Review: Flowers for the Sea by Zin E. Rocklyn

cover of Flowers for the Sea Flowers for the Sea by Zin E. Rocklyn (October 2021)
108 pages; paperback $13.99; e-book $3.99
Reviewed by Janelle Janson

The combination of horror and fantasy is a partnership I am completely enamored with. The notion that you can connect with a character set in a fantastical world, who might not even be human, with added terrifying elements, creates a thrilling read. These authors keep creating gorgeous, remarkable stories that fill you with both sadness and wonder.

The swell of my belly increases with each new dawn, my joints all filled with useless fluid, hindering movement and completion of daily tasks. I abhor my present state, but termination is not an option. As I’ve been told to the point of biliousness, this child must be born.

As soon as I saw the cover of Zin E. Rocklyn’s debut novella, Flowers for the Sea, I was immediately all in. When the image on the front is so hauntingly beautiful, there’s a good chance the story within is going to be something special. Rocklyn wrote this story to be steeped in violence and vengeance, and although it’s short, it is immensely impactful. I still find myself thinking about it from time to time, a true sign of an exquisitely written story. Unfortunately, I feel the synopsis is a tad too spoilery, so I vow to reveal as little as possible. But I promise to paint a picture to show you why I swallowed this one up whole. 

In Flowers for the Sea, we follow a fiercely strong female character who is up against nature’s most brutal forces. The kingdom has flooded and the refugees are stranded on a dank and suffocating ark. These poor souls have been stranded at sea for what seams like an eternity — seventeen hundred forty-three days and counting, to be exact. Our protagonist, Iraxi, is pregnant, getting closer and closer to meeting her unborn baby. She despises the people she has to contend with, food is scarce, and her heart is not into this pregnancy. The world is closing in on them as the ever-moving forces of the sea and sky take over all that is around them. The irate sky reaches down like claws with a tight grip around their throats, while the salty sea air smothers every surface. And the menacing creatures that lie above and below are a darkness they can’t shake.

I feel as though I could burst from my side, my skin burning until it cools mysteriously, like the numbing prelude to a gory finish.

In just over 100 pages, Rocklyn manages to write a darkly spectacular, yet strangulating world in the middle of the sea, with well-developed characters, vivid imagery, and dense lyrical prose. Although this story is fantastical, there are plenty of troubling visceral scenes, so be forewarned. Flowers for the Sea is great mix of gothic horror and forbidding fantasy. This claustrophobic story had me reeling as the tension rose until I reached the impressive ending. 

Tor is nothing short of excellent when it comes to putting out quality novellas; they really have mastered picking the best of short fiction. The only book I think compares with Flowers for the Sea is Mira Grant’s Into the Drowning Deep. If you have read Grant’s brilliant novel, then you’ll love this. If you haven’t, then go read it…right after you read Rocklyn’s masterpiece.

Janelle is a voracious reader, freelance writer, and reviewer. She currently writes for Tor Nightfire, Cemetery Dance, and Dark Matter Magazine. She enjoys reading books from all types of genres, but her favorites are horror, thriller, and true crime. She read her first Stephen King book at age seven and never looked back. In addition to books, she enjoys photography, coffee, and all things animals. She is also a true crime sleuth and a dilettante puzzle solver. Janelle currently resides in Northern California with her husband, two sweet cats, Mia and Jules, and a loving German Sheprador named Stella. Janelle can be found on Instagram (@shereadswithcats), Twitter (@shereadswthcats), TikTok, and Goodreads.

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