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Roses and Rot by Kat Howard ARC {4 Stars}

Roses and Rot by Kat Howard is a beautiful story of two sisters and an artist retreat that is much more sinister than it appears. There is a lot of meta-commentary on writing and dealing with abuse because the main character is writing her own novel and we get to read parts of it. I loved the writing of Roses and Rot and read it in just two days. I’m very much looking forward to seeing what Howard does next!

Trigger warning: Severe child abuse.

Note: I received an advanced copy of Roses and Rot from the publisher. Some things may have changed in the final version.

Roses and Rot by Kat Howard ARC {4 Stars}

Roses and Rot by Kat Howard
Published by Saga Press on May 17th, 2016
Genres: Adult, Contemporary Fantasy
Page Length: 336 pages
How I got my copy: Publisher
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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 in this haunting debut fantasy novel from “a remarkable young writer” (Neil Gaiman).

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.

4 Stars


  • As you would probably expect from a book about art and writing, Roses and Rot is a treatment to read for the florid prose alone. There is a reason that Neil Gaiman has a blurb on the cover. If you are a fan of his eloquent style, then you’ll love this.
  • I seem to be reading more and more books with a meta-aspect to them. I loved the inside look we get as Imogen works on her own novel while a crazy plot is unfolding around her. I have to wonder if this is how Howard’s actual process works or if she is making up how Imogen writes!
  • The central relationship of Roses and Rot is between two sisters, Imogen and Marin. There are romances and flings, but boys come and go. These two have a lot to work through due to their mother’s abuse, but being sisters is important to them.
  • I wasn’t sure how much fantasy there was actually going to be in this story, but I can reassure you that the magic is strong and present. Soon into the book Imogen starts seeing odd and magical things, and it doesn’t take long for the magic to be revealed.


  • The ending seemed pretty anti-climactic after the build-up we get. I was rushing to the end to see what would happen and then things just sort of resolved and seemed too easy.
  • There were times when I really didn’t believe the logical jumps that were made both in terms of the rules of the magic and Marin’s decisions. I didn’t spend much time going back and trying to figure out how things could make sense, but I am of the opinion that I shouldn’t have to do that at the end of a story.


Roses and Rot is a lovely standalone that is perfect for those who enjoy contemporary fantasies focused on art. This isn’t a young adult story, of course, but it definitely has a certain boarding school feel to it since everyone is staying at this retreat for nearly a year. If you enjoy beautiful writing and tough family issues, definitely pick this up!

Anya from On Starships and Dragonwings

Have you read this one? What did you think? Are you excited for it if you haven’t gotten to it yet?
– Anya


 Roses and Rot by Kat Howard

© 2016, Anya. All rights reserved.


  1. This sounds like an interesting read, but bad things happening to children is one of the trigger warning type things I always avoid, so I’ll probably be passing on this one!
    Katie @ Doing Dewey recently posted…#ReadMyOwnDamnBooks in Mini-ReviewsMy Profile

  2. I’ve wanted to read this one ever since I saw the Neil Gaiman blurb…your review makes me even more excited!

  3. I’m not really a fan of child abuse, and even though I have never read about it, I have a feeling I wouldn’t enjoy it at all. But while saying that, I really think I would like Roses and Rot. I only heard about it from your review, but it does look to have a boarding school-esque feel to it. Also, ART! And a contemporary fantasy? Adding to the TBR asap.

    Thank you for the lovely review Anya! :)
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  4. Glad to hear you enjoyed this one, I have it lined up to read sometime soon. Hopefully my suspension of disbelief is strong enough for those jumps you mention.
    Lisa (@TenaciousReader) recently posted…Today I’m over at talking about Brian Staveley’s Unhewn Throne trilogyMy Profile

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