I have never read The Goose Girl, but I do know the overarching plot of the story. However, Margaret Owen really tears it down to the bones and rebuilds it as one of the best retellings that I’ve read in recent years. Little Thieves may be the underrated hit of 2021.
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.
This was my first Owen experience and I loved every second of it. She really leaned into the Germanic influence of the original tale, letting it provide the culture and world that this story is set in. My medieval German background is iffy at best (HA!) so I did struggle a tad bit in the beginning with all of the different terms, but I caught on once the story really got going. Which is a good thing because the plot moves pretty fast with this one, specially in the beginning when you are immediately dropped into the story. I love books that really start off with a bang and so I was happy that I can add this book to that list.
Vanja is a little devil. And I mean that in the best way possible! She is an acerbic wit and always has a comeback locked and loaded. I liked that Owen really leaned into her independence and need to not let anyone get too close, as she has always been burned by relationships in the past. I have to say that this was one of the more realistic portrayals of someone who’s been affected by a traumatic event in their life. I actually connected with that story and immediately grasped to why she felt that way and let it dictate the decisions she would make. And for me, that doesn’t always happen. I also enjoyed the side characters, Gisele and Ragne. Ragne was hilarious and the perfect sidekick. And Gisele was very interesting and had much more depth than I would have expected. Then there’s our sweet cinnamon bun, Emeric. He’s very smart and a great “junior” detective. I thought he was the perfect love interest for Vanja, as they are complete opposites. And also, who doesn’t love a good enemies-to-lovers trope?!
Like I mentioned earlier, my only real issue with this book was the heavy German influence on the terms and titles used. It took me a while to piece everything together and remember who was who or what such and such was. But luckily. things started to make sense as the story progressed. It definitely didn’t deter from my reading experience in any way.
Overall, this is definitely one of my favorite fantasy reads of the year so far. It was fun, fast-paced, and full of memorable characters. I liked the open ending, but now I’m really happy knowing that there will be a sequel so we can see where our favorites all end up. I really recommend this book to anyone, whether you’re familiar with original Goose Girl story or are not. It really brings a fresh flavor to the story, while still delivering the original fairytale. I do warn that some of the flashback segments mention/describe child abuse so just be aware of that, as well as some PTSD from that situation.
Final Verdict: 5/5 Stars
Have you read Little Thieves yet? If so, what did you think of it? Do you enjoy fairytale retellings? What are some favorites that you would recommend?