Thursday, May 19, 2016

ARC Review: Roses and Rot by Kat Howard

Title: Roses and Rot 
Written by: Kat Howard
Published: May 17, 2016 by Saga Press (Simon and Schuster)
(Amazon / Goodreads)

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.

*** I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This fact has not changed my opinion. ***

I am placed with a real dilemma here as I write this review. I want to flail about how much I loved this book but I don't want to give anything away. I went into it not knowing much about it and I think that's the best way to read this book. You need to experience it on that level. So all I will say is that, wow I loved it.

If you are looking for a beautifully written book with an atmospheric tone then definitely check this one out. You may have noticed on the cover that it is blurbed by Neil Gaiman. That probably gives you some indication of what the tone of this book will be. It starts off with a really fantastic gothic vibe. The main characters start attending this prestigious artist retreat, confusing and unexplained things start happening, it's all mysterious and wonderful. Then halfway through the book there is this big reveal and the tone changes but for the better. It's still incredibly atmospheric but in a very different way. It had kind of a magical realism vibe to it and I think I may have said this recently, but I'm really into that subgenre of fantasy. It makes for an interesting and compelling world and this book was no exception.  It's not a fast read though. maybe it was because I was reading it during BEA, but in general this was the kind of book where you have to slow down and really let the words sink into your consciousness. It's the kind of book where you just fall into the beauty and atmosphere.

At it's heart though, I think this is a book about family and the relationship between families. I went into Roses and Rot thinking it would be a fairy tale retelling. I actually thought it was Snow White and Rose Red, it's not. Or is it? It's not so specifically a fairy tale retelling but it is at the same time. It borrows more from the idea and thoughts of fairy tales more than it does from the actual stories. One of the things it borrows is the idea of a terrible parent. There is more than one bad mother in this book and it adds a lot of additional drama and characterization. But it also borrows the idea that there is strength in the sibling relationship from fairy tales. The relationship between Imogen and Marin was fantastic, sweet, complex, and full of emotion. I love the way the women interacted with one another, whether it was good or bad it felt real and interesting.

Part of the realness about the interaction between the sisters, and well the other characters, was this really fantastic theme about fame and success. This is a book about artists. About dancers, writers, singer, poets, sculptors, artists. Plus the setting is this prestigious artist retreat where many famous artists have attended before they became successful. So there is this layer of fame and desire with the characters and this undercurrent of competition. Especially with the sisters. I could absolutely relate to that being someone who always strived to be the best and better than my siblings as a kid. But as the synopsis leads you to believe, that success comes with a price. That made for a really complex conflict as the thing you want the characters to do would also be something that causes them problems. It was fantastic.

I even kind of liked the romance here. Now don't get me wrong, I wasn't super impressed, you guys know me and my romancephobic heart. I could have done without it and did think it was a bit instalovey but it felt different in a lot of ways. Here there were two romantic leads, one for each sister. I didn't think I was enjoying Marin's relationship but it grew on me over time. You could feel how much he cared about her which was interesting because we mostly saw it through Imogen's eyes. With Imogen's relationship, it had some pretty steamy moments which I liked, and despite it being very instalovey and seemingly cliche at first, the best part was the way it ended. It was not all sunshine and rainbows. It felt realistic in it's bumps and trials along the way, which sadly was refreshing when it came to romance in books. And that's what I think I liked most about the romance, it played with the tropes and relationships in a way that felt realistic and interesting.

But that's what this book did on the whole, it played around with what we know and like about fairy tales and magical realism and made something familiar and creative at the same time. It was beautifully written book with an atmospheric tone that you will fall into and characters that will get so attached to by the end that you will feel things you didn't expect.

I give Roses and Rot by Kat Howard 9 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy. I would definitely recommend this book to fans of fairy tales and magical realism. It's beautifully written and creative but familiar at the same time. But go into it without knowing much. That was I think one of the best things I did when I read this book. But I would also warn people that this is not a fast read. It's the kind of book that forces you to slow down and take it all in despite it's length. So if you have a week to spare, pick this beauty up.

Have you read Roses and Rot? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!


  1. Oh this sounds go really good - I have had good luck with magical realism lately so I am definitely intrigued. Glad you loved it, great review!!

  2. Hmmmm, I'm now so very intrigued about this one! I saw it on NG (I think) and I remembered you were reading it so I decided to wait for your review and now I might just go and request it!

  3. This sounds so interesting! I love fairytale retellings, but I'm not super familiar with magical realism. I hadn't heard about this before your review, so I'm really glad you've shared this! Great review :D

    Tracy @ Cornerfolds