About two years ago, I was helping a friend with a yard sale. My friend Kirk is a fellow writer who specializes in steam punky fantasy. As I was looking through a small assortment of eccentric unsold books, he reached over and picked up one particular book and handed it to me. He seemed confident that I would really appreciate this book. I did. I not only appreciated it, I downloaded the next book in the series, then the last.
As I was preparing to write my blog entry, I felt like doing something different. I know not everyone is into reading for fun, but many of us are. As tattooers, modern fiction over the last decade has put out some fun tattoo centered fiction that we can all appreciate. Most of use are probably familiar with the tattooed strong female lead of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, which made it to movie as well. What if I told you there was far more out there?
The following is a review of a fantasy trilogy called the Skindancer series, by Anthony Francis. The author is a PhD and computer scientist who lives in San Francisco, but spent most of his life in Atlanta, the setting for his main character, Dakota Frost. His setting is a modern alternate reality along the lines of the True Blood series, where he takes the concept of vampires living out in the open to the entire underground paranormal community living out in the open. Vampires were of course the first to set up “embassies” in every major city. However, he has added a very active werewolf/werecreature community as well as magical community. That brings us to Dakota, a magical tattoo artist.
Francis not only creates a strong female protagonist, but he makes her enticing and sexy with her own cocky bravado, which tends to get her into trouble. She is tall, with a death hawk hairdo that makes her even taller. Her magical tattoos are applied in a very traditional method reminiscent of the Japanese tebori style. The magical inks combined with a very specific spell patterning that underlies all designs can manifest in the ability for the wearer to make them move and come to life.
As a student of a magical tradition called “skindancing,” Dakota can actually summon and use her sentient tattoos to do battle with people from a variety of other schools of magic. This comes in handy since she seems to keep getting dragged into these old school detective noir style adventures, which end in some seriously spectacular magical confrontations.
In Frost Moon, the first book begins with contact from her former cop dad’s ex-partner. She is dragged into a grisly investigation as a consultant, where she is presented with a magical box made of the skins of other well known magical tattooers. As the potential next victim of a serial killer, she goes on an adventure that leads her to delve into a relationship with a black helicopter wielding secret supernatural government agent. Her vampire ex-girlfriend is part of the mix, as well as several other rich magical characters who all come to life on a backdrop of the Little Five Points area of Atlanta. If you are familiar with this area, then you have the added treat of recognizing the real-life tattoo studio that her shop is modeled after.
In Blood Rock, the second book in the series draws Dakota back into another police investigation involving murders perpetrated by magical graffiti, which uses the same fundamentals as the magical tattoo discipline. As her collection of ex-lovers accrues to add a new vampire lover, she also has the addition of an adopted were-tiger daughter from the first book. She continues to grow her team of magical allies as they interweave their vivid underworld onto Francis’s spot-on description of real world Atlanta. All this culminating into the most surreal showdown of epic magical smackdown.
Liquid Fire, the final book in the series expands the setting beyond Atlanta to both San Francisco and Hawaii. The variations of members of the magical community are also added to with everything from elves to magical firedancers. Although the earlier books had the presence of dragons embodied in Dakota’s tattoos, there is a great focus on the importance and history of real dragons in the world that Francis has created.
Why should I read this?
Even if you don’t dig fantasy, this series interweaves a variety of real-world subcultures that most tattooers tend rub elbows with. From different facets of the fetish scene, to an extremely accurate and well painted depiction of tattoo culture, tattoo artists, and the general Atlanta tattoo scene, it is clear that Francis has done his homework. They are well written books that draw you in and keep you reading. While most of the author’s influences are extremely obvious, it doesn’t detract from the overall storytelling. I highly recommend them.
Tell us what you think?
While these books are fiction and won’t help you grow as an artist, they will keep you entertained and help remind you that you are not forgotten in the realm of fiction. However, we are aware that there a number of books out there that are good reference and instructional tools. As a humble servant of our readers and network members, I am letting you know that I’m always willing to take one for the team and review a good book, especially a tattoo book. Let us know if you enjoyed this. Let us know if you have any specific books you’d like to know more about and have us review for you. Lastly, let us know if you are a tattooer involved in a publication project. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
As always, thanks for your support.
Till next time,
You can find the Skindancer series on Amazon in both kindle and paperback formats.