This is my last post for August and I’m ending it with my new favorite standalone fantasy. I don’t read standalones much but definitely would prefer them over series when I have lot on my plate. I was so excited to start this book but it took me a week to finish it. In the end, I enjoyed it and that’s what matters. I’ll probably post my wrap up on Thursday or Friday.
Now let’s begin this review.
About the Book
Title: Little Thieves • By: Margaret Owen
Publishing on: 19 Oct 2021 • By: Hodder & Stoughton
Pace: Medium • Pages: 512 • Age: 13+
Series: Standalone • Genre: YA Fantasy
Once upon a time, there was a horrible girl…
Vanja Schmidt knows that no gift is freely given, not even a mother’s love–and she’s on the hook for one hell of a debt. Vanja, the adopted goddaughter of Death and Fortune, was Princess Gisele’s dutiful servant up until a year ago. That was when Vanja’s otherworldly mothers demanded a terrible price for their care, and Vanja decided to steal her future back… by stealing Gisele’s life for herself.
The real Gisele is left a penniless nobody while Vanja uses an enchanted string of pearls to take her place. Now, Vanja leads a lonely but lucrative double life as princess and jewel thief, charming nobility while emptying their coffers to fund her great escape. Then, one heist away from freedom, Vanja crosses the wrong god and is cursed to an untimely end: turning into jewels, stone by stone, for her greed.
Vanja has just two weeks to figure out how to break her curse and make her getaway. And with a feral guardian half-god, Gisele’s sinister fiancé, and an overeager junior detective on Vanja’s tail, she’ll have to pull the biggest grift yet to save her own life.
Margaret Owen, author of The Merciful Crow series, crafts a delightfully irreverent retelling of “The Goose Girl” about stolen lives, thorny truths, and the wicked girls at the heart of both.
I received a copy of this book from Hodder & Stoughton courtesy of NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.
Rep: Lesbian, Gay (side characters)
• Odds that favor a new card
Since the synopsis summarizes the book perfectly I’m going to skip that part and move to the characters and themes.
Vanja: Vanja was going through many issues. She was traded from one parent to another and then left alone in Castle Falbirg. She hated being a servant, not because of the workload but because of the way Falbirgs treated their servants was cruel and severe. She was 13 when she was whipped for a theft she didn’t commit. It haunts her in her dreams and she was never able to forgive the Falbirgs for that.
In the book, nobody actually knows the real Vanja until the second act. Though she stole Gisele’s life, she never really wanted to be someone else. She wanted to be accepted by her godmothers as a daughter and not as a servant and wanted to be seen.
Gisele: The real Gisele was a spoiled princess. She felt angry that Vanja stole her life but didn’t want to go back being Adalbrecht’s fiancee. He was twice older than her and has a mean personality so she is quite happy in the orphanage where she found refuge. Her mother criticized her appearance often and so she was quite comfortable being away from her.
Adalbrecht : Adalbrecht was autocratic, controlling every single person around him and likes to feel powerful by micromanaging their lives. He didn’t let Gisele (Vanja) have a say in any preparations for their wedding and shut her down whenever she tried to voice her opinions. He was doing shady stuffs, which was evident in the small trail he left behind.
Ragne: Ragne is Eiswald’s daughter. She’s a shapeshifter and best friend of Vanja. Eiswald was the Low God who cursed Vanja for stealing her token of protection from the Eisendorfs. Ragne was initially asked to keep an eye on Vanja, but after getting to know her as a person they became more closer and the rest is history. She was genuinely the best person in Vanja’s life.
Emeric Conrad: Emeric was a classic example to remind one to never underestimate a person who was clumsy and nervous. He was putting an act until everyone turned their attention from him and he used that time gap to sweep in solve in the Penny Ghost mystery.
Death & Fortune: Vanja’s godmothers played an interesting role in the book. They weren’t the traditional godmothers so their upbringing was different. They were always there for her. There would be grey clouds or gold dust hovering over Vanja, harbingers of bad luck or fortune. They were waiting to be called for help by Vanja, but she never chose either of them, yet they protected her till the end.
• The Red Penny
Vanja didn’t intend to become a thief. I think the Falbirgs made her one. She understood that with money and power, people could get away with anything they did and never bothered to care for people below their status. The whipping incident was a wake up call to her reality. She made sure that she was never found vulnerable like that again and paid them back.
She never planned on stealing Gisele’s life but the odds were favoring her so she seized it. She didn’t take Gisele’s place to become a princess but to find a way to escape her godmothers. Which went well until one mishap that got her cursed. This all happens in the first act; the rest of the book focuses on undoing the curse. It sounded so simple in the beginning, but it proved more tricky than she had thought.
Walking around with a gem stuck on her face was the least of her concerns when she had them popping out on her stomach, knuckles, spine, digging into her flesh, reminding her that the more she lied and was greedy, she’d never get rid of the curse. At one point, she was done figuring it out and gave up altogether but the answer came to her right then, when she least expected it.
• Augur’s Tears
Not everyone possessed magic in this book. Those in the Order of Godly Prefects did and the low gods themselves. Conrad was a junior prefect, so he had only a fraction of magic at his disposal than fully ordained prefects. But he did have tools that helped curing ailments and bruises which came in handy most of the time.
There were different kinds of magic here, and I liked the degrees in which they were presented to me. Witches here practiced a different kind of magic. It was dark and dangerous than the perfects. I can’t say much about them but there were two things that caught my attention though— Augur’s Tears and Bösling.
Augur’s Tears was a powerful potion made out of the tears of the Low God, Truth. Taken more than one sip can kill a person because it’s after effects were overwhelming and fatalistic. I liked how it worked in the book. It made one see everything hidden about a person to the naked eye.
Bösling was quite intriguing creatures to read about. They were “wicked, hungry spirit, looking for a meal.” They protected the house they lived in from ghosts and mahr. They were harmless and loyal to the owner of the house. The bösling in Adalbrecht’s house was showing up in chimneys when their help was needed, and they were oddly friendly in the book.
Mahr were a set of evil spirits that could spy for their master and kill anyone they were ordered to. They came in all shapes of animals and were tricky to kill.
• Saints and martyrs!
There’s only one complaint I have for this novel; I’ll list it here before my conclusion. This book had many German words or they seemed German to me. There’s a lot of names dropped in without explanations or translations. If there was an appendix for that it’d have been helpful.
Vanja wanted justice. She wanted a friend, and a mother who never abandoned her. She never escaped her fears and saw them reflected in the mirror. As much as she hated to be subservient, she was inevitably finding herself playing the part of the perfect maid to Gisele or others. She has trust issues, and I don’t blame her for that. But her past shaped her into a strong, independent person and she wanted to never owe anyone a single penny again. That’s when she became a real thief and started to collect money to pay her debt.
She was often called selfish, greedy and unpleasant. But I understood where that was coming from. She was looking for herself when almost everybody in her life left her and made her feel like a burden in their lives.
She fought everyone who stood in her way and resort to questionable choices but was unapologetic about it.
I liked her stubbornness and humor. It spoke about her character. But though she sounded obnoxious, I liked her as a character. She showed growth and remained herself throughout.
The romance was an unexpected bonus and a good depiction of enemie-to-lovers trope that I rarely see in Fantasy these days.
Besides the ending feeling rushed, this is one brilliant Fantasy.
Little Thieves reads the story of a character who fights against all odds (from mortals and Low Gods) to find her ticket to freedom. I thoroughly loved reading this book and recommend it.
Little thieves steal gold, and great ones steal kingdoms, but only one goes to the gallows.
TW // Sexual Assault, Physical Abuse, Whipping, Blood, Body Shaming, Drowning Imagery
“A person’s a person, no matter how small.”