Twelve Kings Tuesdays — Tattoos

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From now until the release of Twelve Kings in Sharakhai in early September, I’m going to be posting a new image from the Pinterest board I created for inspiration. I’ll be talking a bit about each image, why I chose it, how it affected the story, and so on. Read on for this week’s installment.

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Only two weeks remain until the release of Twelve Kings in Sharakhai! The lead up to this book has been both exciting and excruciating, but either way it’s almost here.

This week on Twelve Kings Tuesdays, I’d like to talk about tattoos. Tattoos figure prominently in the story in a few key ways.

The aspect that is shown first in Twelve Kings is the fact that the desert tribes use tattoos to tell tales. They tell tales of the individual and their family. They’re given to the young at certain points in their lives. And they’re added to as young women and men reach adulthood and forge their way through life. They are, in the end, a personal history.

Tattoos are not undertaken lightly. Sometimes they’re small tattoos. Sometimes they’re quite large. Sometimes they’re embellishments to existing tattoos. But what’s always true is that they have meaning. Here are a few of the earliest ones I found that spurred some thoughts as to how they might look in the Shangazi desert.

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I started with facial tattoos as these are some of the first ones the readers come across in the book. Chief among them is Husamettín, the King of Swords. This is a man who happens to be four hundred years old. And I thought it was very interesting to think that he has tattoos that tell stories of him and his family that are four centuries old. It was neat to think of how the designs and aesthetics of the tattoos would change over those four centuries. The desert people would change perhaps slower than those in Sharakhai, as Sharakhai is a metropolis with a lot more influence from the neighboring kingdoms and cultures, meaning the designs that are en vogue would change more rapidly. But the desert would still change, and it’s interesting to see the Kings, however cruel they may be, as a cultural bridge to an older version of the desert.

And it isn’t only facial tattoos. And this brings me to the other major aspect of tattoos. Çeda, the main character, ends up getting two tattoos in Twelve Kings.

One is a tattoo on her right hand. Her sword hand. This tattoo is related to the adichara trees, which are poisonous. Just how they’re related I’ll leave it to you, the reader, to discover, but suffice it to say for now that it represents a major change in Çeda’s life.

Çeda also has a tattoo on her back, given to her by her guardian, Dardzada, an apothecary who watches over her after her mother’s death. Again, I’ll leave the exact nature of the tattoo hidden in the text, but this was a particularly difficult scene to write, because it was emotionally devastating for Çeda when it happened. But here, like many places in Twelve Kings in Sharakhai, there may be multilayered meanings for this tattoo. Çeda will just have to wait and see what they are.

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These are all henna tattoos, but I love the style of them. The tattoos in the desert of Sharakhai wouldn’t quite be like this. There would be more iconographic words embedded here and there. But they’re a good starting point for the imagination.

I hope you enjoyed this installment. Join me for more Twelve Kings Tuesdays as the release of Twelve Kings in Sharakhai approaches!

Twelve Kings in Sharakhai, Book One of The Song of the Shattered Sands, is available for pre-order in the US via Penguin Random HouseAmazon, or Barnes and Noble and in the UK via Amazon UK and Waterstones. Audio versions will also be available via Brilliance Audio and Orion/Gollancz Audio.