Book Review: White Stag, by Kara Barbieri

white stag
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   White Stag
Author:   Kara Barbieri
Genre:   Fantasy
Rating:   4 out of 5

Seventeen-year-old Janneke was the last child in a family of daughters, so she was raised as a son and heir. Instead of being trained as a wife and mother like her sisters, she learned to track, hunt, and fight.

A hundred years ago, goblins attacked and destroyed her village and her entire family, leaving her bound to the cruel goblin prince Lydian, who tortured her for years, before she became bound to his nephew, Soren.

Janneke is slowly losing her humanity amidst the violence of the goblin court, but when the king dies and the ancient hunt for the white stag to choose the next king begins, she must choose between her lingering memories of being human and her loyalty to Soren, who has only helped her grow stronger.

White Stag was dark, atmospheric, and broody—in a good way. The Permafrost setting is stark and made me shiver. Janneke grows a lot, especially as she learns truths she never knew. However, I didn’t get a good feel for the goblin culture, apart from violence and cruelty, and I really wanted to know more. There must be a reason for the violence, so more information would have given the culture more nuances. And I found all the characters besides Soren and Janneke to be mostly one-dimensional.

Kara Barbieri lives in Wisconsin. White Stag is her debut novel.

(Galley provided by St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

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