Publishing Oct. 19, 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 book was SO GOOD. I love how it took a somewhat-obscure-but-still-familiar fairytale plot and turned it on its head so many times it was hardly recognizable by the end. Everything about it was so unique and fascinating, and I absolutely adored the characters.
Vanja is a force to be reckoned with, and her dry commentary was a joy to read. I highlighted SO MANY passages, especially the ones that contrasted the vaguely medieval Germany fairytale setting with some very modern phrasings.
Emeric, too, was a delight, especially when he and Vanja forgot to be annoyed at each other while sharing the joy of a chase/investigation and their own cleverness.
Ragne was wonderfully baffled at human customs, frequently disdaining them, and Gisele grew on me by the end, and I hope we get many more of this foursome’s adventures.
I loved the taste we get of Death and Fortune and I hope they, too, will show up in future adventures. The villains (minor and major) were quite dastardly and it was so nice to see them get their comeuppance.
The writing is utterly gorgeous, with plenty of Margaret Owen’s signature unexpected phrases that are devastating in their simple truth.
This is a story I know I will be revisiting.
*Thanks to NetGalley and Hodder & Stoughton for providing an e-arc for review.
The piper she’s interrupting looks both delighted and furious, and I have to agree with her earlier assessment: Her archnemesis is unreasonably handsome.
I am not going to smile at him. I refuse on principle. (The principle is: I’ve already met my emotional availability quota for the day.)
“Sorry–sorry–I’m not looking–” Emeric starts to back out of the room, spots the nachtmahr, and proceeds to visibly cycle through both fight and flight instincts at a speed heretofore unobserved in the common man.
(It might not surprise you to know the two most popular urns are copper and coal. Maybe that says something about human nature, but I also think it says something about personal budgeting. Buying good luck? In this economy?)
I want him to stay like this. Close to me, touching my face feather-light, like I am something precious, I am worth taking care. Like I deserve to live without wounds, not despite them. I want this moment trapped in amber, so I can hold it tight when I need it most.
There’s a shimmering, intoxicating kind of thrill to it, this game between us. I am his puzzle and he is my lock, and it’s an arms race to solve the other first. But somewhere in all the knots and twists and trapdoors, he turned to an arsonist, leaving his embers in my veins, smoke on my tongue, a fire burning softly in my heart. And it will not die easy.
I cannot believe I’m attracted to a human civics primer.
You would think the most formidable thing in Castle Reigenbach wouldn’t be a reedy law library incarnate, but in that moment — he is, because I believe him.
It’s not a challenge; it’s a quiet, immovable fact. For all my schemes and facades and artifice, I am not prepared in the slightest for the simple, devastating intimacy of being believed.
I don’t know what’s worse: that he’s slipped into my heart like a knife, or that I like the feel of him there.
I’m at a loss for words. Probably because I’m having an extraordinary and overwhelming number of feelings right now, and chief among them is outrage that I am this attracted to a personified pocket ledger.
The oak door gives a surly rattle, creaking open with absolutely no regard for the heart attack I’m having.
“You’re coming in, ja?” croaks the withered turnip of a doorman, before muttering something about frisky teenagers.
His voice echoes over the Gottenmarkt, which looks like someone sucker punched the treasury, and it spewed all over the plaza. (Adalbrecht. Adalbrecht was the one doing the punching.)
Above her floats Truth, who has taken the form of a wheel of eyes today. (As one does.)
Justice looks down, and while a skull can’t frown, she is absolutely nailing the same feeling.
(This is where I have to admit I’m impressed he’s coming up with the rhymes on the fly. Not bad for, you know, a horse.)