Y’all. Jessica Olson‘s upcoming book A Forgery of Roses (coming out next month) is DELIGHTFUL. It’s funny, it’s dramatic, it’s romantic, it’s magical… I cannot tell you how much I liked it!
(and here’s a link to my vlog so you can hear me fangirl too)
This is a complex book–it’s fantasy, it’s romance, it’s a bit of a whodoneit. We meet tired, overworked, seventeen year old Myra who’s a painter…with a secret. Myra is a prodigy, a painter whose power can literally alter reality. Now, it’s not like she just paints herself a new life, there are rules to this magic, and rules that she’s very much still learning. Her skills, however, are put to the test when the Governor’s wife–and it’s important to note that the Governor hates prodigies, and magic–asks her to paint her son back to life.
Thus begins a whirlwind story in which Myra both uncovers and becomes entangled in a murderous, power-seeking plot…I lived for it. I flew through this book in two days, it’s so engaging and complex and well thought out, I really think you’re going to enjoy it.
I’m trying so hard not to give anything away, especially since the book isn’t out yet… this is hard, y’all.
I suppose we should start with what I liked and what I thought could use a little work. The latter isn’t much, so I’ll start there. When I started the book–and the first couple of chapters are a little slow, but it picks up very quickly–I thought “portrait painters, okay, so maybe this is historical fiction-ish.” But then photographs, plastic, and telephones exist in this world… I get that it’s fantasy (hello, magic), but I would have really liked to know when the story takes place. Maybe that’s just me as a reader being super nosy and wanting all the detail, but not knowing the approximate time of the story through me off a bit. My only other slight critique is that at one point, pretty much at the climax, I got a little lost.
As I said, there’s a lot happening in the book–there’s a decently large cast of characters and so many interconnections, at one point I was like “wait, how did he get there…and ‘father,’ wait, is he? how?” I had a lot of questions. I suppose, however, since this is told in first-person, the questions make sense because Myra is our narrator and she’s also the protagonist, so there isn’t a lot of room for dramatic irony. Still, I was (for a moment) just as confused as she was…
Now the things I
liked loved: I ADORED the characters. I love how encouraging and snarky Myra is, she seemed ahead of her seventeen years, so especially when she has her little romantic moments, I didn’t feel like I was reading some froo-froo high school story. I also really appreciated the portrayal of her relationship with her younger sister Lucy, it was so caring and deep and realistic, it really rounded her out and made her suspicion of others seem that much more reasonable. I also thoroughly enjoyed the character development with August–especially when Myra starts having doubts (I don’t want to give away too much…eeeeek!), his eb and flow of “awww” and “c’mon man!” seemed, again, realistic and rewarding. I loved seeing him come into his own.
I also loved the antagonist–I’m not gonna spoil who that is–because, let me tell you, I did not see that coming! But when that was revealed, oh, I almost felt sorry for them. Olson expertly made them so nuanced and complex, I was like “you are a crazy person, but I kind of get it,” and when an author is able to make you feel for the antagonist…it’s *chef’s kiss*
Finally, the world–it’s complex, there are so many rules to Myra’s magic, it’s a little overwhelming. But I thought it was really cool how we as readers learned more about the magic alongside Myra. It’s clear that Olson put a ton of effort and thought into making this world (even if, temporally, I’m not sure when it exists) and I think that just makes the whole story that much more magical and fun. For example, I loved the small details of the various gardens, and especially the roses and how that fits into the larger mythology/creation myth within the book. I thought it was really unique that rather than “God” or a Matrix-y “Architect,” this world was created out of love by the “Artist” for his love, and it is because of his tremendous skill (or is it?) that certain individuals have magical abilities.
Overall, I definitely recommend this book–it’s got a little of everything for everyone: action, romance, mystery… I really can’t think of a reason to avoid it, (unless you, like the Governor, doesn’t like magic) nor can I think of any trigger warnings. It’s engaging and fun, and with that epilogue at the end, I sure hope there’s a sequel, especially since I’d love to learn more about Myra’s world (and see if her romance blossoms more)
That’s all I’ve got for now! Be sure to keep an eye out for next week’s posts on Jane Kuo‘s upcoming In the Beautiful Country.