C.G. Drews's Reviews > White Stag

White Stag by Kara Barbieri
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bookshelves: epic-fantasy, read-2019, young-adult

This is about goblins and erlkings and monstrous girls... so basically a checklist of things I quite enjoy reading. I am PLEASED. It had a lot of fae culture woven through a Norse setting, but focusing on goblins instead, and I've been reading SO many fae books recently that this just fit right into what I was in the mood for. Plus it's bitterly cold and cruelly wicked with knives and claws and fights around every few pages. But it also takes the time to really discuss and delve into PTSD and mental illness!

Welcome to the haaaalls of the GOBLIN KING.
Ok I freaking loved reading this version of them. The have glamours, like the faeries, to make themselves inhumanely gorgeous, but when the glamours fade they look like vicious terrible monsters. They're all SO bloodthirsty. Literally stab your neighbour before breakfast and nobody is shocked. My man, you all need some therapy.

It has a Norse-inspired setting!
I loved the mythology creatures we met, like the wolf goddesses and the mischievous svartelves who'll drive you mad. And it was SO COLD. So frikkin' freezing. I could feel that wrapped around every page.

Jenneke was also a bitter stabby gift to this world. She's been tortured and abused for hundreds of years (but she's permanently 17) and she is NOT in the mood for anyone's shenanigans. She was rescued from her abusive master by Soren, who has always been kind, but she still hates him for owning her. Which...fair. Her PTSD and anxiety are brutal portrayed. It's easy to feel a lot for her. And tbh I'm just glad more YA fantasy books are unpacking the mental side of the vicious lives they lead. Jenneke has been actually through hell (torture, mutilation, rape) and while the book isn't graphic, it does refer to what happened. She has an eating disorder now too, which is ownvoices rep from the author, and you could feel the heartache with that too.

But then when little shreds of friendship weave into her life... afjdsald it's so good. Like she starts teaching a little goblin girl who to be a better archer. And Soren is there like as a constant: "!!! I like you !!!" and watching their relationship thaw was beautiful. He basically affectionally describes her a small dog that bites ankles. She hits him. Bless.

Now I WAS worried about the romance, because Soren is effectively her "captor" even though he rescued her from her abuser. Uneven power dynamics in relationships (especially when it's with 1000 year old goblins) make my skin crawl thnx so much. But this book did it the right way. There was only romance when they were both in equal positions of power over themselves. And Soren hadn't freed her because (view spoiler)

There are, um, a few things that didn't work for me.
The language is super modern (aka, Janneke even busts with stuff like "gee thanks") and they banter back and forth about how Goblins can't use sarcasm properly. I mean there has always BEEN sarcasm, but the actual word didn't exist until the 1500s. Plus GOBLINS CAN'T LIE. It's said again and again. But in order to be sarcastic, you are effectively saying an ironic lie. So the discrepencies here threw me a lot. (And yeah there are a lot of fight scenes and I'm not the biggest fan of unending action. But that's just me!)


Overall!? This was a very satisfying story of monsters and mayhem, and it was cruel and vicious and filled with brittle and desperate hope. It was about what even makes a monster. And it was about being abused and it's about healing, and saying how it's ok to change. I very much loved the balance of mythology and hunting for the erlking's stag vs piecing back together broken people and loving yourself.
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Reading Progress

August 11, 2018 – Shelved
August 11, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read
January 25, 2019 – Started Reading
January 26, 2019 –
page 250
67.93% "Janneke: Say something romantic.
Soren: [fondly] you are like a tiny dog who snarls and bites everyone's ankles
Soren: but is also so so cute
Janneke: why do I even like you"
January 26, 2019 – Shelved as: epic-fantasy
January 26, 2019 – Shelved as: read-2019
January 26, 2019 – Shelved as: young-adult
January 26, 2019 – Finished Reading

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