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Roses and Rot Hardcover – May 17, 2016
"Children of Blood and Bone"
Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut. Pre-order today
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"Kat Howard is a remarkable young writer, and she's written a powerful first novel, as strong as Emma Bull's War For The Oaks. This is a book about family, about the price we’re willing to pay for art, and the strange music and haunting glades of faerie." (Neil Gaiman , bestselling author of American Gods and The Ocean at the End of the Lane)
Howard weaves a dark and enticing tale of sisterly bonds, fairypromises, and the price of artistic success in this lushly written debutfantasy set in the present-day U.S. As a child, Imogen was certain that nofairy tale stepmother could possibly be crueler than her own mother, acontrolling tyrant. Fortunately, Imogen and her younger sister, Marin, escapedto pursue their dreams: Imogen as a writer, Marin a dancer. After seven yearsapart, the women are reunited when both are selected to be fellows at Melete, aprestigious artist colony in rural New Hampshire. Melete’s fantastical campusseems perfect, but the sisters learn it’s hiding an extraordinary secret:Melete’s creative energy feeds the Fair Folk. Every seven years, the mostpromising Fellow is taken to live in Faery—and Imogen and Marin are shortlistedfor this dubious honor. Howard’s characters are deftly drawn, and her writingis seductive as fairy magic. This story will resonate with readers long afterthe last page. (Publishers Weekly *STARRED REVIEW* April 4, 2016)
The realm of fairy tales meets the harsh world of the Fae in this starkly enticing debut. With undercurrents of darkness in the midst of the beauty of the arts, this is a Brothers Grimm tale for the contemporary reader. (Library Journal, *STARRED REVIEW March 15th, 2016)
“Captivating, fiercely smart (about sisters, artists), utterly transporting. I read it so consumingly, it was more akin to swallowing it whole. Not to be missed.” (Megan Abbott , Edgar-winning author of The Fever and You Will Know Me)
“A contemporary dark fantasy full of dark magic, the hidden traps of fairy tales, and painful humanity. I loved every page.” (Christopher Golden , New York Times bestselling author, Dead Ringers and Snowblind)
“Kat Howard seems to possess a magic of her own, of making characters come alive and scenery so vivid, you forget it exists only on the page. Roses and Rot is both beautiful and dark, lovely, and haunting." (Anton Bogomazov , Politics and Prose Bookstore)
"Lyrical writing." (, Booklist)
"This book is a love letter about creating art, directed at artists and creators in general and to the specific stories and authors that have preceded it—from Narnia to Angela Carter, Tam Lin to The Little Mermaid, from Ray Bradbury to Ellen Kushner to Delia Sherman to Neil Gaiman to Terry Pratchett to Maria Tatar." (, Kirkus Reviews)
About the Author
Kat Howard’s short fiction has been nominated for the World Fantasy Award, anthologized in best of and annual best of collections, and performed on NPR. She is the author of the critically acclaimed Roses and Rot. She lives in New Hampshire, and you can find her on twitter at @KatWithSword.
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The novel also takes place in a world where the great, respectable, cultured artists of the west work in traditionally lowbrow genres and representational art, but given the central conceit, that's forgivable. Even if I really get a kick out of imagining snooty New Yorker reviews of a musical comedy about a fairy tale in the very serious artist sections.
The writing is solid and often interesting in terms of prose. The characters are well sketched, though occasionally their fractiousness seems to happen more to drive the plot than to further their development. The worldbuilding is certainly competent, though I've run into more effectively creepy fairies and some of the internal mythology was a little incongruent. The plot was Tam Lin, mixed up and backwards. An enjoyable urban fantasy with weird folklore roots and a lot to say about art and personal history.
The two sisters both want success in their artistic fields more than anything. The questions that become more and more pressing as the novel goes on are, what is each willing to risk to be successful? which is stronger, their love for each other or their jealousy? what happens when each must choose between her sister and her success?
I enjoyed the book very much, and thought the characters were realistic and vibrant. I loved the program's campus and its many mysteries. The several love stories in the book were nuanced, and none had a predictable ending.
However, the pacing on this book needs some serious work. By 30% in, the plot had been hinted at, but hadn't actually gone anywhere yet. By 50%, we finally have plot movement, but it's super duper predictable. The book is filled with descriptions of environments and interactions that are very uniidimensional tropes. Extremely gifted protaganist and her extremely gifted sister escape the clutches of evil mother and are invited to an elite academy, where they are declared the best of the best, and mysterious broody powerful men fall in love with them, much to the chagrin of their crabby roommate, and then they discover a magical world.
It would read like teen fantasy, except it tries really hard to include erotica with a one paragraph lackluster description of intimacy that was supposed to be super passionate at one point. Honestly I think that would have been better omitted, it seemed out of place with the tone of the novel and was not exciting to boot. I've been power-reading this just to finish it, but I'm over 3/4 through and have failed to be engaged by it.
I think the author is onto something for creating relateable teen characters, while they fall flat for adult audiences, they seem to have a lot of the emotional struggles that I think teenagers could tap into. Just omit the failed attempt at writing in something erotic, and maybe reduce the number of day to day life interactions we, the readers, hear about by like 50% and it has potential as a YA novel.
I absolutely loved this book. Started it in the afternoon, finished it by the end of the night the same day. So clearly, I was hooked from the very beginning. The gothic atmosphere, created by the beautifully described grounds of Melete, really drew me in. The fact that it wasn't all happy endings really made it feel more real. Anyone who likes the Grimm version of fairy tales will for sure find themselves enjoying this story. Would highly recommend!