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.
I received a copy of this book for review and can confirm all thoughts and opinions are my own.
Ok. I’m gonna admit it, I haven’t read Owen’s previous series, but you can bet your ass I’ll be picking it up now. Little Thieves has pretty much everything I love in a book, an unapologetic bad ass MC, tonnes of folklore, standout side characters and a baddy I wanted to pummel to death. It was witty, heartbreaking and tense af in parts, and I loved every single word of it.
Vanja Schmidt doesn’t want to believe in destiny. She doesn’t want to believe that being the thirteenth child of the thirteenth child means she’s bad luck, that being the goddaughter of two low gods Death and Fortune means she will end up serving one of them for the rest of her life, that being a servant is all she will be in life, and if she has to steal someone else fate to ensure that, then so be it. But with every day that passes, escaping her own fate seems less and less likely and on one fateful night her two lives come crashing together and Vanja finds herself cursed. She has until the next full moon to return that which she is taken or she will be devoured by her own greed. After attempting to make good on the money she has stolen, Vanja quickly realises that to truly save herself she will have to return more than money, but the life she has stolen, but once she finds the true Princess Gisele a chain of events is set in motion that endangers not only Vanja, but the people she is begrudgingly beginning to care about, and she may just have to accept her fate after all if they are to make it out alive.
Vanja has quickly wormed her way into my all time favourite characters. If you love characters that are morally grey, witty, damaged and plenty dangerous then look no further. How Owen introduced her to us and then let us learn more about her chapter by chapter was masterfully done. The more we learn about her past, the more we understand the decisions she has made. She’s never had someone who just loves her, people have always wanted her to serve them in some way, when all she wanted was to be one thing a daughter, a friend. She’s standoffish and aloof, but underneath it all is a girl who just desperately wants to be loved, but struggles to lower the walls shes built around herself. I genuinely loved seeing her become more open as the book went on, seeing the other characters slowly knocking down her wall brick by brick.
As well as Vanja, Owen graces us with a stand out cast of side characters, my favourite of which was Ragne. Ragne is the daughter of Eiswald, the God who curses Vanja and is left with her as an almost guardian to protect her while she completes her task. Living with a low god has meant that has has no experience with humans, how they interact etc and it was hilarious seeing Vanja trying to almost train her in how to act ‘normal.’ The two other side characters who play a large part in the story are Gisele, the Princess whose identity Vanja stole and Emeric, the Junior prefect who is sent to investigate the Pfennigeist, Vanja’s on the side thief persona. Every single one of these characters has an impact on who Vanja is as a character and how she grows into a different person throughout the book. Ragne is the first person who accepts Vanja for who she is, warts and all, one of the first people she would class as a true friend. Gisele is the proverbial ghost in the closet, Vanja can never truly move on without Gisele understanding the reasoning behind her actions, and how she let her down time and time again as a friend. And finally Emeric, there’s is a slightly more romantic relationship which I’ll talk about later.
I’m sure by now you all know how much I love the addition of folklore in a story and Little Thieves has it in spades. Set in a German style fantasy world, Owen does a brilliant job of weaving Germanic style folklore to make a tale filled with magic, gods and spirits both evil and good. Her world-building is astounding, not only because of the lore, but she delves into the inner politics of her world so we know exactly who rules what, which families are important, who can inherit the throne etc, and creates a unique and intriguing magic system which she uses not only to build her world, but as plot points in the story which she weaves together to create a sometimes predictable, but nevertheless entertaining story.
I adored how this book turned the traditional ‘beautiful princess gets cursed by her evil maid’ trope on the head, and giving us the story from the POV of the maid ensured that is remained fresh and gripping. Each new ‘story’ of the book gives us an insight into Vanja’s past, how she came to be under the protection of Death and Fortune, what exactly Gisele did to deserve having her lifestyle taken away, and the more I read the angrier I got, at not only how people were treating Vanja, but of her inner belief that maybe she deserved it. Her character goes through an emotionally packed journey in this book, and she has to start questioning her stubborn independence and allowing the thought to get through that maybe her life doesn’t have to always be so lonely, that she can let people in and they wont dismiss or let her down. There are plenty of plot twists thrown in, and one particular one towards the end that absolutely broke me, but Owen’s fresh take on this tale ensures we stay gripped to the pages.
Any enemies to lovers fans out there? This book might just be for you. I loved seeing the progression of Vanja & Junior Prefect Emerics romance, the will they wont they tension filled scenes certainly had me wanting to jump in and just whack them both upside the head, but the more you learn about Vanja, the more you understand her reluctance in letting anyone in. Their snark and initial perceptions of each other had be cackling, but the more time they spend together, they better they get to know each other and barriers start slowly coming down. There was one scene that really angered me and I felt that Vanja forgave him a little too easily, but I loved them together despite it.
Little Thieves is perfect for readers who love complicated and witty MC’s, fantasy worlds steeped in folklore, a both lighthearted and disturbing story and a sweet enemies to lovers romance. This isn’t a book you can speed through, but one you have to savour and I was so happy to find out it was the start of a series so I can return to this world, and hopefully the characters again.