White Stag is that rare book that sweeps you up in its story, forcing you to cast aside all commitments until you’ve devoured every last page. The setting is chilling and exhilarating, throwing monsters and mayhem at our protagonist, Janeke. She is a hero to be admired, a woman whose power is beyond measure. Her determination to overcome the evils of the goblin world fuel the narrative at a galloping pace through expertly-written fight scenes and moments of tenderness alike. We’re left with a story that demands to be held to the light, examined from every angle, and cherished for the masterful storytelling it embodies.
NOTE: I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest, unbiased review.
A Few of My Favorite Things
Within the first 20 pages, Janeke has thrown herself into the middle of an epic fight with a goblin lord. She’s always fighting against the shackles of this world she’s been forced into, never compromising who she is. She’s amazingly powerful at every moment. Honestly, she should have died five times throughout the novel, but she keeps coming back, stronger than before. I was consistently impressed by her fighting abilities, her witty dialogue, and her commitment to doing what’s right, no matter the cost to herself. Reading a book with such a well-written character is a treat, for sure.
The setting of White Stag provides a haunting background that never lets up, slowly revealing more of its dark secrets as the novel progresses. The goblins are complex, maniacal creatures for the most part, willing to kill anything and everyone who gets in their way. The monsters are relentless, filled with venom and evil words intent on destroying their victims. It’s either frozen or on fire, filled with dead and dying things alike. Juxtaposed beside the human world, it’s a place of horror. A feeling of unease seeps into as you progress further into the world, creating a constant feeling of something lurking behind the next corner.
Barbieri has created a complex mythology of the goblin world, using it as both a societal structure and a stricture on the fate of the realm. Oaths are carved into skin by deep, worldly magic. Promises are life and death . It makes for a true fantasy setting, where words and deeds matter in the greater scheme of things. Everything is epic, no matter how small it might seem. Adding this mythological aspect adds heft to the story, and pulls you further into the spell weaved by the implications of everyone’s actions.
White Stag features an ending you won’t want to miss. It didn’t catch me completely off-guard, but the execution was flawless. Barbieri is clearly brimming with imagination, and I’m excited to see what the future of this series holds.
By Kara Barbieri
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