By Kirsten Imani Kasai
(Del Rey, Paperback, 9780345508812, 384pp.)
Publication Date: May 19, 2009
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There are secrets beneath her skin.
Sorykah Minuit is a scholar, an engineer, and the sole woman aboard an ice-drilling submarine in the frozen land of the Sigue. What no one knows is that she is also a Trader: one who can switch genders suddenly, a rare corporeal deviance universally met with fascination and superstition and all too often punished by harassment or death.
Sorykah’s infant twins, Leander and Ayeda, have inherited their mother’s Trader genes. When a wealthy, reclusive madman known as the Collector abducts the babies to use in his dreadful experiments, Sorykah and her male alter-ego, Soryk, must cross icy wastes and a primeval forest to get them back. Complicating the dangerous journey is the fact that Sorykah and Soryk do not share memories: Each disorienting transformation is like awakening with a jolt from a deep and dreamless sleep.
The world through which the alternating lives of Sorykah and Soryk travel is both familiar and surreal. Environmental degradation and genetic mutation run amok; humans have been distorted into animals and animal bodies cloak a wild humanity. But it is also a world of unexpected beauty and wonder, where kindness and love endure amid the ruins. Alluring, intense, and gorgeously rendered, Ice Song is a remarkable debut by a fiercely original new writer.
Kirsten Imani Kasai, a native Coloradoan, has lived in places as diverse as Newark, New Jersey; East Hampton, New York; Bradford and Penzance, England (sadly devoid of singing pirates); and a windowless cubby beneath the stairs in a San Francisco flat crowded with ten roommates, four iguanas, three cats, two German exchange students, and a bald illegal Irishwoman, none of whom possessed a front door key. Before having children, she moved to a new city every six months, indulging her taste for novelty. She currently resides in southern California with her husband and two children.
"A stunning debut fantasy about love and the ties of blood."—Armchair Interviews
"Kasai’s debut is a boldly adventurous tale depicting a richly detailed world. The aspect of Traders shifting gender brings Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness to mind, while the activities on Chen’s island are more reminiscent of Laurell K. Hamilton’s Meredith Gentry novels."—Booklist
"When Sorykah's twin babies are stolen, she leaves her job as engineer aboard an ice-drilling submarine in the frozen land of the Sigue to search for her children, for they, like her, are members of the gender-shifting Traders, a rare subspecies of humans that can shift from male to female and back again. Kasai's first novel creates a frozen world inhabited by permutations of humans and animals, from the eight-limbed octameroons to dog-faced humans and wolves who can become men. Despite the bleak images of a world too often tampered with, Sorykah and her alter ego, the male Soryk, demonstrate the strength and persistence of love and loyalty. Reminiscent of Ursula Le Guin's paradigm-shattering The Left Hand of Darkness, this piercingly moving story belongs in most fantasy collections."—Library Journal
"Ice Song is definitely a compelling read, largely due to the fact that Sorykah is such a well-developed character. She has an equally intense and complex sense of love and resentment for her children. And the fact that she exists between the world of humans and the mutants is also a source of conflict for her character...Ice Song is a near-perfect combination of fantasy, great storytelling and social commentary."—Philadelphia Gay News
"Told in a quiet, sometimes almost dreamlike style reminiscent of fairy tales (though at times disturbing ones), Ice Song will appeal to teens interested in questions of identity and difference."—School Libray Journal