Amy Imogene Reads's Reviews > White Stag

White Stag by Kara Barbieri
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bookshelves: read-in-2019, ya-fantasy

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: (view spoiler)

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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Reading Progress

January 14, 2019 – Shelved
January 14, 2019 – Shelved as: to-read
June 13, 2019 – Started Reading
June 13, 2019 –
page 17
4.62% "Yes! More Goblin King stories!"
June 13, 2019 –
page 50
June 14, 2019 –
page 234
June 16, 2019 – Finished Reading
June 17, 2019 – Shelved as: read-in-2019
June 17, 2019 – Shelved as: ya-fantasy

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