Roses and Rot by Kat Howard (Saga Press hardcover, 17 May 2016).
Imogen and Marin grew up with an abusive mother. A woman who fit the classic fairy tale wicked stepmother stereotype, but was their real mother.
As a teen, Imogen escaped by going to boarding school, but Marin, several years younger, was stuck behind. Imogen tried to keep in touch, but Marin never responded, so she assumed that her sister was angry with her for leaving.
Now, as adults, they've both been accepted to Melete, a prestigious privately funded artists' retreat. Imogen is a writer; Marin, a ballet dancer. Marin convinced Imogen to apply, hoping that spending several months together would help them to repair their relationship.
At first, Melete seems perfect. The artists have the luxury of concentrating on their work, with few restrictions, although they do have to connect with a resident mentor on a regular basis.
Marin and Imogen share a house with two other women. Each has a private room and workspace, but they share the living area and kitchen. They don't really have to worry about cooking, however, as custom meals are provided for each artist.
The story is told in first person, from Imogen's point of view. She's thrilled for the opportunity to have Marin to herself, where their mother cannot reach them, but is also aware that they both have work to do.
Melete is an isolated village in New Hampshire, perfect for artists trying to concentrate on their work, but Imogen can't help feeling that there's something odd about the place. Not only does it seem just too perfect, she occasionally sees buildings or structures out of the corner of her eye, which aren't there when she turns her head. She keeps telling herself she's just imagining it, but can't figure out why.
In her debut novel, Kat Howard has created an astonishing world melding dreams and reality; drawing upon fairy tales and mythology from multiple traditions. And, as in many classic tales, it's the women who are challenged and survive.
It's an intense, riveting story that will completely draw you in. Make sure you set aside a large block of time to read it; you won't want to put it down.
FTC Full Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my local library.