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Roses and Rot Paperback – July 4, 2017
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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.
Top customer reviews
Like all good fairy tales, there is good and evil and difficult choices. The story is about two very talented sisters. Imogene is dark haired and is a writer. Marin is fair haired and is a ballet dancer. They are raised by an abusive mother. Imogene escapes and leaves her sister behind. They do not speak for years, until Marin applies to Melete, an exclusive retreat for artists. She urges Imogene to apply and they are both accepted. At first everything is idyllic and almost other-worldly. Each artist has a mentor; a former Melete "graduate" who has had extraordinary success in their field. However, things are not as nice or normal as they seem. Every seven years a resident is chosen as a "tithe" for the powers that rule Melete. After the seven years are served, the tithe is guaranteed amazing fame and fortune. Both sisters are in the running and both want it badly.
At first, this is simply competition between sisters. Then Imogene learns that Marin will not be able to survive being the tithe. Imogene is the only one who can stop her. Just as the sisters are starting to mend their relationship, Marin thinks she is being betrayed and abandoned again.
I don't want to say anything about Melete since part of the enjoyment of the story is finding out the secrets. People and places are not as they seem. In addition to the fairy tale magic, the author does a good job of exploring family relationships, manipulations, love, and the lengths to which people will go to have their dreams. Even though I found the ending predictable, it was still good. The story moved along at a good pace and I found the book hard to put down.
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.
I liked the book. It was a good read. I love books with Fay. It just isn't one of my favorite.
Should you read it? Unless I give a book one star, I always say give it a try. You may like it more than me. This book is a standalone with no cliffhanger.
Most recent customer reviews
Eerie, fae, complex characters, surprising. Lyrical writing. I did not want it to end.