I figured I’d probably love Little Thieves, considering how much I adored The Merciful Crow, but I wasn’t prepared for how much. My newest and latest obsession is Little Thieves. Vanja rules my heart okay? Seriously, if you think that we have similar book heroine tastes, this is a must read. Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.
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.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
TW: child abuse, neglect, mention of past sexual assault
Okay let me just begin this review by talking about how much I enjoyed Margaret Owen’s plot and writing. That way I can end this review with a love letter to Vanja. Little Thieves has a plot that is absorbing. It unfurls like a beautiful tapestry with gilded thread. The amount of twists and turns will keep you saying, “I’ll stop after this chapter…no this chapter”. This is a true story, it happened to me. I had to fight to put the book down because I had to figure out what was going to happen.
This is my favorite “Goose Girl” retelling because I feel like Owen leans heavily into the class division between the servant and the princess. Because we’re supposed to believe the best of nobility? NOPE. While reading, I have so many notes which are just me excitedly recapping events that happened and being like, “OMG WHAT”. Again, this is a direct quote from my notes. And Owen tells a compelling story that not only makes you feel like you’re unraveling the mystery, but that you are part of the story.
Characters and Vanja
Because the characters in it are so three dimensional. They are quirky, endearing, and flawed. It’s easy to say, “oh that’s such a Vanja thing” because we get a fabulous sense of who they are. I could write a mini rave about each of these side characters because they have such a place in my heart. From Ragne’s loyalty, to Emeric’s determination and plucky spirit, even to Gisele’s love of children. But Vanja is, undeniably, my favorite. She’s mercurial and practical, snarky and bold, and also vulnerable and scared.
First I fell in love with her ambition. The ways that ambition from girls is so often frowned down upon, not to mention their desires for fortune. I feel like we see women’s desire for fortune as being shallow, when it’s ‘ambitious’ for men. Enter Vanja and her greed, but also driven by a practical knowledge that no one is going to watch out for her. That she can only rely on herself. She knows all too well the differences in circumstance and privilege. The role of being unseen.
And at times she can be seen as prideful, not wanting to ask for help, but for Vanja she’s never had help without strings. (But also her aversion to asking for help hit too close to home thank you). Because all Vanja wanted was to be loved, to have a place, and then her very sudden and awful reversal has deeply scarred her. She never wants to be that naive or trusting. Throughout her life she learned that she had to be colder to survive.
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But Vanja must learn that some people are worth trusting. With her curse she is forced to make amends, but she has to also figure out how to forgive herself. How to live with her decisions and knowing that living in isolation isn’t the way forward. Because when we never trust anyone, we live a life of loneliness where we doubt our choices. That some people deserve second chances. Even ourselves.