Roses and Rot, by Kat Howard

is the difference between good and good enough?  Sisters Imogene and Marin have been asking themselves this
question nearly their entire lives. 
Imogen is a budding novelist, Maren a professional ballet dancer; both
are looking for that one break that will take them from maybe to
break-out.  Enter Melete, a
prestigious artists’ retreat where creators in nearly every discipline go to
focus solely on their craft, and sometimes leave with everything they ever
dreamed of.

Roses and Rot is a slow spiral, deeper
into Imogen’s past and the otherworldly atmosphere at Melete.  Told by Imogen, who is interested in
fairy tales, layer after layer is peeled back from a world that is not what it
seems, much in the way that children shed their fancies and imaginings on the
way to adulthood. 

It would be easy
to compare this novel to Neil Gaiman’s work, and though it shares many
similarities in tone and atmosphere—particularly to his later work—Howard has
crafted a story that interrogates the supernatural aspects with which many
readers are fascinated, while staying firmly grounded in the lives of the
people experiencing the very real events in which they are embroiled.  Because some facts and experiences are
all too real, particularly the Imogen and Marin’s painful childhood with an
abusive mother. 

This is a novel
that finds whimsy and beauty in the greater world while at the same time always
remembering that darkness exists in a very visceral way.  Readers looking for a fantasy novel
that doesn’t flinch from dark topics while still treating them with sensitivity
will enjoy Howard’s take on fairy tales and art.  Those looking for urban fantasy with a
strong contemporary feel will enjoy Howard’s worldbuilding and style.  Those who enjoy stories that push the
boundaries between fiction and metafiction are encouraged to check out this
deeply character-driven fantasy novel.


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