By Cynthia Bujnicki
Janneke lost everything when the Goblins invaded her village. Taken as a slave, she suffered for years. However, now new challenges arise when the Goblin King is murdered, leaving the seat open for whoever can capture and kill the powerful White Stag. Now Janneke must join the hunt and face her old abuser, putting her strength to the test in the hopes of overcoming everything that has caused her pain, making sure her abuser does not become king.
Fascinating novel. The most substantial aspect of this novel is the fact that it follows Janneke, a character who is a survivor. After her village was decimated, leaving her the sole survivor, by Goblins, monsters of remarkable beauty that raid and pillage, Janneke was taken prisoner, a slave, repeatedly raped and beaten for decades as she served under a monster stronger than her. However, brute strength is not the only type of power; there are wit and determination, both of which Janneke use to overpower her abuser and escape him.
However, she escaped him for another, kinder, Goblin master as the laws of the Permafrost bind her. That is where the story begins, going back into the past to explore the pain that the Janneke still holds close to her. She is a survivor, but even after years, her former abuser still has some sort of power over her. He lingers, like a shadow, over her, coming through her scars, her memories, and the pain that lingers there. So, the story is a journey for her, to overcome that pain, to overcome the past and search inside of herself to find self-love, to find respect for herself and uncover the strength that had saved her once and use it to replace her pain. It is an empowering journey that unfolds, and Janneke faces so many obstacles in this journey, more monsters, that seek to destroy her from the inside out because she is human. There is also a risk here for her, a risk that Janneke also fears: that overcoming her pain means she would become a monster. However, that is the power of the novel as it focuses on her and her journey, to uncover her strength and move on past the pain of losing her family and her innocence.
As for the story, let us list the trigger warnings: sexual assault/rape, torture, body mutilation, and emotional abuse. These are essential aspects of the novel because they all connect to Janneke’s journey. That being said, they are uncomfortable scenes, and, at times, hard to read. They are not explicit, but there is enough detail there in those scenes that will make the reader’s skin crawl because of how Janneke’s emotions burn off pages. They are not meant to be easy scenes to read, as they never should be, which is part of the impact of the novel. Again, this connects to Janneke’s strength and her character growth. Everything in the novel connects which is part of what makes it a good read.
The writing, as persuasive as it is regarding characterization does falter a bit when it comes to the pace of the novel. There are times when the novel drags just a little too much, where the scenes that are less important take too long to resolve themselves and progress forward. The pacing is the biggest issue of the novel because while Janneke’s journey is impactful, the outer conflict of the plot, take a little too long to move forward and along. (★★★☆☆ | B)