Isda does not exist. At least not beyond the opulent walls of the opera house.
Cast into a well at birth for being one of the magical few who can manipulate memories when people sing, she was saved by Cyril, the opera house’s owner. Since that day, he has given her sanctuary from the murderous world outside. All he asks in return is that she use her power to keep ticket sales high—and that she stay out of sight. For if anyone discovers she survived, Isda and Cyril would pay with their lives.
But Isda breaks Cyril’s cardinal rule when she meets Emeric Rodin, a charming boy who throws her quiet, solitary life out of balance. His voice is unlike any she’s ever heard, but the real shock comes when she finds in his memories hints of a way to finally break free of her gilded prison.
Haunted by this possibility, Isda spends more and more time with Emeric, searching for answers in his music and his past. But the price of freedom is steeper than Isda could ever know. For even as she struggles with her growing feelings for Emeric, she learns that in order to take charge of her own destiny, she must become the monster the world tried to drown in the first place.
Sing Me Forgotten is one of the best books I’ve read in ages.
Having not heard much buzz about it prior to reading it, I was completely taken by surprise when I picked it up and found myself struggling to put it down and not binge it all in one sitting!
The first thing you need to know about this book is that it’s a gender-swapped retelling of “The Phantom of the Opera”. I absolutely loved the nods to the musical Jessica S. Olson scattered throughout the book: the chandelier falling and the “angel of music” scene, to name a few! Our main character, Isda, is the female version of the Phantom, and much like him, she’s a complicated character who isn’t necessarily “good”, but one you root for nonetheless.
I absolutely LOVED Isda, for so many reasons. First of all, she’s super morally grey… in the best way possible. Throughout the book, she tricks, manipulates, and hurts other characters, and while her actions were clearly wrong, I couldn’t help but understand and empathize with her anyways. The world has treated Isda with nothing but hatred, cruelty, and disgust, so how could I blame her for expressing her anger in immoral ways? I can definitely see people having negative reactions towards Isda’s character, but in my opinion, the most interesting characters are always the flawed ones. The ones that aren’t good, and not bad either, but somewhere in between. And that’s exactly the type of character Isda is!
And Isda’s not the only fascinating character in this story. Emeric, her friend-turned-love-interest, was a joy to read about as well. On the surface, he’s charming, playful, and witty, but as we dive deeper into his past, we discover just how complex and layered he really is. Cyril, Isda’s guardian and primary father figure, was extremely interesting to read about too. He was so unpredictable, and it was always a challenge to tell where his true motives lied.
Aside from the phenomenally crafted characters in this book, I was also a huge fan of the magic system. An economy that revolves around the extraction and exchange of memories is such a refreshing concept, and Olson did an absolutely incredible job of executing it. She didn’t bore us with long, tedious info-dumps, and instead delivered the information gradually, oftentimes in the form of captivating flashbacks. Only truly talented authors can develop a complicated magic system while still maintaining a fast-paced and exciting story-line, and I’m so happy to report that Olson is one of those few! Which is definitely worthy of LOTS of applause, considering that this is her debut novel!
The thing that makes Sing Me Forgotten such a special, memorable book is the addictive quality it possesses. So much happened over the course of 300 pages, and I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. There was literally never a dull moment! I was spellbound from start to finish, and I say that with absolutely no exaggeration.
The ending of this novel hit me especially hard. Looking back on it now, I can see that it was inevitable, but it was still heart-wrenching all the same. It was somewhat open-ended, but surprisingly enough, I didn’t have a problem with that, despite being someone who usually hates vague endings. To me, the ending just worked for the story that was being told. It was satisfying (albeit tragic), and it left me with so many emotions: wonder, grief, sadness, hope…
Overall, Sing Me Forgotten is a magical, compelling, unforgettable book (which is a bit ironic, if you take its title into consideration!). It simply took my breath away, and I would trade every ounce of memory elixir in my body if I could erase the story from my mind and start it all over again for the first time (that joke probably sounded weird if you haven’t read the book… Yet another reason to go pick it up!). From here on out, I will be recommending this book to literally everyone I know, so don’t be surprised if I never shut up about it. It’s such a spectacular debut novel, and it truly deserves all the stars in the world!
I can’t wait to see what Jessica S. Olson writes next; Whatever it is, I’m sure it will be marvelous!