I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book in any way.
Series: Little Thieves #1
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Published: October 2021
A scrappy maid must outsmart both palace nobles and Low Gods in a new YA fantasy by Margaret Owen, author of the Merciful Crow series.
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.
As often happens when I utterly and totally love a book, I am struggling to write a proper review for this one. Little Thieves was an absolute blast to read and, while I had a feeling I might like it, it completely blew my expectations out of the water! I read this towards the end of 2021 and it easily earned its rightful place as one of my favourite reads of the year.
Starting from a lesser-known fairytale, The Goose Girl, Little Thieves manages to craft a wholly new and original tale, maintaining all the key elements from the original without simply re-writing it. In short, it masterfully does precisely what a retelling should do, and it was so refreshing. The Germanic medieval-esque setting worked beautifully as a backdrop to this story, and its society, traditions and lore were essential in making this book so great to read, complementing the plot in an exquisite manner.
But where the book really shines is in the cast of characters. All the characters (including some of the minor ones) were drawn in an incredibly realistic manner, and our main character and narrator, Vanja, was one of the best I have had the joy to read about. She is deliciously complex, snarky, resourceful, witty, and of dubious morality but in a way that is always understandable, if not always justifiable. I loved the inclusion of seven tales throughout the book to give background, explain past events, and give some context as to why characters would behave a certain way. They may not have always made the best decisions, but it made complete sense for them to do so, and this is something I really enjoy seeing.
The rest of the cast was also fantastic, with a wide range of characters, some lovable and some utterly despicable. Shape-shifting half-goddess Ragne, who is assigned by her mother to guard Vanja after she is cursed, definitely earned a spot in my heart! But so did (almost) everyone else to be honest… The character development in this book is *chef’s kiss*! I also loved the inclusion of low and high Gods and their interactions with humans, and Vanja in particular.
The plot was intricate enough to keep me gripped, with never a dull moment despite the book’s size, but it never became so complicated that I felt lost or like it was going off on a tangent. Instead, every moment felt absolutely necessary within the overall scheme and it all came together beautifully. Plus, there were tons of elements I loved, such as a bit of heist and cons; magic; glorious food descriptions; friendships, betrayals, and love; and even a dash of courtroom drama!
In short, Little Thieves is sheer perfection and I am so, so happy it found its way to me. I look forward to re-reading this one soon!