Book Review

Painted Devils By Margaret Owen

Painted Devils

  • Author: Margaret Owen
  • Genre: YA Fantasy
  • Publication Date: May 16, 2023
  • Publisher: Macmillan Audio
  • Series: Little Thieves #2

Thank you to NetGalley and Macmillan Audio for providing me with an ARC of this audiobook in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

CONTENT WARNING: verbal and physical abuse, abandonment, anxiety, panic attack, blood, gore, mention of animal death (off-page), cults, mention of death of a parent (off-page), body image issues

Let’s get one thing straight—Vanja Schmidt wasn’t trying to start a cult.

After taking down a corrupt margrave, breaking a deadly curse, and finding romance with the vexingly scrupulous Junior Prefect Emeric Conrad, Vanja had one great mystery left: her long-lost birth family… and if they would welcome a thief. But in her search for an honest trade, she hit trouble and invented a god, the Scarlet Maiden, to scam her way out. Now, that lie is growing out of control—especially when Emeric arrives to investigate, and the Scarlet Maiden manifests to claim him as a virgin sacrifice.

For his final test to become a prefect, Emeric must determine if Vanja is guilty of serious fraud, or if the Scarlet Maiden—and her claim to him—are genuine. Meanwhile, Vanja is chasing an alternative sacrifice that may be their way out. The hunt leads her not only into the lairs of monsters and the paths of gods, but the ties of her past. And with what should be the simplest way to save Emeric hanging over their heads, he and Vanja must face a more dangerous question: Is there a future for a thief and a prefect, and at what price?

I fell in love with Vanja, even with all her flaws, in Little Thieves. Maybe it was even because of all of her flaws. But regardless, she earned a place in my heart, and I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next. So this audiobook ARC came as a welcomed gift. 

Our unrepentant con artist is back and better than ever in this book, as she’s navigating a new romance with her endearing Junior Prefect Emeric Conrad, and working to get to the bottom of her last unsolved question—her birth family, and whether they would welcome her as she is. She tries to do things the right way, but hits a snag and accidentally invents a new god to get out of trouble. In true Vanja fashion, it only creates more problems, in the form of an unintended cult.

This leads to Emeric’s final challenge to become a full-fledged prefect: investigating Vanja to see if she is guilty of fraud. He’s forced to set his feelings aside, as the person overseeing him is biased against Vanja, no matter what she does. I loved watching Emeric balance his desire to find the truth and punish those responsible for any responsible for injustice with his growing feelings for Vanja. I also thoroughly enjoyed seeing the dynamic between Emeric and Vanja, because these two are polar opposites, yet they’re completely meant for each other. 

As for Vanja, we get to see a more vulnerable side of her as she works on two different sides of her emotions—romance with Emeric, and reconciling her feelings of abandonment and fear about reconnecting with her family. And because it’s Vanja, you know things get more complicated, and the Scarlet Maiden demands Emeric as a virgin sacrifice since he’s “unclaimed.” So naturally Vanja is struggling to find a way to save Emeric and get around this requirement, so she’s nervous about the outcome of the prefect investigation and Emeric’s fate.

This was a fast-paced story with a lot of plot threads that all seemed unconnected but twined into one thread by the end of the story. I was fascinated, and Saskia Maarleveld did a fantastic job as the narrator. If you’re looking for a thrilling story that you won’t be able to put down, this is it. However, be prepared—there’s a third book in the works, and you’re going to want to get your hands on it immediately, if you’re anything like me.

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