I’m back from four long, exhausting days at Gen Con, and the first thing I did (after I unpacked) was open all my mail. That included lots of books — but they’re all going to have to wait, because the second box I opened contained C.S.E. (Claire) Cooney’s Desdemona and the Deep, one of the most anticipated books of the year, at least for me. Claire was the Managing Editor of the Black Gate website during our early years, and permanently put her stamp on things. Now she’s making an even larger impact on the entire field of fantasy. Her first collection, Bone Swans, won a World Fantasy Award, and though I’m only 50 pages into it, Desdemona looks like a very strong contender for next year’s Award already. The early reviews have been stellar, but perhaps my favorite was from BookPage. Here’s a snippet.
The land of Seafall is a study in excess, and Desdemona is at the center of it all with nothing to occupy her mind except her mother’s dreadful charity events and her best friend, Chaz. But that was before she learned the origin of her family’s fortune. Her father’s family made a series of deals with the goblin king, the latest of which left hundreds dead and a handful trapped in the world below. Determined to right her family’s wrongs, Desdemona embarks on a quest to enter the underground worlds to bargain for the lives her father callously threw away.
One of the things that makes Desdemona and the Deep so compelling is that in its scant pages, Cooney manages to sketch the boundaries and vagaries of not just one fantastic world, but of three. Desdemona’s world, the world above, is a too-real Gilded Age nightmare where the poor suffer to make the opulent lives of robber barons possible. The worlds below are equally vivid, the dark and sharp world of the goblins standing in stark contrast to the gentry’s light and dreamy plane. That the three worlds are so distinct would be impressive in a much longer book. Within the confines of novella, it is a feat… A gripping tale from beginning to end, Desdemona and the Deep is a great read for anyone who loves a good fairy story.
Desdemona and the Deep was published by Tor.com on July 23, 2019. It is 221 pages, priced at $14.99 in trade paperback and $3.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Alyssa Winans. Download a sample chapter in the Tor.com Publishing 2019 Debut Sampler.