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.
From Sing Me Forgotten author Jessica S. Olson comes a gothic fantasy murder mystery perfect for fans of Kerri Maniscalco and Erin A. Craig.
“Before magic, painting was magic.”
Jessica Olson has done it again! She has such a special knack for inventing the most imaginative magic systems, and building worlds with expansive and yet impactful history, first with her debut, Sing Me Forgotten, and now with her April 2022 release, A Forgery of Roses.
The painting magic in this world is one that is full of wonder, just as it is dangerously unpredictable. I appreciate how such a powerful magic still has limitations, as well as being practically illegal, and so those gifted with this magical art, like Myra, must decide what they are willing to sacrifice and endure to perservere. And the magic seems to have a mind of its own: a blessing, or a curse?
Past the fascinating magic system, at the core, A Forgery of Roses is a murder mystery, and one that kept me guessing with every reveal! Each answer only provided more questions, as all good mysteries do. It reminded me of Stalking Jack the Ripper but add a twist of Dorian Grey and a large spoonful of magic! The twists were very fun, and the kind where you make guesses the whole time and it was satisfying to figure it out only a hair before Myra did! For those who love to be the detective and put the clues together, this book is definitely one to pick up!
It is worth noting that there is a strong emphasis on foresenics, as Myra must figure out what exactly killed the victim before she has any hope of completeing her task, so there are a few mildly-graphic descriptions of the corpse.
Myra’s friendship with her sister, Lucy, who suffers from a chronic illness, was a favorite of mine in the book. Olson really built up a lot of compassion for Lucy, and understanding for the suffering–both physical and emotional–that comes with chronic illness. And I love a good sisterhood in a book! They were supportive of each other, never gave up on each other, and ultimately, would do anything for the other.
“Some things are worth that kind of fight, Myra, and you are worth every fight.”
I also really enjoyed August’s personality; it was unique from your typical wealthy romantic-interest. Olson always does a great job creating love interests who contrast the protagonist and really help them to grow, and I loved watching August and Myra butt-heads as they tried to push each other to do the right thing in their own ways. The romance was also very sweet and admirable.
Vincent, on the other hand, was probably my favorite character. He was so intriguing and fun to follow, reminding me of a mix of Kaz Becker (Six of Crows) and Legend (Caraval) if you can imagine that at all. It was fun to see his character become more and more entwined with the story.
Overall, I give A Forgery of Roses four out of five stars. It was a great quick read with a lot of magical mystery that is sure to inspire you to be the detective and solve the case before it’s too late!