Author: Jessica S. Olson
Age Category: Young Adult
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Publish Date: March 24, 2022
Print Length: 384
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From the author of Sing Me Forgotten comes a lush new fantasy novel with art-based magic, romance, and murder…
Myra has a gift many would kidnap, blackmail, and worse to control: she’s a portrait artist whose paintings alter people’s bodies. Guarding that secret is the only way to keep her younger sister safe now that their parents are gone. But one frigid night, the governor’s wife discovers the truth and threatens to expose Myra if she does not complete a special portrait that would resurrect the governor’s dead son.
Once she arrives at the legendary stone mansion, however, it becomes clear the boy’s death was no accident. A killer stalks these halls–one disturbingly obsessed with portrait magic. Desperate to get out of the manor as quickly as possible, Myra turns to the governor’s older son for help completing the painting before the secret she spent her life concealing makes her the killer’s next victim.
I’m honestly not quite sure what to say about this book. It wasn’t bad, but neither did I find it titillating. I picked it up based on the premise of the magic system whereby Prodigies can alter people’s bodies through painting their portraits. It seemed reminiscent of ENCHANTMENT OF RAVENS with respect to the magic, but with a more sinister twist. Portrait magic is certainly present in A FORGERY OF ROSES, but the murder mystery takes the forefront. I had hoped for more fantasy elements, so I think this is part of the reason why I wasn’t as captivated by the story.
The writing and premise are easy to absorb, maybe even a little simplistic at times, though that’s not necessarily a negative aspect. Myra, the main character, is 17, so not that far away from adulthood. I think, though, this book was on the edge of too young for me despite having previously read books with characters around this age. Perhaps this has to do with the straightforward setting and character development. I just didn’t feel incredibly invested. The minor romance aspect developed over a span of about a week and I found it slightly unbelievable. And most of the turn of events were rather convenient and didn’t invoke as much tension or hardship as they otherwise could have.
However, this book does have good anxiety and disability representation. The governor’s older son, August, feels that he can’t live up to his father’s expectation; nor does he truly want to. The conflicting feeling of wanting to make his father, a powerful political figure, proud. But not actually wanting to follow in his footsteps makes August feel anxious and unworthy. There are some good messages and conversations between August and Myra about forging one’s own path.
Myra’s younger sister has an undiagnosed ailment of the gut, which sounds a lot like celiac’s or Crohn’s disease. It flares up and often keeps her bedridden, but she refuses to let it stop her from achieving her dreams. I thought it was a good message of listening to your body when it needs to rest, but also not giving up.
Overall, if you’re looking for a book dominated by fantasy elements, this isn’t it. But if your reading preferences are more flexible than mine, A FORGERY OF ROSES offers a lighter murder mystery fare.
Content warnings: blood, gore
Reading format: Library hardback