Kirsten Imani Kasai
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Buy *Tattoo* by Kirsten Imani Kasai

Kirsten Imani Kasai
Del Rey
400 pages
July 2011
rated 4 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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Tattoo is the sequel to Ice Song and picks up almost immediately after Ice Song ends. It can be read without reading the first book, but readers will get more enjoyment from the setting and characters by reading Ice Song first. (Apparently there is an ebook version which contains extra short stories.)

Sorykah is a Trader: when overcome by strong emotions, she can change her gender. Unfortunately, the change is involuntary, and Sorykah cannot control it. Neither can her alter, the male Soryk. Sorykah is the dominant persona, and Soryk is bitter because he has only short glimpses of life. Sorykah has two children and is always thinking of them; Soryk wants nothing to do with the babies.

Sorykah rescued her twins from the clutches of the cruel Matuk the Collector with the help of somatics, people who possess animal parts due to genetic mutations. She and her two helpers--the nanny Nels and Dunya, the dog-faced girl--stagger starving and tired into the forest domain of Queen Sidra the Lovely. From there, Sorykah plans to return home and hope that she can beg back her former job on the submarine Nimbus. However, Sidra is Soryk's love, and he has no intention of leaving her.

Sidra is the gentle ruler of a group of outcast somantics, who adore her. She is also pregnant with Soryk's child. She knows that her altered bones cannot bear the burden of pregnancy and childbirth, and she considers telling Soryk about the unborn baby. However, Sorykah leaves with Nels and the babies before Sidra can say anything.

When Sorykah returns to the town of Ostara, she again meets Rava, a somantic who can breath water and has the tentacles of an octopus instead of legs. Rava tells Sorykah that the humans are waking up the demon Diabolo, who is asleep under the ice, and begs Sorykah for help. The humans drilling and blasting the ice are also killing Rava's kin who live in the ocean. If Diabolo wakes, he will warm the oceans and destroy the world. Sorykah remains focused on feeding her family as one of the miners drilling the ice.

To her surprise, Sorykah gets her old job back aboard the Nimbus. There she witnesses the destruction not only of the ocean but also of the strange beings who live there. Tirai Industies has also enslaved the native population, the Qa'a'nes, forcing them to work on TI's plant. One of the Qa'a'nes asks Sorykah to help him, but it is Soryk who agrees to rebel against the mighty corporation.

Tattoo is as lush and erotic as Ice Song, but there is an air of sadness and tragedy in the story. The huge Tirai Industry rules everyone in this dystopia. TI is like an octopus with tentacles on every aspect of society. Nobody is happy, and most try to drown their sorrows into drugs or ink.

The ink for tattoos is extracted from Rava's ocean-dwelling kin. They are captured and tortured for the ink then thrown back into the sea. The ink enhances human senses and creates powerful erotic sensations. On the street of the corrupt capital city of Neubonne live ink rats who will do anything for their next fix of ink.

The shifts between point-of-view characters can be quite abrupt, sometimes from one paragraph to the next. This time Soryk is a major POV character alongside Sorykah and a host of familiar and new characters. Sometimes, jarringly, the POV character is seen only briefly and their future fate is also told. The main conflict lies between Sorykah and Soryk. They both want lives of their own which have no room for the other and the other's desires. The other conflict is with Tirai Industries and its destruction of the environment and individual lives. The setting feels magical with the stories of the gods and the somantics themselves, but there are also scientific elements as well. The world feels quite modern when the characters use electronic notepads to send messages to each other, watch digi-reels, and travel in buses and cars.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at Mervi Hamalainen, 2011

Also by Kirsten Imani Kasai:

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