“I think there are lives that make it easy to be good. Or what most people call good. When you have wealth, status, family, it’s easy to be a saint, it costs you nothing. I can’t say if you’re a good person or not. But the more I know of you, the more I understand that the world keeps making you choose between survival and martyrdom. No one should fault you for wanting to live.”
Vanya is the goddaughter of Death and Fortune, but that doesn’t give her much advantage to her name. And so she’s stolen the life of her mistress, Princess Gisele, and become a thief to boot. When she is cursed by a forest goddess, Vanya must make up for everything that she has stolen – but that turns out to be quite complicated.
I had a feeling, when I first came across this book, that I was going to love it. It was right up my alley after all – a complex antiheroine for a lead, cat-and-mouse games, inventive curses. And then when I started reading it turned out this was a bit of a political fantasy novel too. Be still my heart.
Anyway, I did adore this. Vanya is a flawed lead with a core of steel, but having led a hardscrabble life it’s not so strange. She has a lot on her plate and as the story wears on is juggling an increasingly dangerous collection of problems. The author too juggles all those balls without dropping any, pulling off tension throughout the story. Though it is usually a tough sell for me in YA, I even enjoyed the romance, as the author focused on the emotional aspect of things between Vanya and Emeric.
Though the story veers well off from its inspiration of the fairytale of the Goose Girl, I was especially interested to see the relationship between princess and maid explored, and the books does not disappoint in this aspect. Vanya and Gisele could have merely been made enemies, but the bonds between them are more knotted than that and I liked that both characters grew throughout the story.
I did think some of the side characters could have been more fleshed out, and that the world-building was a trifle thin – but the latter at least is par for the course in YA Fantasy, and it did not affect my enjoyment of the story. I recommend this book for those who are looking for something new in the genre, and am very excited that a sequel has been announced!