Painted Devils Book Cover Painted Devils
Margaret Owen
Dark Fantasy Teen
Macmillan Audio
May 16, 2023

A scrappy former maid and jewel thief must outwit gods, injustice, and her own past in this sequel to the Indie Next Pick, Little Thieves by Margaret Owen. 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 whether 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—is genuine. Meanwhile, Vanja is chasing an alternative sacrifice that could be their way out. The hunt leads her not only into the lairs of monsters and the paths of gods, but also 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? From the indie bestselling author Margaret Owen comes to the thrilling next installment in the Little Thieves trilogy.

I received Painted Devils from Net Galley, but ultimately I just HAD to buy the audio and listen instead.

I was insanely impressed with the creativity and world building of the first book in this series, Little Thieves. The pronunciation of some of the locations and creatures is fascinating enough. Add to that the imaginative blend of humans, magic, and creatures, and you have yourself a perfect blend for a fantasy series.

Vanja Schmidt, our main character, is the absolutely best part of this story. It’s not enough that we’re with her on her journey in Painted Devils. She has such a clever and sarcastic humor that keeps readers entertained. Some of the responses she had for the book’s antagonist were so snarky, I love it. I love a good (yet flawed) character that stands up for themselves and their friends. Vanja’s one liners are some of the best moments in Painted Devils .

“An ant does not concern itself with the weight of a mountain.” (This had me bursting with laughter. IYKYK)

Painted Devils by Margaret Owen is a fantasy tale of adventure across lands to stop a low-God from continuing the ultimate destruction of a town through a cult that Vanja accidentally started. Vanja is always getting into trouble, but she truly didn’t mean to start a cult. It kind of took on a life and power of its own before she could stop it. While this is the premise, it’s not the true bones of what makes this book so special.

I feel that the fantasy storyline is what keeps a reader entertained, while the real message of this book is love, family, and respect. Margaret Owen shows us what it is to have family that is found, and family that we’re given. This is a story of empowered women learning to trust and love themselves. It’s learning to trust people we love after trauma, and what that journey can look like with its ups and downs. This book is a dark fantasy genre for teens, so I hope that any teens who read or listen to Painted Devils will pick up on those important points throughout the story.

Painted Devils is an undeniable 5-star listen. Saskia Maarleveld delivers Vanja’s emotions so perfectly. Her differeing tones for the various characters are easy to follow. The ending was a major shock to me. I can’t believe I didn’t realize the true motivation of their secret-enemy until the very moment that Vanja said it aloud.

The very final conversation in Painted Devils is such a catastrophic boom of a surprise that I’m almost afraid to listen to the next book. Almost.

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