We are a people who do not forget.
Survivors from a flooded kingdom struggle alone on an ark. Resources are scant, and ravenous beasts circle. Their fangs are sharp.
Among the refugees is Iraxi: ostracized, despised, and a commoner who refused a prince, she’s pregnant with a child that might be more than human. Her fate may be darker and more powerful than she can imagine.
Zin E. Rocklyn’s extraordinary debut is a lush, gothic fantasy about the prices we pay and the vengeance we seek.
I received a digital advanced readers copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Reading Flowers for the Sea feels like falling into a nightmare beyond my wildest imagination; a story that makes you feel alone, struggling with a trauma etched upon your bones and grappling with a horror growing inside you. When I finished reading this novella, I felt like I was coming out of a stupor – dazed, ill at ease, yet utterly captivated by the storytelling that feels, all at once, like poetry and a tale of visceral anger.
Flowers for the Sea follows Iraxi, a commoner who refused a prince aboard an ark at sea with unspeakable monsters circling, waiting. Iraxi is also pregnant and as the only one able to carry her pregnancy to full term, thus all hope rests on her and her child – who may or may not be human. Flowers for the Sea is best read without knowing what happens, so that’s all I’ll say on the synopsis, but what the book and I can promise is that what follows from this premise is an eerie and terrifying story that begins to unfurl at the edges, descending slowly to an end that is grotesque yet liberating.
Flowers for the Sea feels like a mix of dark fantasy with a post-apocalyptic setting with dystopian imagery and atmosphere. The atmosphere in this story is immediately compelling and eerie; humanity drifts aimlessly at sea following an apocalyptic event, unable to escape because of the monsters that circle the ark. Inside is no better; readers will smell the desolation and hopelessness permeating through the page. For Iraxi though, her horrors are psychological – not only is she ostracised on the ship, she bears a child she never wanted, and she also grapples with a trauma where her family was murdered.
The story may mean different things to different people. For me, I found the meditation of pregnancy and motherhood to be the most engaging theme of the story. In particular, Iraxi feels a dissociation and dissonance with her own body, as she carries a child forced upon her within her. Her feelings of rage felt resonant and terrifying, as she feels a lack of control over her own body. The divorce she feels from her personhood and her body was both evocative and haunting. Furthermore, with the eldritch horrors, the imagery only deepens the horror that Iraxi experiences.
What also resonated with me was how this story is powerfully articulates rage and revenge. Iraxi’s rage is raw and unfettered; rage at the violence afflicted upon her body, her family, her loved ones, and her dehumanisation as a pregnant woman. Iraxi’s rage grows across the story, her rage and sorrow, her trauma, and the violence in history, culminates to its horrifying end. The horror of the real is subverted, wherein Iraxi becomes the object of rage and fear and horror in an enactment of revenge.
MY CONCLUSION: RECOMMENDED
Atmospheric and undeniably captivating, Flowers for the Sea is unlike any dark fantasy I’ve read before that delves into forced motherhood, the power of maternal and female rage, and an intoxicating story about revenge.
Is this book for you?
Premise in a sentence: A pregnant woman aboard an ark at sea following a post-apocalyptic event suspects that the child she bears may not be human.
Perfect for: Readers who enjoy horror and fantasy; readers interested to read something different and evocative
Think twice if: You’re not a fan of fantasy or ‘high level idea’ stories.
Genre: adult horror fantasy
Trigger/content warning: childbirth, death of loved one, sex, descriptions of gore and body horror