Published: January 8, 2019
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Series: Permafrost #1
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 368 (Hardcover)
My Rating: 4.5/5.0
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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.
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know I’m a sucker for nice covers and all books featuring the fae, meaning that White Stag was a guaranteed request when I saw it. What really surprised me is how good it actually was! I mean, YA fantasy featuring some Fae noble and a human girl almost always plays out in a cookie-cutter fashion. Yes, this had several of these trademarks as well but it was well done instead of roughly put together.
Janneke was raised to hunt, fight, and know her woodcraft unlike her sisters who took on the traditional mothering roles but this is entirely to her benefit when she’s stolen away into the Permafrost, land of the Goblins. Her torturous captor Lydian eventually gifted her to his nephew Soren, who while still one of the hated Goblins, treats Janneke much more humanely. The story begins after Janneke has been in the Permafrost for nearly a century and has long been the trusted servant of Soren. The Goblin King has died and the hunt for the White Stag, which will determine the new king, has begun and Janneke and Soren must race to kill the stag before Lydian.
Janneke, as a result of living the Permafrost for so long is beginning to take on the traits of the monsters she despises and throughout the book she battles with this knowledge and the changes that come upon her. While beneficial for her survival, she loathes to lose her humanity. There is, unsurprisingly, a bit of slow burn romance between Janneke and Soren. He clearly has eyes only for her and that’s why she was for the most part treated equally despite the fact that he was technically her master. I mean, he treats all his servants well, but Janneke was clearly something special and she was his advisor on many things.
The entire hunt for the stag was extremely interesting (though I can’t stop thinking of the stag as the creepy Guardian of the Forest from Princess Mononoke). It quickly becomes clear that this race is between Soren and Lydian alone and the competition is intense. Janneke is skilled and blessedly isn’t a braggart like some YA fantasy characters tend to be. She shows instead of tells how awesome she is.
Overall, I thought White Stag was an excellent and riveting story with well executed plot elements. There was plenty of action without it being excessive and I liked the variety of folkloric beings that showed up – they provided some variety in a world full of lovely, powerful goblins. I’ll definitely be reading all further books in the Permafrost series!