Series: Little Thieves #2
Published by Henry Holt & Co (5.16.2023)
Genres: High Fantasy, Young Adult
Format: eARC, 512 pages
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 didn’t love this book quite as much as I loved the first book. It had a little bit of Second Book Syndrome going on, to be honest (I’m hoping book 3 will make up for it). It started off strong – lots of action and hijinks, Vanja being her amoral incorrigible self, and the humor and sarcastic banter that I loved so much about the first book. But at the 50% mark it started dragging, and my attention waned. It was a bit slow from about 50-75% through, until it finally picked up again View Spoiler »when Ragne came back « Hide Spoiler.
I loved the introduction of new characters – namely Brunne and Ambroszia – but it was a bit overwhelming. I honestly couldn’t tell the brothers apart and they were all the same to me. I did like Helga, though! View Spoiler »I was totally not expecting them to be Vanja’s brothers and sisters! I’m glad she finally found her family, and in doing so discovered that she wasn’t unwanted by anyone except her mother. That they actually missed her and had been looking for her. That was super sweet! « Hide Spoiler
“I want you to remember that, as long as you’ll have me, I will choose you every time.”
I thought Vanja was an idiot in this book. Look, I get why she ran away in the beginning. She has trust and abandonment issues for obvious reasons. But after everything, you’d think she’d realize that Emeric wasn’t going to abandon her and that he truly cared about her. The fact that she constantly expected him to spurn her drove me bonkers! He was never anything but caring, gentle, and understanding. And yet she STILL assumed the worst in every single situation (always a simple misunderstanding that communication could fix) and STILL didn’t trust him. She was so dead set on sabotaging her own happiness, and there were quite a few times I wanted to throttle the shit out of her! View Spoiler »When she decided to leave, AGAIN, at the end, I was PISSED. She thinks that leaving is saving Emeric, but he’s not going to see it that way and she should damn well know that by now. He won’t just be like, ‘welp, guess she’s gone, I’ll focus on my Finding’ and move on. He’ll STILL give up his Finding for her, and then she’ll have put them both through hell for NOTHING. I can’t believe after everything they went through she would straight up turn her back on him AGAIN. So now all the progress they made as a couple – all the vulnerability, him accepting all of her and her scars, her finally letting go and allowing herself to be vulnerable – it’s all just GONE. ARGH, ALL THE CAPS. Aaaand we’re right back where we started. *long suffering sigh*
While I’m still in a spoiler tag, RAGNE TURNED INTO A PEGASUS EXCUSE ME WHILE I FANGIRL. *flails*
Also, I thought it was brilliant that Owen tackled the subject of magical birth control when Emeric and Vanja were getting more serious and more physical. However, in the middle there was a LOT of focus on their sex life (or lack thereof) and it kind of took over the plot for a while. I feel it could have been toned down a bit. « Hide Spoiler
THAT ENDING?! Umm what? View Spoiler »Wtf is that bitch Irmgard going to do with Vanja’s ribbon?! « Hide Spoiler I don’t know why, but I thought this series was a duology for some dumb reason, so imagine my surprise when it ended in a cliffhanger. When I clicked to the next page and there was nothing I legit yelled “WHAT!” because helloooo I’m missing the rest of my copy thank you very much.
P.S. Brownie points for the casual Backstreet Boys reference in Emeric’s poetry!
(These are from the eARC and may not be correct in the final edition)
You know that feeling? The one where your entire brain melts out through your earholes because your head is on fire, and the rest of your body overcompensates by freezing on the spot, and the only thing left in your skull is a ghost marching in a circle and banging two pots together? That’s about where I’m at.
Internally, of course, the ghost in my skull has ditched the two pots and opted instead for the goat scream.
*Emeric draws buttocks on the message mirror*
“Figured I’d get it out of the way,” Emeric says mock-innocently.
I gaze up at him with pure adoration. “You complete me.”
Writing style: 4.5/5
Overall rating: 4/5