Imogen and her sister Marin escape their cruel mother to attend a prestigious artists’ retreat, but soon learn that living in a fairy tale requires sacrifices, whether it be art or love in this critically acclaimed debut novel from “a remarkable young writer” (Neil Gaiman, American Gods).
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.
Howard weaves a dark and enticing tale of sisterly bonds, fairy promises, and the price of artistic success in this lushly written debut fantasy set in the present-day U.S. As a child, Imogen was certain that no fairy tale stepmother could possibly be crueler than her own mother, a controlling tyrant. Fortunately, Imogen and her younger sister, Marin, escaped to pursue their dreams: Imogen as a writer, Marin a dancer. After seven years apart, the women are reunited when both are selected to be fellows at Melete, a prestigious artist colony in rural New Hampshire. Melete's fantastical campus seems perfect, but the sisters learn it's hiding an extraordinary secret: Melete's creative energy feeds the Fair Folk. Every seven years, the most promising Fellow is taken to live in Faery and Imogen and Marin are shortlisted for this dubious honor. Howard's characters are deftly drawn, and her writing is seductive as fairy magic. This story will resonate with readers long after the last page.