Once upon a time, there was a horrible girl . . .
Vanja Schmidt knows that no gift is freely given, not even a mother’s love. The adopted goddaughter of Death and Fortune, Vanja has long made her own way in the world as the dutiful servant of Princess Gisele. Until a year ago, when her otherworldly mothers demanded payment for their care, and Vanja decided to steal her future back . . . by stealing Gisele’s life.
With the help of an enchanted string of pearls, Vanja transformed into her former mistress and took her place, leaving the real Gisele a penniless nobody. Now, Vanja leads a lonely but lucrative double life as princess and jewel thief, charming the nobility while emptying their coffers to fund her great escape. Until, one heist away from freedom, Vanja crosses the wrong god and is cursed to turn into jewels, stone by stone.
With a feral guardian half-god, Gisele’s sinister fiance, and an overeager junior detective on her tail, Vanja has just two weeks to pull off her biggest grift yet, or she risks losing more than her freedom – she could lose her life.
In this delightfully irreverent retelling of ‘The Goose Girl’, Margaret Own crafts an unputdownable tale about stolen lives, thorny truths, and the wicked girls at the heart of both.
A brash "Goose Girl" retelling from the villain's point of view by way of Six of Crows. Vanya, the adopted daughter of Death and Fortune, has been impersonating the blonde and beautiful Prinzessin Gisele for the better part of the year. Using the Prinzessin's status to gain access aristocrats and rob them during high society parties, Vanya acquires a reputation as uncatchable and an alter ego: the Penny Phantom. While trying to steal enough gold to escape her divine godmothers, she accidentally crosses the wrong god during one of her burglaries. The Low God Eiswald curses her to slowly turn into the jewels she loves so much unless she can give back everything she stole-which means finding the real Gisele, not getting caught as the Penny Phantom, and getting out of this curse while all the gods are watching. A cast of fully realized characters are colored by Vanya's sharp tongue and criminal proclivities, making her a fun, and occasionally unreliable, narrator. Packed with heists, gods, and monsters, the Germanic worldbuilding is easily accessible and readers will love rooting for Owen's clever antiheroine with ambition. The main cast is white, with diversity in race, gender, and orientation in the supporting characters, including on-the-page queer couples. VERDICT With Six of Crows and The Cruel Prince as readalikes, this will find an audience anywhere there are fantasy fans. Highly recommended and not to be missed * School Library Journal * Part heist, part heart-wrenching coming-of-age novel, this is a new take on "The Goose Girl." An incorrigible thief, 17-year-old Vanja Schmidt's biggest theft was her mistress's life. Displacing Koer-prinzessin Gisele, soon-to-be Markgrafinvon Reigenbach, after arriving in Boern, Vanja has been masquerading as both Gisele and Greta, the maid, using her newfound access to steal from the elite as the Pfennigeist (Penny Phantom). Sick of being a servant and repeatedly abandoned-first by her mother, then by her adoptive goddess godmothers, Death and Fortune-Vanja's saving up for her escape from the Blessed Empire of Almandy, hoping to outrun Gisele, her thefts, the law, and the gods. Revenge against abusive aristocrats is a bonus. But the stakes rise, the countdown starts, and tension builds as a goddess curses Vanja, the zealous young investigator Junior Prefect Emeric Conrad arrives, and the predatory margrave Adalbrecht returns from battle to rush Gisele into marriage. Irreverent toward immortals and fiercely independent, Vanja must make alliances, apologies, and amends if she wants to survive. Romantic entanglements and malevolent magic complicate matters further. In this vaguely early modern Germanic setting, Vanja and many characters read as White. Pivoting from her innovative Merciful Crow series to retell an often revisited fairy tale, Owen delivers a cynical, sarcastic, devious, damaged, and self-aware antihero, a climactic crime caper, and a twisty legal-political thriller. A lush and lively adventure replete with romance, revenge, and robbery * Kirkus * As a child, Vanja Schmidt, was given to the Low Gods Death and Fortune at a midwinter crossroads. Now, almost 17, Vanja is a clever thief who lives by a theory she's deemed the trinity of want: people, she believes, can be wanted for profit, pleasure, or power. With one, you are used; two, you are seen. With all three, you are served. It's in part due to this trinity that Vanja, former maid to Princess Gisele von Falbirg, has stolen Gisele's life-and, thanks to magic, her face-and is impersonating her while slowly stealing enough jewels from nobility to ensure that she'll never have to serve anyone again. Unfortunately for Vanja, a deliciously devious antihero, this means she's also stolen Gisele's tyrannical fiance. Even more unfortunately, her thievery upsets a Low God, and she finds herself cursed: if she doesn't find a way to return all she has stolen, she'll turn to gemstones. With a pesky junior prefect on her tail, a former princess to find, a chaotically shape-shifting new sidekick, a wedding to avoid, and a ruby growing out of her cheek, Vanja's got her work cut out for her. Owen (The Merciful Crow, 2019) flips the tale of the Goose Girl on its head for a breathlessly inventive, never-a-dull-moment adventure of found family and second (or fourth or fifth) chances. If you're not careful, it'll steal your heart, too * Maggie Reagan, Booklist *
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