Olivia's Reviews > White Stag

White Stag by Kara Barbieri
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it was ok
bookshelves: arc, did-not-like, not-continuing-series

CW: rape, violence, gore, torture

[ARC sent to me by the publisher. This doesn’t affect my opinions or the content of my review.]

Situations like this are why I’m wary of unsolicited ARCs. If I hadn’t reached out to be part of the blog tour, I would’ve DNFed this book; I’ve definitely learned my lesson. While I didn’t hate this novel, I honestly can’t say that it has any redeemable qualities.

I think the circumstances surrounding this novel are wonderful. The story was originally posted on Wattpad and now is traditionally published. That’s an accomplishment, and I’m happy for the author. But this book could’ve benefited from some more work.

First of all, it starts off on a confusing note. The protagonist, Janneke, states in the first chapter that she’s been in the Permafrost, the goblin realm, for a hundred years. That it’s been a hundred years since her village was raided, everyone else was killed, and she was taken captive. In my opinion, that’s an abrupt way to start a story. While exploring the entire hundred years would’ve undeniably been tedious, at least an overview might have allowed for better understanding of what readers are getting into and what happened in that considerable time gap.

I didn’t dislike Janneke. She’s a strong character that has survived many traumatic events and would greatly benefit from a hug and a plate of cookies. Kara said — I think it was in an interview — that Janneke’s struggles and recovery are a reflection of her own. I in no way want to take away from that. However, Janneke’s inner monologue about staying human, not becoming a goblin, and whether or not she’s a monster became repetitive and slightly annoying. With the exception of a few scenes, mainly flashbacks, I didn’t really care about her. My favorite characters were Soren, Skadi, and the three wolves, but even they couldn’t boost my opinion of the novel.

Additionally, the plot was slow. Not much happened in the entirety of the roughly 350 page novel. I was bored leading up to the hunt and hoped that once it began, the story would pick up, but it didn’t. There was a lot of fighting and gore, but not a lot of substance. I pushed through, hoping something would happen, my interest would be piqued, and unfortunately that wasn’t the case. Getting through the second half of the book, short as it was, was a struggle.

A side note, related to the aforementioned gore: the fact that some characters lived after the injuries they received is a minor miracle.

As for the world-building, I found it lackluster and confusing. It was mentioned early on that Janneke could evolve, could become a part human, part goblin creature. I’m not sure how that would work. I thought only Pokémon evolved.

A seemingly important concept in the beginning is that goblins raid villages and kidnap humans, because humans can create but goblins can’t. The goblin becomes the human’s master. This concept was not fleshed out, even though Janneke herself was in this situation.

Another world-related issue is the lack of detail regarding the goblin…culture, I suppose? There are goblin lords, but I couldn’t tell you where they lived or what purpose they served. At one point during the hunt, there’s mention of the different regions of the Permafrost, where various types of goblins and other creatures reside. A couple of short paragraphs gave a very basic rundown of everything, but it wasn’t mentioned again. In general, the world-building could’ve used some development and polishing.

The slow-burn romance didn’t work for me either. While I do like the love interest, how can I be invested if I don’t care much for the main character?

I wanted to like this novel, but there were simply too many questions unanswered and factors working against that outcome. I hope I didn’t come across as cruel in my criticisms, as that truly wasn’t my intention. I didn’t hate this book, but it wasn’t my cup of tea. I think Kara has potential as an author and I wish her well; however, I won’t be reading her future novels.

Recommended to those who liked the goblins of Wintersong, the character dynamics of The Cruel Prince, and/or the moral ambiguity of This Savage Song.
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Reading Progress

July 20, 2018 – Shelved
July 20, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read
January 7, 2019 – Started Reading
January 7, 2019 –
page 101
27.45%
January 9, 2019 – Shelved as: not-continuing-series
January 9, 2019 – Shelved as: arc
January 9, 2019 – Shelved as: did-not-like
January 9, 2019 – Finished Reading

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