Meg Corbyn, Simon Wolfguard and the rest of the ensemble cast that make up the Lakeside Courtyard community and its connected settlements return in Marked in the Flesh as they try to figure out how save humanity from extinction as the HFL (The Human First and Last ) Movement's heinous attacks on the Others captures the interest of the Elders, the more primal and powerful beings in Thasia.
Meg and Simon's relationship is certainly on the back burner through this novel. Meg and Simon spend most of the novel involved in separate plots. Meg's primary focus is on being the Trailblazer, and working to find way to keep herself and the other Cassandra Sangue from cutting themselves into insanity and death. Simon and the Police Pack are working to try to mitigate the damage being done by the HFL to Human-Others relationships and preparing for the inevitable backlash from the Elders. His focus is the survival of those humans he has come to care for and planning for a life afterwards. While the novel does close with yet another step forward in intimacy between Meg and Simon, it just served to emphasize how little time they have spent together during the novel.
The novel's main theme seemed to be communication and isolation. Everyone in this novels is constantly scrambling to email and call each other in order to share prophesies, veiled warnings and urgent alarms. A significant part of the novel's plot is communicated via emails, speech excerpts or newspaper clippings. There is also a lot of miscommunication, misinterpretations. and intentional obfuscation. In the end however everyone clearly receives the message, and Meg figures out how to best help the Cassandra Sangue communicate their own. Despite the darkness and fear near the end of the novel there is a sense that at least the Cassandra Sangue will have a potentially brighter future.
While Marked in the Flesh is fourth book of a five book series, I could have easily confused it with a final book. A lot of storylines seem to be awfully close to their conclusions, while a few new mysteries were raised in the final chapters it seems to me that the final book will feel more like an extended epilogue as it deals with the aftermath of the world-shaking events in this volume.
I was not as emotionally invested in this book as I was in the others since Meg and Simon where not as involved but it was still compelling and I will be back for the concluding story.
I received a review copy of Marked in the Flesh from ROC/Berkley Publishing Group. Marked in the Flesh is scheduled to be released March 8, 2016.