What would you sacrifice for everything you ever dreamed of?
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 began this book with no expectations but I do love a good fairytale. And this is an excellent fairytale, taking the concept and reworking it in ways I haven’t seen very often before. I’ve never read anything by the author prior although the blurb by Neil Gaiman made me think it might be good. I was blown away from the first paragraph. She hooked me from that moment on, dragging me down into the depths of her world like stepping into the proverbial fairytale.
She introduces you to her characters, peeling them back layer by layer but leaving just enough mystery for you to continue to thread your way through the story, wanting, no… needing to find out the answers about the pair of sisters who are the center of this novel.
Her words choices and descriptions paint you a precise picture of the world in which this novel is set and it is one where the characters must make difficult, painful choices, pay in blood and tears. Do they get their happily ever after? I can’t really tell you that without giving away the story but I can tell you it was a sweeping, powerful story built upon the thematic use of fairytales to create layer after layer of elements that you can never quite get enough of and when you wake from the story, you will feel like you are waking from a dream.
Her choices are clearly deliberate, to emphasize the structure and elements of a fairytale. The story is woven in with snippets of other tales to bring in the elements of a fairy tale and also to illustrate the main characters role as storyteller. Those snippets not only highlight the choices the two sisters make but also inform the reader of the choices that occur both in real life and in the fairytale world. She weaves adroitly between these elements, bringing in fantastical imagery while maintaining a realism so vivid, I could almost smell, hear, and taste her world. She has two sisters who are at odds, not because they don’t love each other but because they do. She clearly understands the choices, the sacrifices that we will make to keep our family safe, sacrifices both of our own happiness but of the relationship itself.
I highly recommend this book. And right now, I would read another from this author, because she has done the impossible, she has made me love her work and want to add it to my pick up anytime list and like Neil Gaiman before her, she weaves fairytales into the real world in a way I have seldom seen done as well. I think you will find her work very difficult to put down once you start reading. If you like dark fairytales or stories of empowered women, this book is for you.
Roses and Rot by Kat Howard
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Saga Press (May 17, 2016)