Book Review: White Stag by Kara Barbieri



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.



Oh man, I have so many mixed feelings on this one. Well, maybe not so mixed, because I really wanted to like this but it was a huge miss for me.

One thing I appreciated about the book is that the main character has been in the Permafrost for something like 100 years. So you would think she kind of has the ropes down by now and I was really looking forward to that. But…something about the relationship between Soren and Janneke felt really new. I know Janneke spent a lot time in the beginning being a captive of Lydian, but she’s been with Soren for years now. Why are they only now getting to know each other and why is their relationship only now seeming to change? And it wasn’t just the relationship, but it didn’t feel like she’d been living there that long from other things that happened and the way she reacted to them. It didn’t make much sense to me.

The characters in this, one of the most important things for me as a reader, were not great. Like I said above, the relationship between Janneke and Soren didn’t make sense as far as progression. Also, while Soren is obviously SO much better than his uncle, Lydian, who raped and tortured Janneke, he’s still holding her captive and forcing her to do things she doesn’t want to do? So…..? Why are you falling for him, girl? Why is this ok? Why isn’t he releasing her? What is the deal? Even after all of that, I didn’t hate the romance, except that I think it could have been developed so much better if their relationship hadn’t felt so weird to begin with. As it was, it felt kind of shallow. Speaking of shallow, none of the other characters are really fleshed out in this–they can be categorized either as generic evil monster or victim.

The world-building was only lightly touched on. I appreciated this sort of fae world hidden behind the real world that Janneke is from, because I love those types of worlds. But we didn’t really get to learn that much about it other than that it’s otherworldly, deadly, and full of folks fighting for power. I’m guessing the author is expecting us to fill in the blanks based on similar stories and tales of the fae, which is fine I guess, but I would have appreciated a little more exploration of the world and how it works.

At the end of the day, the only thing I really loved about this book is Janneke. She’s a human girl living in a world of monsters and doing her best to survive, wondering if she’s becoming one of them. The disappointing thing is that there’s some potential for this to have been a better story, but everything felt so surface level. I’ll still probably read a sequel because I’m interesting on seeing the author’s progress but it won’t be a huge priority. 2.5/5 stars.


27 thoughts on “Book Review: White Stag by Kara Barbieri

  1. Mischenko says:

    Darn! Sorry it turned out to be a not-so-great read. It does sound like it has some issues. I love the character names and could get lost in that cover though! I might still try it later on. Thanks for your honest review. ♥️

  2. @lynnsbooks says:

    I’m just reading this – only just started though. It doesn’t seem to be winning friends at the moment so I’ve pegged back my expectations – which might help.
    Lynn 😀

  3. evelynreads1 says:

    I keep hearing kinda dissapointing things about this book 😦 Not sure if I will pick it up!
    Thanks for the review, you explain well why it wasn’t what you expected 🙂


  4. theorangutanlibrarian says:

    I’m so sorry this was such a huge miss for you :/ A lot of this sounds disappointing tbh- the world building sounds underdeveloped and it’s such a shame most of the characters were not so brilliant. Great review though!

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