Roses and Rot by Kat Howard


Roses and Rot by Kat Howard
Series: Unknown
Genre: Fantasy — Dark Fairy Tale
Setting: New Hampshire at Melete — an artist’s colony
Published by Saga Press
Format: e-Arc (Release Date: May 17)
–I received a review copy of this book from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated here are entirely my own.
336 pages
Grade: B
Synopsis: Imogen and her sister Marin have escaped their cruel mother to attend a prestigious artists’ retreat, but soon learn that living in a fairy tale requires sacrifices, be it art or love.

What would you sacrifice in the name of success? How much does an artist need to give up to create great art?

Imogen has grown up reading fairy tales about mothers who die and make way for cruel stepmothers. As a child, she used to lie in bed wishing that her life would become one of these tragic fairy tales because she couldn’t imagine how a stepmother could be worse than her mother now. As adults, Imogen and her sister Marin are accepted to an elite post-grad arts program—Imogen as a writer and Marin as a dancer. Soon enough, though, they realize that there’s more to the school than meets the eye. Imogen might be living in the fairy tale she’s dreamed about as a child, but it’s one that will pit her against Marin if she decides to escape her past to find her heart’s desire.

Initial impressions

  • Such an interesting and imaginative book! I love the fairy tale within the fairy tale feel of the book.

The story

  • The story of two sisters–one a writer and one a dancer–who attend an artists’ retreat (Melete) together.
  • They have been apart for a number of years. Their mother is worse than any stepmother in a fairy tale and Imogen (the writer) felt she had to escape from her mother before her mother killed her.
  • Marin (the dancer) is more favored by their mother, but she suffered, too, from her mother’s cruel attentions.
  • After the sisters’ arrival at Melete they begin to get reacquainted as they both pursue their art.
  • Slowly they begin to discover that not everything at Melete is as straight-forward as they thought.
  • Gradually they learn that both of them and others at Melete are chosen to compete for a very special prize. And they both want that prize.


  • I like the mix of fantasy and modern, mundane everyday life.
  • This is a fairy tale, but a dark fairy tale.
  • I like the strange things at Melete–birds watching, leaves blowing into a room, getting lost trying to find some places in Melete, a bridge built only half-way across a river.
  • Imogen is a writer who has grown up reading fairy tales. She also writes them and the stories are sprinkled throughout the book. This gives the book even more of a fairy tale feel.
  • I like that Imogen is skeptical about Melete. She feels it just sounds too good to be true. Many people who attend Melete become famous and successful afterward. Almost everything she reads about Melete tells how wonderful the place is and how much everyone loves it. She’s very suspicious of that!
  • I didn’t know how the book would end. Throughout the book there is an ominous feeling.
  • Interesting characters in the book. Helena is one of the most interesting characters in the book.
  • The cover gives a brooding, gothic feel. From the descriptions in the book I didn’t feel Melete looked like this. However, a brooding atmosphere does come through in the story.
  • I love the title and the images that arise from that title–Roses (beautiful, flower, colorful, often sweet-smelling, sometimes with thorns, sometimes hidden thorns); Rot (something spoiled, smelly, corrupt, sometimes hidden below the surface, maybe even morally corrupt?) A dichotomy, but maybe the rose is rotten? Provides lots of imagery for the story.


  • The ending felt a little too easy to me. The book is imaginative and has a great premise, but I feel it didn’t quite live up to that. Still a good read though.

And concluding thoughts . . .

  • This is Ms. Howard’s debut novel. She’s a talented writer and I’m looking forward to reading more books by her.

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • Kat Howard lives in New Hampshire. Her short fiction has been nominated for the World Fantasy Award, anthologized in year’s best and best of collections, and performed on NPR. Roses and Rot is her debut novel.

Reading Challenges

  • 2016 Goodreads Challenge
  • Netgalley & Edelweiss Reading Challenge–hosted by Falling for YA
  • New Author Challenge–hosted by the Literary Escapism blog
  • New Release Challenge–hosted by Lexxie at Unconventional Book Views and Stormi @ Books, Movies, Reviews Oh My!
  • Science Fiction/Fantasy Bingo Reading Challenge–hosted by the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog — Fairy Tale Twist

Author: Jan

I love to read--especially mysteries, science fiction and fantasy. I also love blogging, photography, gardening, playing Mah Jonng, reading with a cat on my lap, throwing a ball for a dog, creating cards to send to family and friends, reading book blogs, using my computer.

2 thoughts on “Roses and Rot by Kat Howard”

  1. I loved the atmosphere of this book so much! Melete sounded like the perfect place to me…well, until the truth of it was revealed 😛


  2. That’s right, Mogsy! It sounded great. I probably am like Imogen–I thought it was too perfect to be true…haha.


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