Sisterly love outshines romance in Jessica S. Olsen’s sophomore novel, A Forgery of Roses. After being blown away by her first book, Sing Me Forgotten (it was my favorite debut of 2021), I couldn’t wait to check this out.
Another unique magic system
One of Olsen’s greatest strengths as a storyteller is her ability to create new worlds and brand new magic systems along with them. In Sing Me Forgotten, magic is accessed when people sing, and those with magic have the power to change memories. In this novel, instead of song, the medium is paint. Certain painters, called Prodigies, have the power to alter the subjects of their art. They can change someone’s hair color, heal their cuts, or perhaps even bring them back to life…
Myra Whitlock has spent years fighting down her magic. Prodigies like her are looked down upon by their town’s mayor, and even thought to be dangerous. Since her mother disappeared, she has been even more cautious. But money is running out and she desperately needs a doctor for her younger sister, Lucy, who is plagued by a mysterious illness. So when the mayor’s wife shows up at her doorstep, offering her a fortune to resurrect her son, she can’t say no.
She moves into the governor’s mansion, where danger lurks around every corner. She tries her best to stay in her room, painting portrait after portrait of the governor’s dead son, but when she realizes his death is not as straightforward as she was originally told, she starts sneaking around, trying to find the truth. But the truth is much darker and more complicated than she ever could have imagined.
A lovable cast of characters
For the past several years, many YA novels have tried and failed to give me the feels with sisterly relationships. This story finally hits a home run. Myra’s love for her sister Lucy isn’t just a part of her—Lucy is her very soul, and you can feel it on every page. Their dynamic makes their scenes practically leap off the page. Lucy is opinionated and not afraid of mocking her older sister, but the love between them is clear.
Myra’s love interest, August, is another highlight. He has adorable banter with Myra and he writes her poetry (swoon!). But he also suffers from crippling anxiety, and this book doesn’t shy away from the ugly side of it. When his parents later turn against Myra, he fails to stand up to them when she needs him most. That was a heart-wrenching moment. But he redeems himself in the end!
A crazy twist
The weakest point for me was the twist near the end, which I found too convoluted to be believable. It stretched the magic system a bit too far. If it had been set up earlier, I think I would’ve had an easier time buying it. As it is, it took me out of the story a bit, but the ending still felt as climatic and dramatic as I wanted it to be.
The ending was much happier than Olsen’s last book, which my poor, fragile heart greatly appreciated. However, it leaves you with just the right amount of tension and suspense to leave you wanting more. Sadly, I don’t think this will be a series, but oh how I wish it was!
Fantasy lovers, this is a must read, and you need to add Jessica S. Olsen to your auto-buy list. I know that I will.
A Forgery of Roses was released on March 1, 2022.