Rating - ⭐⭐⭐1/2
"Myra Whitlock has a gift. One many would kill for.
She’s an artist whose portraits alter people’s real-life bodies, a talent she must hide from those who would kidnap, blackmail, and worse in order to control it. 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. Desperate, Myra ventures to his legendary stone mansion.
Once she arrives, however, it becomes clear the boy’s death was no accident. Someone dangerous lurks within these glittering halls. Someone harboring a disturbing obsession with portrait magic.
Myra cannot do the painting until she knows what really happened, so she turns to the governor’s older son, a captivating redheaded poet. Together, they delve into the family’s most shadowed affairs, racing to uncover the truth before the secret Myra spent her life concealing makes her the killer’s next victim."
A Forgery of Roses is a standalone fantasy novel by Jessica S. Olson.
First and foremost I would like to thank NetGalley and Inkyard Press for giving me the opportunity to review this book in advance. Please note that this in no way affects my opinions. Also note that what I read was an ARC, and things may be subject to change for the official release.
Going into this, I didn't re-read the synopsis so I didn't know what to expect, but I found that I didn't mind the story. I enjoyed the plot well enough, but there were some visible flaws for me that came in the form of the characters, specifically Myra, as well as her relationship with August.
Let's get into the details.
I have no complaints or comments on the writing really. This is written like how most YA novels are, which is something I like as I find it easily digestible.
During a time where Prodigies, people with the ability to alter human and animals bodies through painting, are going missing, Myra accepts a dangerous job where she must resurrect the Governor's recently deceased son. What starts as a difficult task only gets more complicated when Myra discovers that he could have been murdered. She must face her new reality if she wants to save her ailing sister.
This was a multi-layered plot, and there were some aspects that I liked and some that I didn't. I thought the concept of body alteration through painting was interesting. I wasn't sure how much I liked the mystery element of the plot though, especially considering it took the plot in a direction that I didn't exactly think was the right move. I am unsure how to feel about the big reveal as I don't know whether to be disappointed or pleasantly surprised.
In general, I thought that the plot lost track of itself as the story developed and got bigger and more complex. The story just took a sudden departure from the main focus and I would have preferred if this was isolated to the house. There were interesting ideas mentioned early on that the book ended up ignoring, which I thought was wasted potential.
Getting into the nitty-gritty here, another minor flaw of the story is a growing pet peeve of mine. During moments of high tension, or where characters like Myra have specific priorities, it bothers me when the characters pause to have a sudden heart-to-heart.
I am honestly a bit confused about when or where this takes place. There are schools established but the lower classes still use chamber pots, so I want to take a stab and say this is set in the 1800s, but I can't guess for sure. I also want to guess that this is set in Britain only because the author used the word knickers instead of underwear.
There is a religious system in this world, founded around the Artist. The only other religious figure named was the Artists Dear Lady, but she was only mentioned once. I wish a bit more time was spent developing the religion considering the fact that this is set in a society where magic users are prosecuted.
As for the magic system, there seem to only be Prodigies as no other kind of magic was mentioned. A bit odd for a world to only contain one kind of magic, but since this is a standalone that focuses primarily on that magic I can let it slide.
Prodigy magic, as I have already stated, gives the user the ability to alter forms through painting. The specifics of the magic were a bit confusing at first as it wasn't clearly explained, but it got there eventually. It is a rather simple form of magic with minor drawbacks, but my one complaint would be that even with a sister who knows biology, Myra was not able to fully understand the capabilities of her magic.
Myra and August. Right off the bat when they first meet, I knew I was in for something I wasn't going to particularly enjoy. Their first few interactions were very cringeworthy, and everything that came afterwards wasn't any better.
You know straight away that romance is going to be brewing between the two, and I didn't think it worked. This is a standalone, so it is understandable that the romance is going to be quick-paced, but this was too quick given the fact that the reader is very aware of how long they have known each other.
This story is set over the course of about 10 days, which is a very short period to have a relationship develop. So short that I didn't believe in their attraction at all. This was made worse when, at one point without giving anything away, Myra said to another character that they couldn't care for her when they've only known each other for a week... That sentence really blew up the issue I had with the relationship in the most hypocritical way.
On their own, I didn't really care much for August, and Myra, while she had some good ideas, had a lot of lapses of logic and was impulsive in the worst way. Myra was also frustrating because she would constantly try to insert herself into August's problems thinking she could fix it, but August would always tell her how she doesn't understand. That is the one thing I liked about August, just because he liked her, he wasn't afraid to call her out for her ignorance.
Was this a particularly great fantasy novel, no, but I did enjoy myself for the most part? If you are looking for another novel that focuses on painting, I would suggest An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson.