We Are All Monsters: A Review of White Stag

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. 

So think about how Maas loves Fae. Now instead of Fae, you’ve got a kingdom of goblins (who are similar, but infinitely more vicious), magical permafrost, and an actual enjoyable protagonist. There is where you’ll find White Stag.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to sit down and just straight up read for an extended period of time. And wanting to see exactly how this story played out!

I’m just gonna go ahead and throw some trigger warnings out for: rape, physical abuse, emotional abuse, animal death, body dysmorphia…I think that’s all.

Janneke has lived with the goblins for almost a century after Lydian, an insane goblin lord, burnt her village to the ground. She spent four months with him, where she was abused in every possible way. Soren was supposed to be the end of her, but instead he brought her back from the brink.

Janneke’s PTSD presents itself in a lot of overly realistic ways. She pushes herself hard to be an incredible fighter, she barely sleeps, she barely eats. She starts acting more goblin than human. To the point where she starts adapting to their powers.

I honestly loved this debut. Barbieri created this terrifying world where we so want our heroine to win, to learn how to be human again. And Soren is truly one of those antiheroes who you know you want to hate, but it’s also very clear that you can’t. Bless his heart, he doesn’t even begin to understand jokes or sarcasm.

There are so many discussion points within the story, as well. Ranging from the aforementioned abuse and PTSD to gender roles and expectations (as the seventh daughter, Janneke was raised by her human family to take over the male heir’s role).

Horrifying and lyrical, Kara Barbieri’s White Stag makes me question if Fae are even half as badass as goblins. I give it 5 out of 5 iron nails. Thank you to Wednesday Press for including me with this book tour and providing a copy of the book in exchange for review! You can pick up a copy here!

More About the Author:

Kara Barbieri is a writer living in the tiny town of Hayward, Wisconsin. An avid fantasy fan, she began writing White Stag at eighteen and posting it to Wattpad soon after under the name of ‘Pandean’. When she’s not writing, you can find her marathoning Buffy the Vampire Slayer, reviving gothic fashion, and jamming to synthpop. You can find her on Twitter at @PandeanPanic.

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