White Stag

Permafrost, Book 1
by Kara Barbieri

I am so torn about this book. On the one hand, it’s well written: the style is lovely and I slipped into the story well enough. The story about coming to terms with your identity and embracing yourself was powerful. But there was so much that just… bugged me about it. And it was only after I finished the book and took a step back that I realized what it was. 

Summary

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.

Musings

Let’s start with the good. As I said, it’s well written. There’s a massive effort in the worldbuilding and the plot itself is really creative. I liked how it all tied together in the end, and it makes for a strong standalone (even if a series is planned, so this is a good sign since the author isn’t leading us on). There was a lot that came together making it a strong fantasy novel. 

But there were a few things that irked me. For starters, GOBLINS. They’re not goblins. They’re fae or whatever, “unearthly beautiful” and wildly dangerous. They have nothing to do with anything goblin! Where’s the thievery? The enticing food that traps the eater? Not Goblins, and no matter how many times the author insists they are, you can’t just take a mythos and slap another name on them to make it sexy. 

The book is dark, violent, psychological. Which is good. But the rape component is just this character abuse that isn’t necessary for the story. The book would have read the same if she was just tortured without the rape. The disfigurement makes for an interesting character, making her thoroughly more complex, but we didn’t need the extra shock value. It is not handled with the care something so horrible deserves: it’s just there to make us feel worse for her. 

Now for the romance. I really liked Soren and thought he was a really great character, complex and unique. But their relationship is really weak for two people who have fought side by side for the past 100 years! Jenneke sometimes acts like she’s only known him a few weeks, which makes Soren’s “sudden” interest in her really weird. It picked up towards the end, and I was happy to see them together, but for the first few chapters, it was like they barely knew each other at all. 

All in all, I’ll probably read the next book, but I can’t get the image of a three-foot-tall pimply goblin out of my head.

Expected Publication January 8th 2019 by Wednesday Books

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