White Stag (Permafrost #1) by Kara Barbieri

whitestagI have so many mixed feelings with White Stag that it’s really difficult to know where to begin.  My head is totally mashed up and so I’m going to go with a slightly different style of review this time,  Firstly, I’m not going to outline the plot.  The synopsis on Goodreads is perfectly good enough in that respect and because I don’t want to cause you any discomfort jumping around I’ve copied it belownfor your ease of reference (you’re welcome). 😀

The first book in a brutally stunning series where a young girl finds herself becoming more monster than human and must uncover dangerous truths about who she is and the place that has become her home.

As the last child in a family of daughters, seventeen-year-old Janneke was raised to be the male heir. While her sisters were becoming wives and mothers, she was taught to hunt, track, and fight. On the day her village was burned to the ground, Janneke—as the only survivor—was taken captive by the malicious Lydian and eventually sent to work for his nephew Soren.

Janneke’s survival in the court of merciless monsters has come at the cost of her connection to the human world. And when the Goblin King’s death ignites an ancient hunt for the next king, Soren senses an opportunity for her to finally fully accept the ways of the brutal Permafrost. But every action he takes to bring her deeper into his world only shows him that a little humanity isn’t bad—especially when it comes to those you care about.

Through every battle they survive, Janneke’s loyalty to Soren deepens. After dangerous truths are revealed, Janneke must choose between holding on or letting go of her last connections to a world she no longer belongs to. She must make the right choice to save the only thing keeping both worlds from crumbling.

My Thoughts.

I will start by saying that I didn’t dislike White Stag, in fact I found it a relatively quick read if I’m going to be perfectly frank, but, I had a few real issues and I’m going to go with those first.

Why goblins?  I wanted to read this as the fae and in fact that’s the way that it comes across.  Beautiful, scheming, cannot lie, can’t create, use humans as thralls – I mean, come on, this is fae in all it’s glorious, devious, underhanded-manipulative scheming.  And yet it’s not.  It’s goblins.  Why though? You see the thing for me is I have a mental block in this respect and an author telling me about a studley-hench hunk of goblin sexyness – it just doesn’t compute.  In my head goblin doesn’t = ethereal beauty  but rather wickedness, evil, dark and pretty much monstrous.  But why can’t this author decide to change this up?  She can, of course she can, the problem is that I’m so entrenched in the goblins are hideous monsters train of thought that it’s really difficult to drag myself out of it and I also can’t help wondering why not simply use fae?  Was this a goblin world simply to be different – and if so, then maybe it should have felt really different.  As it was this felt like the fae with goblins transposed over the top.  Again, I can’t argue with the author going for something different in fact I have a lot of respect for it and to be honest – they’re all freaking made up creatures so why can’t they be whatever the author wants?  I don’t know the answer to that one – maybe I’m too stubborn to see the goblins differently.  I mean, the other thing that occurs to me – with Janneke actually starting to change herself maybe that’s why she sees Soren as beautiful and sexy – maybe if she was still fully human she wouldn’t think so??

The second thing I struggled with a little were Janneke and Soren – neither of them comes across as the age they’re supposed to be.  Okay,  I’m not literally talking about the aging process here particularly as they’re both quite long lived.  Soren is hundreds of years old and Janneke has spent about 100 years as a captive in the permafrost.  Why then does she come across so angsty.  I could say she comes over like a sulky teenager but I think that would be a little unfair.  She was stolen from her village, her friends and family massacred and was treated atrociously when she was first abducted – and in fact until she was given to Soren – and, btw be aware of trigger warnings for rape and torture.  They’re not part of the story in terms of taking place on the page but they play a huge part in terms of Janneke’s character.  What I’m trying to get at here, in a rather roundabout fashion is that they had no maturity at all.  I don’t know whether that’s because the book is going for a YA audience, although with some of the content I wouldn’t think so, but I just wanted to feel less angst somehow.

Other smaller issues I had – the hunt, I wanted to really feel like I was inside the hunt, get a feel for it – but that doesn’t really happen.

Now, this all feels very critical so I’m going to point out my ‘likes’.

I loved this dark and brutal goblin world.  It felt cold and unwelcoming, there was a constant edge of tension and it felt like any moment things could break out into turmoil.

The writing was good and there’s a really strong focus on the central characters which I enjoyed – although of course this focus made the world vision feel much smaller.

There’s no instantaneous romance.  It feels inevitable that the two main characters will become involved but it doesn’t happen immediately.  I enjoyed the tension between the two and let’s just be serious, they share some great chemistry that leads to some sizzling on the page.

On top of this, there’s plenty of imagination and threats as the story progresses  Maybe even too many threats in some respects but nonetheless a lot of entertaining action.

I also couldn’t help thinking that there was a fairytale at the centre of this story, just waiting to break out, the references to Janneke having been in the permafrost for around 100 years, the constant mention of monsters – but I don’t think that was the case – more me just wanting it to be so.

On the whole, I had some strong issues with this, I think what really perplexes me though is that in spite of those issue I still found this a relatively easy read and at this stage I would read the next instalment – although that could be make or break territory for me.

So there we have it.  A smorgasbord of feelings that probably makes little sense as it spewed forth like a stream of consciousness.  Apologies.  I don’t know whether to say you should read this or not, I would probably rate it 2.5/3 out of 5 on Goodreads but I would probably still be tempted to pick up the second book. I’m still not convinced about the beautiful goblins but I remain prepared to be convinced.  I’d really like to see the characters mature, I’d like a better feel for the goblin world and its politics, maybe less a mixed up feel of all sorts of myths and folklores.  Let’s just see what happens next.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.



15 Responses to “White Stag (Permafrost #1) by Kara Barbieri”

  1. Susy's Cozy World

    I can totally relate with what you say about the goblin. I think I have read a couple of books about them and I was never satisfied with their representation. I mean, an author can take some liberties and create because that’s what an author does, but if you just create your characters as fae, with all the fae atrributes and whatsover and then you just put the label “goblin” on them… well, that doesn’t sit very well for me. I think my comment is a little bit confused but I hope you get what I’m trying to say!

    • @lynnsbooks

      I totally understand what you’re saying because it’s what I was thinking too.
      Lynn 😀

  2. waytoofantasy

    I have a lot of the same mixed feelings with you on this one. I did enjoy the romance in that the tension between them was amazing, but also had trouble with other aspects of the romance….yeah, so completely mixed! And I probably *will* pick up the next one despite having so many issues with this one. If nothing else there’s something compelling about it.

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah, that’s it. There was something compelling about this but at the same time there were so many issues that just didn’t sit right. I want to read the next one just to see how the author manages things.
      Lynn 😀

  3. Tammy

    Your review doesn’t surprise me, since I’ve read other similar reviews of this book. I do understand what you mean about goblins and having a mental block. I once read a book about trolls and the “main” troll was described as “gorgeous, handsome” etc. I could not wrap my head around those descriptions😁

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah, I can understand wanting to come up with something different but I just couldn’t get my own image of goblins out of my head. I remember one of the Holly Black books years ago had a character, and he was monstrous to look at, but the main pov character eventually fell in love with him and so his looks were not important. That I can understand. I think maybe the author should have had something in here about how the goblins are little understood, how we’ve got it all wrong and this is what they’re really like, type of thing. That might have helped me to rethink it.
      Lynn 😀

  4. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    Reading about your quite understandable trouble with the depiction of the goblins/fae in this book I kept wondering why the author did not pick a completely different name, maybe invented, if the goal was to create a different kind of creature: IMHO it would have simplified things for the readers… As for the characters feeling too young (too YA?) for their age… well, I guess this would sound the death knell for me in regard of this book!
    Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah, these characters are old but their tone doesn’t reflect that at all. It reads like a YA in that respect with all the angst. In terms of the goblins, it feels a bit like a missed opportunity to simply stick all the characteristics that we associate with the fae onto them. For me, perhaps we should have had a Soren view point, a ‘let me tell you what Goblins are really like..’ type of thread. Something that shows them in a different light. As it is, they still had the nasty, ready to jump into a fight to the death aspects, but then seemed to adopt so much of the fae.
      Lynn 😀

  5. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    Hmm yeah, I will be going into this one with tempered expectations. I liked that you outlined some of the positive things because quite honestly I’ve only heard mostly negative things about this book. The whole goblins thing reminds me of a running joke I have with a gamer friend regarding elves. He hates elves, and whenever games try to introduce a playable race that’s beautiful, immortal, ethereal…i.e. ELF-LIKE but they call it something else to be “original” and “different”, he always goes, “Nope, I’m not fooled”. What you described here reminded me of that. Like the author could have very well written this story about the fae (because for all intents and purposes they are fae) but slapped the goblin label on them instead, because “Look, I’m special!”

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah, it confuses me and actually gives me lots of food for thought. On the one hand, I think why can’t an author write about Goblins and portray them differently – but then why write them like the fae? Or, is she simply trying to suggest that Janneke has changed so much that she sees Soren differently? I definitely had issues with this and I can see where the criticisms are coming from, but, at the same time it was a quick read and I liked some of the aspects. Book 2 will be the decider for me.
      Lynn 😀

  6. evelynreads1

    Great review! I totally agree, when I think about goblins I think about ugly dark creatures haha
    I think I’m going to skip on this one though.. I’ve only heard mixed reviews


    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah, I’ve read a few mixed reviews for this one. I would like to continue on and see what the author does next but I think the second book will definitely decide my mind on whether or not to continue.
      Lynn 😀

  7. Best of the Best list : 2019 | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] White Stag by Kara Barbieri […]

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