A Forgery of Roses: When Fine Art Becomes Deadly

Ashley reviews Jessica S. Olsen’s newest YA fantasy novel, A Forgery of Roses.

Review of A Forgery of Roses by Jessica S. Olson

What would you do if you had the ability to change your physical features through the power of art? To even paint someone well again? In A Forgery of Roses by Jessica S. Olson, Myra Whitlock doesn’t have to wonder, she knows. Myra is a Prodigy; a person who wields magic through the power of a paintbrush. Unfortunately, where she lives, being a Prodigy is a dangerous thing to be. It’s so rare, so infrequently passed on, that it’s almost the stuff of legend. Myra knew another Prodigy besides herself, and that woman was her mother. But after a stranger started asking too many questions, Myra’s mother went missing, and her father disappeared as well in the search to find his wife.

Myra, left alone as the sole caretaker to her chronically ill 13-year-old sister, works her fingers to the bone in an art studio, hiding her magic, just to keep a roof over their head. Myra’s luck gets worse when the Governor’s wife walks into the art studio Myra’s employed at and demands a painting of her dog. The Governor of Lalverton is a man known for his utter hatred of Prodigies, but Myra’s magic just can’t control itself while she’s painting the small dog. The magic heals a tiny cut on the dog’s leg when Myra paints his injury away on the canvas. It’s so small she’s sure no one will notice. But this is a novel so, of course, someone notices!

Later that night, Myra is ambushed and quasi-blackmailed by the governor’s wife to do the impossible: paint Will, her deceased youngest son, back to life. If she can do it, Myra is guaranteed a fortune, money she desperately needs to get her sister, who is wasting away, to a doctor. Myra has little choice but to accept the task, though she’s not even sure her magic is capable of such power. For one thing, a Prodigy must understand how a person is injured in order to make a repair. So how can she do that when no one is sure of the circumstances that led to Will’s death?

When Myra arrives at Rose Manor, she soon discovers Will’s death is a far more complicated incident than she could have imagined. There’s a mystery afoot, and with the help of August, the oft-forgotten older son of the Governor, Myra tries to uncover what happened to Will. Myra absolutely needs the money August’s mother has promised to get her sister to a doctor, so she’s quickly consumed by the mysteries held within the corpse she’s painting.

What type of haunting thriller would this be without a little love? One of my favorite plotlines within this novel was the blossoming relationship between Myra and August. Olson excels a keeping the tension of trust right where it needs to be. As much as August is there to help, Myra, and the readers, know that August is still a suspect in this case. It’s riveting to wonder along with Myra, whether or not August can be trusted.

Whether he can be trusted or not, August is a fascinating character. Olson dedicated this book to “those who fear what they cannot control,” and I truly believe most characters in this book are a living embodiment of that, but none so much as August. He suffers from anxiety, and Olson pens his mental health issues in a beautifully sensitive way. It’s not something that is erased in some happily ever after, but a real issue that is worked on and lived with. His character was so compelling for me throughout A Forgery of Roses, and I was pleased to read such a realistic depiction of the physical changes and mental processes that can be wrought on the body because of anxiety.

A Forgery of Roses is far more than just a standard young adult fantasy. Within its pages, there is a true whodunit, with a few spooky elements to push readers into the heavenly state of “just one more chapter.” I usually pride myself on being able to guess the ending in a mystery, but I’m pleased to say I truly didn’t see this one coming! Olson has expertly laid out the facts of the murder while doing the miraculous job of keeping it from being obvious. Pick up A Forgery of Roses by Jessica S. Olson today to enjoy a novel richly painted with character struggle and extraordinarily unexpected twists.

A Forgery of Roses by Jessica S. Olson, published by Inkyard Press, is available today at your local independent bookstore or wherever fine books are sold.

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