Absolutely Enchanting!

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Right from the very beginning, I really loved this book! I found it very entertaining and touching throughout, and it was simply just fun to read every step of the way.

I think a huge part of my enjoyment of Little Thieves comes from Vanja as a protagonist. Right off the bat she's witty and conniving, and watching her clever plans to rob the wealthy unfold was just a delight. The writing style is absolutely full of her personality and the way she thinks about things, making her feel like a full character right from the get go--though of course each chapter just added to her nuance and revealed more of what she struggles with and why she is the way she is, which was so compelling to see. In particular, I just adore how she absolutely despises being vulnerable! It totally make sense given her childhood, and although I'm glad she eventually opens up more and really connects with those around her, I loved how she treats each instance where she's forced to do so like pulling teeth. She's just such a lively, clever, and deeply fallible character, and I was rooting for her every step of the way.

And though I'd have to say Vanja's my favorite, I really enjoyed this novel's characters overall! Learning about the real Giselle (and how different she is from how Vanja plays her!) was so fun, and the dynamic between the two of them, fraught as it is, is just so interesting and complicated and very real! Of course I adore Ragne, she's so funny and VERY cool. While I loathe him, Adalbrecht is an incredibly potent villain. He has just this cold, sinister aura and the way he treats everyone around him is just so threatening and very realistic to those in power in the real world (until you get to the evil horse magic stuff, at least, but that part's very grounded in the book itself).

I liked the romance fine overall; there were some moments that really got to me, like when Emeric is undoing Vanja's shoes to heal her, and the kind of cat-an-mouse dynamic between them, but it wasn't necessarily the part of the book I was most invested in. It was nice to see them both be vulnerable, and I like that Emeric, being very nerdy and by the rules, feels like a very refreshing type of male love interest in comparison to the many, many bad boy types that are very common right now.

Another of my favorite things about Little Thieves is both the magic itself and the overall fairytale vibes! I feel like I had a decent understanding of what sort of world the characters live in very early on with very little exposition needed. Both the deep magic of this world and how dangerous it can be are very clear, both in major things like Vanja's curse but also just the witches wrapped in bells to drive away bad spirits. It all feels very much like traditional fairytales, with both wonderful and terrible things, and with a clear threat in the gods and the magic without being overly edgy or dark like many books are. From the very first chapter, the storybook atmosphere was incredibly palpable and delightful, and each little section like that was perfectly timed to reveal more about Vanja's life while still feeling like a children's story, but tied into the larger plot and tone of the book so well. And of course the way "find the lady" pops up over and over again, as a way for Vanja to describe her tricks and then a genuine description of her situation, is just such good imagery and so delightful!

I do feel like this book could've had more central characters of color, however. Owen establishes by the second chapter that same-gender couples are a thing in this world, and of course there's also the relationship between Gisele and Ragne; she also mentions there's a few transgender noblewomen around. All of this I greatly appreciate a lot! It just also makes me think that Own could've put the same level of care into including people of color in this work, beyond the characters she does include and mentioning a few people here or there from distant countries. Joniza and Umayya are the only non-white characters who come to mind, and while Joniza is moreso central to the plot, she still feels secondary to characters like Gisele, Emeric, and Ragne, which is a bummer because she's so fun. It does makes sense to me that both Vanja and Gisele would be white, because both their huge difference in social status and the whole identity-theft thing would likely have very different baggage if either of them was a woman of color. I think it just would've been really cool if Emeric was a character of color, especially as the love interest and one who has such an important role. So while this book is definitely more diverse than many fantasy books, I do think it could've been even better.

Overall, this was a work that I really enjoyed! Between the characters, the wonderful fairytale settings, and the fast-paced, mysterious plot, it had me hooked from the beginning to the end. Also, Vanja is definitely a character I'll be thinking about for awhile.