White Stag

368p. Wednesday Bks. Jan. 2019. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250149589.
Gr 10 Up—The Wattpad author debuts with a violent YA fantasy that draws heavily on elements of Norse mythology. In the first installment of a planned trilogy set in the Permafrost, humans and a society of beautiful, fierce goblins uneasily coexist in adjacent kingdoms. Seventeen-year-old human Janneke has been enslaved to the powerful goblin lord Soren for 100 years, ever since her village was burned, her family massacred, and she was captured by Soren's ruthless uncle Lydian. After enduring unspeakable brutality at Lydian's hands, Janneke tolerates Soren as a master but still views all goblins as monsters. When the ancient goblin king dies, Janneke and Soren join the legendary white stag hunt to determine who will succeed him. Along the way, they must outwit "svartelves," battle a pair of vicious "lindworms," and fend off attacks from rival goblin gangs. Throughout the adventure, Janneke struggles to come to terms with her traumatic history as she discovers mysterious newfound powers, emotional strength, and a growing tenderness toward Soren. In her interior monologues, Janneke repeatedly and vividly relives Lydian's brutal abuse, which becomes particularly problematic when scenes of graphically described rape are invoked to demonstrate Lydian's—and his fellow goblins'—monstrous nature. Although Barbieri tries to portray Janneke as a strong female lead, she seems to be defined mainly through her relationships with men, and her character growth is underdeveloped.
VERDICT Not recommended.

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