This is one fabulous novella. Do not be fooled by the length. I rate stories on entertainment value and Painted boasts a satisfyingly complex heroine and plot, with a unique take on magic, all packed into a quick-read length. Our courageous heroine Wyrren has Moebius Syndrome, with partial paralysis of her face, and is at the beginning of her study of magic. But she has a deep and interesting backstory. The tale starts with her being the ward of the Grand Meister of Hael Maelstrom, a political exile from her own country, which is renowned for its magic and assassins. She has played a part in the downfall of her country's ruler, the King of Marla, and was queen for a day before she had to flee.
Wyrren has attracted the attention of the powerful magician and ruler of Hael Maelstrom, Sebastian del Torlo. But he has his own secrets. For political reasons, Sebastian is pursuing an engagement with Kartania Reise of Doppel, a land which resolves all of its conflicts with an armoured fist in the nose or the edge of the blade in a duel. But Sebastian is also being threatened by another powerful magician, Edward Lowar, who seems to have a hold over him. With the help of her younger stepsister Ana, a courtesan, Wyrren sets out to delve into the strange, dangerous truth behind Hael Maelstrom's ruler.
A highlight of this story is the complex and refreshing take on the types and uses of magic, ranging from necromancy to vivomancy (healing), biskmatry, illusions, elemental magic, and threader-assassins. A second highlight is the character of Wyrren - smart, complex, flawed and wholly believable. I felt the world-building suffered a little, with much left unexplained or glossed over. Stronger visuals and a better explanation (smuggled in of course) of the uses and limitations of the types of magic would have been appreciated by this reader.
So, while it is not perfect as a novella, the story moves quickly, twists and turns, and in the end, is an entertaining and strongly recommended read. Get it! Read it! You will not be disappointed. (For only 99c on Amazon this is a steal)