My initial notes for this review just said ‘bruh‘ and honestly I stand by that. I’m so glad the hype got me on this one, because this is a spectacular book that is absolutely a contender for my favourite book of the year. If you like horrible girls realising they might actually be a good person, this is the book for you.
Rating: 5 stars!
Thanks to Hodder & Stoughton for the eARC of this book. It has not affected my honest review.
Content Warnings: discussed child abuse, neglect, attempted sexual assault.
About the book:
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.
What did I think?
I actually knew nothing about The Goose Girl when I started reading this book, and despite reading several summaries I still know basically nothing about The Goose Girl now. I recognise one fairytale and that’s the story of Vanja Schmidt. I did love the Germanic folklore-ish setting though. Vanja is sarcastic and sharp-tongued and a little (a lot) bitter about her lot in life. After being adopted by Death and Fortune, two goddesses she’s now indebted to, and then cursed by another god for her greed, she’s disenfranchised by pretty much the whole world (mood, Vanja) and she’s willing to do just about anything to get herself out of her life and into a future where she’s completely free. She’s so vibrant that she just seemed to leap off of the page. Honestly, all of the characters are this vibrant but I will not deny that Vanja and Emeric completely own me.
I loved the way that this book felt kind of like I was being told a story. It made it spectacularly easy to read and I marathoned it so quickly. It also makes for a great audiobook, as it kind of feels like you’re being told Vanja’s tale by some kind of bard – she’s definitely the hero that nobody wanted. The character relationships are the real heart of this book. It had a weird opposite-to-found-family thing going on, that I actually really liked. Vanja’s kind of been forcibly adopted into her found family against her will, even as she tries to stay a heartless and independent thief. There’s a lot happening in this book, but Owen does a good job at keeping it from getting overwhelming and overcomplicated and manages to bring everything to a really satisfying conclusion.
The relationship between Vanja and Emeric is just so, so good. I absolutely love that we have this very proper and procedural investigator trying to catch our fierce antiheroine out and ending up falling head over heels for her during their chase. It’s incredible and you can see them growing closer and then fighting their feelings for each other over and over again in such a satisfying way. I loved how real and authentic their relationship felt and that we’re once again being gifted with gorgeous fantasy settings that are completely queernorm worlds.
Not long after I finished this, there was an announcement that we’ll be getting another book in this world and I’m so pleased because while I usually prefer standalone novels (and this wraps up perfectly) I just love these characters so much that I can’t wait to read more about them.
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Release Date: 19th October 2021