Saturday, July 18, 2009

Book Review: Ice Song by Kirsten Imani Kasai

Title: Ice Song
Author: Kirsten Imani Kasai
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Del Rey Books
Publishing Date: 19 May 2009
Paperback: 384 pages


Sorykah Minuit, mother of twins called Ayeda and Leander, is working in an ice-drilling submarine. She’s an engineer, an ice miner. But what makes her somehow special is her mutated DNA: she’s a Trader, a shifter. She lives with the risk of turning into a man.

Her work takes Sorykay away from her babies, who remain in the care of their nanny Nels, while Sorykay is away. That’s why she’s very excited to meet them again when the submarine touches the Sigue coast. However, Nels and her babies don’t turn up when Sorykay reaches the cold rendezvous point. She starts to think about what to do and that’s when she hears the name of Matuk, a cruel mutant collector.

Don’t Judge A Book By It But...

I love the color combination of the cover art. The ice-blue lower part hints at a cold world that the name of the book promises. The girl on the cover has a look full of determination. Without the look in her eyes, I’d say she’s lost after a party because her long dress and the way that she holds it suggest that she’s not there to take a stroll in woods. However, the look in her eyes, the way she comes from behind the tree, gives the impression that she’s been following whoever she’s looking at and that she’s going to get what she wants.


In Ice Song, Kasai has created a very interesting world in a captivating setting. Once upon a time, Sorykah Minuit’s world was just like ours. Then, one day, evolution took a giant leap and rather than crawling, it started to run. Mutations happened too fast and with their modified DNAs, somatics and shifters appeared. However, this wasn’t a long time ago. At least, not long enough for them to get accepted by the rest of the humanity. In Sorykah’s world, somatics and shifters are marginalized and casted out because a somatic is a genetic mixture of a human and an animal and a shifter, just like our protagonist, is of both genders that shift periodically.

The other peculiarity of this world, at least in the Sigue, where Sorykah’s tale unfolds, is its being Arctic-like. It is covered with ice, whipped by icy winds and visited by deadly frozen nights. From Kasai’s own words:

“The Sigue was the Land of Ice Song, a surreal pole formed from ice that sang, juddered, and moaned. 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. ... Hearing it now – angry, plaintive, sorrowful – Sorykah remembered shy she had volunteered for this frigid, outlandish post, for the Sigue song replicated her own bitter tune.”

Ice Song is a fantasy novel; but in its essence, it is a mother’s struggle to find her babies. In the most significant quest of her life, Sorykah continuously tests her limits. She accomplishes things that she thought she was incapable of. Along the way, she makes new friends, faces enemies of various types and learns how deadly the Sigue’s nature can be. There are also other smaller currents in the story, such as the story of a powerful family whose leader alienated the other members and the way that we cast away the ones that don’t resemble us.

I truly enjoyed Ice Song. It came in a moment where I was planning to read nothing but the books I had on my pile. I read a few reviews about it and I thought I heard the Sigue's Ice Song. In the end, I’m glad I wasn’t disappointed with it. It’s not only the setting or the plot but Kasai’s style is beautiful, which gives this dark world its depth and its colors.

Kasai’s debut novel has definitely impressed me. I heard that she's been working on the sequel called "Tattoo" and a third book called "Saudade". When they come out, they will take their places high in my list.

Rating: 9/10

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