Here’s my review of K.L. Zolnoski’s In the Flesh. Yes you might accuse me of being biased but I’ll give you my honest opinions and you can decide on your own. Also, warning, spoilers follow but I won’t give away everything.
The story begins “seven and a half generations” after an apocalypse that killed billions of people. Those who are left banded together in small tribes and cities and largely kept to themselves.
We are quickly introduced to Enyeto Tavrin, a guide and a woodsman who knows the mountainous region well. He also knows how to avoid the strange mutated creatures which now live in the mountains. We learn that he’s been sent by Prince Antal of Tabijara to fetch a healer from the Temple of the Three Waterfalls. These healers are renowned for their mystical skill but Enyeto is not enamored of their “mumbo-jumo.” He just wants to do his job and get on with his life.
Enyeto reaches the temple and the Sybil arranges for her daughter to travel with Enyeto back to the capital of Tabijara, Ce Acatl. Evadne is not thrilled with this idea but obeys her mother.
While this is going on, in Ce Acatl Prince Antal is meeting his advisors to plan an expedition. He wants Christopher and Stephan Persi, two brothers who own a sailing ship and spend much of their time getting into trouble, to lead the expedition but his advisors Urial and Jaehyun don’t like that idea.
Evadne and Enyeto embark on their journey back to Ce Acatl, facing numerous beasties and other dangers as they travel. On the way they find General Baas and his armed patrol. They have a wounded soldier who Evadne tries to heal but he is near death and must be brought back to the temple. The General assigns Lt. Colonel Dayyan Cantu to make sure they get to Ce Acatl.
After leaving camp the group is ambushed by a group of tribesmen and forced to retreat into a huge cave then through a valley where they are attacked by another creature. Dayyan and Evadne are both hurt and things look grim for our adventurers. They find a wounded man, Carlos Martin, who appeals to come with them to avoid getting eaten by the creatures. They reluctantly agree but Dayyan and Enyeto are suspicious.
In the meantime Christopher and Stephen meet Makis, a budding wizard who has a tendency to make things blow up or otherwise go wrong. The three of them sneak around Ce Acatl and try to figure out why the Prince has chosen them to go on this voyage to the legendary Southern Continent. They meet the engineer Lady Ziya and Meshaal who will also accompany them.
Eventually after braving many other dangers, Evadne and her protectors reach Ce Acatl. They learn that the temple has been sacked and Evadne’s mother was killed. The Elder of the city, Chodak, insists on performing the ceremony to escalate Evadne to Cybil. During the ceremony each participant learns the true meaning of the strange marks they’ve borne since birth.
The team eventually boards the ship and makes it to the Southern Continent. There are more twists and surprises but you’ll have to read the book for those. Once on the Southern Continent the team learns the truth behind their history and how the world got to be in the state it is in, and Lady Evadne is left with a choice which can alter the future of the entire world.
There’s a lot going on here but K.L. handles it well and manages tie together all the various characters and plot lines (something I’ve seen much more famous authors struggle to do — witness David Brin’s Earth). The characters are what make the book interesting and the author does a good job of developing and exploring the major characters.
If you like expansive science fiction and fantasy with lots of characters, lots of action and a wide range of interesting settings then I think you’ll enjoy this book.