ones I already read somewhere (like breath she was holding, you know that one!).
What I have concluded is that the author probably read many ya novels so they influenced her.

I like how atypical the ending was. It really stood out in my eyes, and welcomed it wholeheartedly.

I loved White Stag and I will gladly be continuing with the series.
Profile Image for Erica.
711 reviews195 followers
December 26, 2018
Y'all, I am so torn about this book! There was so much I LOVED but there were also quite a few things that I thought needed some work.

First of all, this is a book about sexy goblins. Yes, that's right. But this shouldn't be a stretch for anyone who's seen Labyrinth:

White Stag opens in a palace in the Permafrost, where the Erlking is seated on his throne next to a white stag, surrounded by Goblins paying respects to their king. A fight between two powerful Goblins erupts and during the battle the palace floor splits open. The Erlking falls through to his death and the white stag bounds away into the forest. The Hunt has begun: the Goblin who kills the white stag will become the next Erlking.

Our heroine is Jenneke, a human who has been living among the Goblins for one hundred years as a servant/slave ("thrall") after being captured during a Goblin raid on her village. In this world, based on Norse mythology, Goblins and other powerful mythical creatures live in the Permafrost, a frozen wasteland beyond the human villages. She is still mortal, but living in the magical Permafrost has blessed her with longevity, so even though Jenneke is over one hundred years old, she still looks seventeen.

From the beginning of time, humans had been stolen across the border of the Permafrost in raids along with many other types of plunder. Those brought across the border had the status of a thrall, expected to work and do the bidding of the lord that had stolen them.

Goblins could rip me apart so easily, torture me until my mind unraveled. Goblins stole humans for work the Permafrost wouldn't let them do themselves. So many of the things they had - their clothing, their agriculture, their buildings were because humans lived among the monsters doing the skills they couldn't. Humans created, goblins destroyed. It was known.

Jenneke's master is Soren, who treats her less like a slave and more like a friend. This powerful Goblin takes Jenneke on the Hunt with him. It quickly becomes apparent that Soren is one of the most powerful Goblins on the Hunt; his main competition is his uncle, Lydian, who was also Jenneke's first master, who raped and mutilated her.

Of course something was wrong with me. I was sitting here next to the world's most deadly predator, hunting a sacred stag in the middle of the Permafrost, after one hundred years of servitude that should've left me dead. I was the epitome of wrongness.

Before setting out on the Hunt, Soren reveals to Jenneke that she is slowly becoming less human and more Goblin-like: she is transforming into a Goblin.

Remember what they are. They aren't your friends or allies. They're cold-blooded killers who want to either turn you into one of their own or kill you. . . They're monsters, and I'm becoming one of them.

The Hunt for the white stag becomes a fantastic adventure: Goblins riding mountain lions like horses, dragons, a goddess with an entourage of wolves, and a creepy underwater creature surrounded by the dead bodies of his "loves." These exciting escapades were so much fun as individual scenes, but the story lacked something integral: world-building. Barbieri failed to construct a full-fledged imaginary world. Like, I get that the Goblins are all hunting the white stag, but why? Jenneke is turning into a Goblin... but why? We only get a few glimpses of the human world, so everything is from the Goblins' perspective, which creates a one-dimensional world instead of a well-rounded fictional universe. Barbieri did tell us that the Goblins kidnapped humans to build for them and whatnot, but we never actually see that happening. In fact, Jenneke acts like there aren't any other humans around, or that she's an anomaly. Why?! Barbieri inserts a few passages at the very end of the book trying to explain why the stag is so important etc., but it felt rushed, like she quickly wrote a few paragraphs to fix the world-building issue, and it just didn't work. The reader needs to know these things at the beginning, not in the final pages of the book.

There is also sexual tension from the beginning between Jenneke and Soren, which I just didn't buy. On one hand, they have known each other for a hundred years. On the other hand, they act like strangers. Which one is it, Barbieri?! Plus, Jenneke understandably hates Goblins: they killed her family and have enslaved her for a hundred years. Now, as she's transforming into one of them, she begins to hate them anymore. Soren is Jenneke's master, but he also protects her from the other Goblins, and wants to help her with her "transition" from human to Goblin. Part of Jenneke's journey is to accept Soren for his Goblin-ness and to accept her own emerging Goblin-ness but their relationship did not feel authentic.

Be his. The thought scared me. The thought petrified me. But not int he way it should've. Not in the way a human should feel about having the love of an apex predator, a goblin, a cruel merciless monster. No, it scared me because for once I was walking out onto thin ice. But maybe he's worth the risk. 'Janneke,' he said softly, 'are you afraid?' 'No,' I said. 'Not of you.'

Maybe it’s because I just read ACOTAR, but this book seemed like a rip-off of Sarah J. Maas at times, swapping out the sexy Faeries for sexy Goblins. Soren is a Goblin, sure, but he isn't a hideous monster like the Goblins you're thinking of. He looks like a sexy twenty-something year-old man, with long white hair. Hot! You could also swap out the “wall” diving the Faerie realms from the humans with whatever separated the Permafrost in this book (it might have been a wall; I can’t remember. Maybe a Border?). Jenneke’s history as a human taken into the magical realm as a “changeling” also felt like ACOTAR.

To be fair, the author is twenty-two. She obviously has some fantastic ideas for stories, and I would be open to reading her other work. This book has a fantastic premise; it just needs world-building and character development. Hopefully the second book in the series is more satisfying!

Release date January 2019, available for pre-order now.

ARC provided by St. Martin's Press in exchange for an honest review.

The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
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