"Did you miss me?
Come and kiss me.
Never mind my bruises,
Hug me, kiss me, suck my juices
Squeezed from goblin fruits for you,
Goblin pulp and goblin dew.
Eat me, drink me, love me…”
– “Goblin Market” by Christina Rossetti (1862)
In my B&N review of Ice Song, I wrote:
“Those looking for a powerful and provocative female voice in their fantasy reading fare should definitely pick up this stellar debut, which is set largely in the frozen wastelands of the Sigue. The story revolves around protagonist Sorykah Minuit, a rare human “Trader” who can switch sexual genders at will. After Sorykah’s twin infants are abducted by a reclusive madman who wants to use them for nightmarish scientific experiments, she sets off on a desperate quest to find her children and avenge them – and inadvertently begins a breathtaking journey of self-discovery. A deeply lyrical and sublimely haunting narrative powers this intriguing fusion of science fiction and fantasy.”
Above all else, I fell in love with Kasai’s poetic, melancholic writing style. It was dark and intense and hypnotic...
“Ice plates ground against one another with subarctic cricket legs, keening shards and frosts that played the most primitive and abstract melodies yet had shaped the culture of this tiny nation. Musicians and singers attempted to capture the eerie, haunting songs but could not repeat the melancholic strains…angry, plaintive, sorrowful…”
In Tattoo, Sorykah – now safely reunited with her 9-month old twins – is involved in the battle of her life: with herself. She wants nothing more than to find a life that is stable and safe for her children but her male alter, Soryk, wants to gain control and return to the Erun Forest where his lover, Sidra the Lovely, resides.
And to make matters worse, Sorykah has become simultaneously famous and infamous – she is looked upon as a hero by the disenfranchised for killing the man who abducted her babies (who happened to be the head of a ruthless corporation that is destroying the Sigue) and she is also notorious for being (unknowingly) filmed changing genders in a compromising position while drugged.
Literally being torn apart from within, Sorykah struggles to realize her place in a society that is prejudiced, heartless and self-obsessed. But when called upon to save an entire continent from being destroyed by a greedy corporation that is draining it of its wealth and culture and enslaving its people, can she repair the split in herself before it’s too late?
Kasai’s Ice Song and Tattoo are so much more than just a fusion of visionary science fiction and folklore-powered fantasy – they’re deeply reflective societal self-examination. And, trust me, that reflection in the mirror isn’t pretty.
I thought Kasai’s reference to Christina Rossetti’s classic poem “Goblin Market” in Tattoo was particularly fitting. Both are lyrical, forlorn, dreamlike, and, at times, painfully passionate.
Powered by a cast of emotionally compelling and memorable characters – the majority of whom are female – and a storyline impressively tapestried with provocative themes and ideas,Tattoo is essentially deeply philosophical and poetic contemplation cloaked in visionary science fiction. What makes us whole? What defines us? What gives our lives meaning?
Readers looking for a strong new female voice in science fiction/fantasy should seek out and read Kirsten Imani Kasai asap.
“Everything we do, every interaction we have with others is like a coal or water droplet upon a fire – feeding or dousing our t’naq: spirit.” – Tattoo by Kirsten Imani Kasai
Paul Goat Allen has been a full-time book reviewer specializing in genre fiction for the last two decades and has written thousands of reviews for companies like Publishers Weekly, The Chicago Tribune, Kirkus Reviews, and BarnesandNoble.com. He is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.
Keep up with all of my blogs – as well as all of Barnes & Noble’s exclusive reviews, authors interviews, videos, promotions, and more – by following @BNBuzz on Twitter!
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