December 2, 2023

Novel Lives

Book Publicity, Reviews, Author Interviews, and Discussion Posts by Susan Crosby

Margaret Owens Is A Writing Phenom, Painted Devils (Little Thieves #2) Is A Mixed Bag- Review

Painted Devils (Little Thieves #2)  By Margaret Owens- Summary

There will be small spoilers in the review below! Good Reads Summary of Painted Devils by Margaret Owen (Little Thieves #2): 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?

Painted Devils (Little Thieves #2)  By Margaret Owens- Review

Please see my other reviews of Merciful Crow, Faithless Hawk, and my interview with Margaret Owens.

This is such a difficult review. First of all, we all just need to bow down to the greatness that is Margaret Owens. Her writing is consistently top-notch. I don’t think I could ever not like something she writes. Margaret Owens could write out the alphabet, and it would be enthralling. Just like Little Thieves and her Merciful Crow Duology, the breaking points in the plot are epic. Furthermore, she writes them in such an intense fashion that it is impossible not to feel the emotional fervor in every part of your being. Equally important, her characters are always vibrant and unique. The dynamics between them are tender, riveting, and dramatic.

Again, like Little Thieves, the first sixty-ish percent is a punch gut. You can’t put it down and damn well don’t want to stop. Painted Devils doesn’t even have ramp-up time. It just bolts out of the gate like an ornery horse. Some improvements over the last thirty percent of Little Thieves are made in Painted Devils. For instance, the characters don’t repeat the same mistakes repeatedly. And like I said when I reviewed Little Thieves (on Goodreads), yes, I know these are teenagers and a Young Adult book. That worked for the first sixty percent of Little Thieves but then became extremely repetitive throughout the rest of the book. This is corrected in Painted Devils.

Little Thieves

Thank you to Macmillan Audio for an advanced copy

Unfortunately, the plot suffers from another form of repetitiveness. But first, let’s talk about why it soars. And it does. Painted Devils offers just enough background that it could almost be a stand-alone. Yes,  you will miss some specifics, but it works for the most part. It does this without dragging down the pace or boring those who have read Little Thieves. The familiar characters are kept fresh by putting them in entirely new plot points that change how we see them and how they see themselves. The newly added characters add more depth to the story without taking away from the main cast from Little Thieves.

Then the pacing turns into a tortoise. The last thirty percent isn’t when the characters become repetitive. However, it is where the book becomes repetitive. It suffers from what I think of as Return of the King syndrome. The movie just didn’t know when to end, and neither did Painted Devils. Every time you think it is coming to an end, it just keeps going. This drags out what started out at a break-neck speed.


Painted Devils (Little Thieves #2)  By Margaret Owens- Characters And A Disclaimer

Two things are important. One, as I mentioned above, they are crafted with genius. Both individually and when interacting with others, they bring such life to the book. Whether it is deadly and snarky Gods, hard lessons, or dark humor, the banter fills out the story without taking it over. Vanja’s inner narrative runs from heartbreaking to fun to witty.

There is a saying here in the north. A child’s eye fears the painted devil but an elder weilds the brush. We fear what we’re taught to fear. Not necessarily because it is worth fearing. I see a devil on the wall, real or not, the question that matters is who put it there?

For most of my life I’ve held to a theory called the trinity of want. It states that people are desired for three reasons: power, pleasure or profit. If you provide three of those, others serve you. Provide two they see you. One? They use you.

Now here is my disclaimer and where your miles may vary. Anyone who has paid attention to any of my reviews or Twitter rants knows one thing about me: I can’t deal with heavy romance. Especially when it is the type of romance when both characters are (even if it is mostly) on the same page or the boy is asking for the girl. My life. It is… complicated. I say this because some of what drags the book and some of my dynamic dislikes might be rooted in this feeling. It is definitely NOT the only reason Painted Devils slows down or makes me not like the characters or the book. But it is part of it. I would be doing a disservice if I said otherwise.

Some of what I did not enjoy will be some of the other readers’ favorite parts. I have no doubt about this- because it is romance rooted. And, in my opinion, it is a lot more romance than the Merciful Crow Duology.

Painted Devils (Little Thieves #2)  By Margaret Owens- One Final Thought

I only have one other thing to say about Painted Devils, and that is about the audiobook. The audiobook is brilliantly produced. And Saskia Marrleveld, who has narrated all of Margaret Owens’ books, is absolutely stunning.

OH! And. Will I finish this trilogy? Absolutely. Because Margaret Owens wrote it.

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