Roses and Rot

By: Kat Howard


Unlike Imogen and Marin, I have a family who loves me and supports my work. Thank you, so much, to my parents, my sister, and my brothers. I could not have done this without you. I love you guys.

When I think of what it means to have a good mentor, I think of my grad school adviser, Rebecca Krug. She has supported my writing since the day I told her that I was going to take two months off from writing my dissertation to go to San Diego and learn to write fantasy and science fiction, and has encouraged me in every leap since.

I cannot say thank you enough to Maria Dahvana Headley and Megan Kurashige, who read a draft of this book when it was the hottest of hot messes, and helped me find the story I was trying to tell. Their encouragement at that point kept me going. Thank you also to Megan, who gave me great insight into the life and career of a professional dancer. Marin’s gift is due to her. All remaining errors and dramatic license are mine only.

Thank you also to Neil Gaiman, who read a somewhat less-messy draft and told me I needed to write the hard parts. And that I really needed a new title. I did.

Thank you to my glorious agent, Brianne Johnson, who read so many versions of this book and pushed me to make it better, who has been an unwavering support and advocate of me and my writing, and who I am so, so lucky to have in my corner. And thank you, thank you to Sarah McCarry for being there in a period of professional crisis, and introducing us.

Thank you to my excellent editor, Joe Monti, who helped me make this the best book I could, and to all the excellent people at Saga Press who have made it shiny and gorgeous. I couldn’t have asked for a better home for my story.

Thank you to all of the women who made art, and inspired me to make my own.

More strange than true. I never may believe

These antique fables, nor these fairy toys.


A Midsummer Night’s Dream


Marin sat on my bed, next to my half-packed suitcase. “I wish you weren’t leaving, Imogen.”

I couldn’t say the same, not and answer honestly. “I’d be leaving for college in two years anyway.”

“Yes, but that’s two years from now.” She picked through my T-shirts, separated one with a rose embroidered in tattered ribbon on its front from the pile. “This is mine, by the way.”

“Sorry, forgot,” I said. I took her hand, rubbed my thumb over her fading scars. Mine hadn’t healed as well, which had been the point. “You know I can’t stay here, Marin.”

“I know,” she said, looking down at our joined hands. “I can’t believe she’s letting you go.”

“Blackstone’s fancy. It gives her bragging rights.” I had planned my escape carefully. I knew I had to feed my mother’s ego enough to outweigh the pleasure that thwarting me would give her. It had been an agonizing two weeks after I’d been accepted, before she decided to let me enroll. She didn’t say yes until she’d found a press release about some ambassador’s son attending attached to an invitation to a parents’ social.

I had made sure she found it.

“True. And she can delicately cry about how much she misses you, but she doesn’t want to get in the way of your dreams, mothers sacrifice so much for their children.” Marin gave a sniff, and pretended to wipe tears from her eyes.

“That was almost scary, how much you just sounded like her.”

“Thank you.” She bowed. “I’ve been working on character interpretation. It helps my dance.” She paused. “You’ll come home for Christmas?”

I squeezed her hand, let it go. It was the previous Christmas when we’d gotten our sets of scars. It wasn’t exactly my favorite holiday.

“For you? Of course. And there is email there. Cell phones, even. I’m going to boarding school, not Mars.” Christmas break would only be a couple of weeks. For Marin, I could endure it.

“Marin, if you’re not down here in three minutes, you’re walking to class.” Our mother, her voice creeping up from downstairs.

Marin rolled her eyes and picked up the bag full of pointe shoes and tights and all the other assorted dance paraphernalia she had dropped inside my door. “She’d make me, too. Driving along behind me all the way.”

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