Little Thieves by Margaret Owen

Little Thieves by Margaret Owens
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Little Thieves Book Cover Little Thieves
Margaret Owen
Teen, YA, Folklore Adaptation, Humorous Dark Fantasy
Henry Holt & Co. (BYR)
October 19, 2021
Kindle, Hardcover, Audiobook
512

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.

“Delightfully irreverent retelling of “The Goose Girl” about stolen lives, thorny truths, and the wicked girls at the heart of both.”

Margaret Owen has created a stunning hook with the cover art of her new book Little Thieves. The gorgeous imagery coveys the dark retelling of the classic Grimm’s fairy tale The Goose Girl, about an evil lady in waiting who steals the position of a beautiful and kind princess on the way to her husband-to-be. Only in Owen’s irreverent version the story is turned on its head. Vanja Schmidt’s life was cursed from the time she was four when her mother made a deal with Death and Fate. Vanja grows up thinking she is loved by them until as a teenager these “aunts” demand she chose one or the other as payment for the debt of raising her. Instead she chooses to take her future into her own hands and no longer be the abused servant girl. She steals the looks and life of the haughty and selfish Princess Gisele with an enchanted set of pearls and creates the Pfennigeist, the Penny Thief, to reach her goal of freedom.

Vanja is definitely a morally gray heroine. Her life as the Pfennigeist and Giselle leaves little doubt to her selfish priorities. However, life is not lived out in black and whites. Owen creatively weaves through the plot of the story the multiple shades of events and circumstances that have created Vanja which allows the reader to gain a bit of understanding and even sympathy for her. Vanja’s quest to gain her freedom, set against a historical German backdrop, with its language and customs, made for a rich and fascinating read. While a number of the obstacles Vanja is confronted with appear gruesome and sinister, the story is actually a dark comedy of errors that mocks the seriousness in both subtle and blatant ways.

The first half of Little Thieves is a captivating discovery of the world and characters that Owen has created and an engaging buildup to an interesting adaptation of The Goose Girl. But, midway through the story the plot begins to bog down and the comedy of errors becomes tiresome and irritating. Through all of this, Vanja becomes less likeable and I found myself wanting her to fail just to get things over with. When I finally reached the ending it felt like a quick wrap up because the book had already reached the 500 page mark. I did not dislike Little Thieves but I think I would have really enjoyed a more streamlined and fuller ended version.

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