I received a copy of White Stag by Kara Barbieri through NetGalley (huge thank you to them!) and what first drew me to this was that it was described as being a bit of a twist on the monster-turns-human trope, and instead was a story of a human girl turning into a monster, and her learning to accept her place and power in the world. Unfortunately, it seemed to have missed the mark a bit for me.
|Pub Date: 1-8-19 by|
Young Adult- Fantasy
Received from pub via Netgalley
Janneke, who was the last born daughter in her family, was raised to be her father's heir: she was taught to hunt, to fight, and to survive. One day, her village is burnt to the ground and all of her people, including her family, were murdered by the vicious goblin, Lydian. As the sole survivor of this raid, Janneke is taken captive and continuously tortured within an inch of her life. Once Lydian had his fill, he passed Janneke off as a cruel joke to work for his nephew, Soren. He, unlike his uncle, is good-natured and treats Janneke with kindness and protects her, and soon the two form a bond and friendship. When the Goblin King's death sparks an ancient hunt for the next king of the Permafrost, Janneke must learn to trust that not all goblins are cruel and that Soren may have the answers to her very being, and that those answers hold the key to saving both the goblin world she now resides in and the human world she was taken from.
I found this story very intriguing. I felt there were bits that were really interesting and I loved the Norse myth references that were littered throughout. I also really enjoyed the banter between Janneke and Seppo, those were probably my favorite parts of the whole story, but I felt there was something missing. I think it was possibly because I felt like Soren as a character was a tad underdeveloped. At the start of the story, Janneke has been in the goblin world for almost a century, so I wish we could've gotten a bit more backstory into Soren's life and time with Janneke during that period, especially to make the relationship aspect more believable.
I would've also loved to delve more into the realm of Permafrost because you can tell just by the little glimpses that there's a wealth of other creatures besides the goblins that inhabit this brutal land, and I think it'd be nice to touch upon them. There were interesting dynamics woven throughout, however, such as the question what exactly makes a monster? As well as the struggle Janneke goes through as she feels herself changing into a goblin, yet desperately tries to cling to her humanity. Despite this being a fast-paced, action-packed fantasy, and having all the makings of a story I would absolutely love, nothing really resonated with me and I felt it was just okay.