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"A Forgery of Roses" | Reviewed by Rachel Bolte

Some books are really hard to describe, simply because they fit so much within their pages. “A Forgery of Roses," by Jessica S. Olson, is one of those books. The story centers around Myra, a talented young artist. She’s trying hard to make her way in the world and provide for herself and her younger sister after the disappearance of their parents.

Working as an assistant in a portrait studio is the closest Myra can get to the craft she loves: it is too dangerous for her to practice herself, as her paintings can literally alter the physical bodies of her subjects.

This special talent—highly coveted and made illegal by the government—draws the attention of the governor’s wife, who commissions Myra to paint a portrait to resurrect her dead son. Soon, however, Myra realizes everything is not as it seems and not everyone in the foreboding governor’s mansion is to be trusted. She’s thrown into a world rife with murder, political drama, and betrayal, and must race to uncover the truth before her own life is endangered.

Even more than its engaging writing and compelling premise, the best thing about “A Forgery of Roses” is how its characters struggle with real world problems, albeit in a Gothic fantasy setting. Myra is caught between incredible talent and incredible responsibility, but her love and dedication to her family remain unwavering and a source of comfort when her world is thrown into turmoil. August, the governor’s shadowy older son, faces severe anxiety and self-doubt. Myra’s younger sister lives with debilitating chronic illness, but faces it with hope, looking forward to a future in which she is a physician.

The novel also touches on issues of social class, equitable healthcare, and prejudice in a thoughtful, empathetic way.

Other books that I’ve read recently with a similar vibe include “An Affair of Poisons,” by Addie Thorley, “An Enchantment of Ravens,” by Margaret Rogerson, and “Lakesedge,”by Lyndall Clipstone. If you are a fan of any of those, or are just looking to add another YA fantasy/mystery/horror story to your “To Be Read” list, “A Forgery of Roses”is exactly what you’re looking for.

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