Close to the Borders of Fairyland: Dark Breakers by C.S.E. Cooney

Close to the Borders of Fairyland: Dark Breakers by C.S.E. Cooney

Dark Breakers by CSE Cooney (Mythic Delirium, February 15, 2022). Cover by Brett Massé

It’s been a delight watching the meteoric career of C.S.E. Cooney, Black Gate‘s first Website Editor. Her short fiction has been reprinted in Jonathan Strahan’s The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year and Rich Horton’s Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy (five times); her novella “The Bone Swans of Amandale” was nominated for a Nebula Award in 2015, and in 2016 she won a World Fantasy Award for her collection Bone Swans.

Somewhere in there she also found the time to release three albums (Alecto! Alecto!, The Headless Bride, and Corbeau Blanc, Corbeau Noir), and a poetry collection, How to Flirt in Faerieland and Other Wild Rhymes, containing her 2011 Rhysling Award-winning “The Sea King’s Second Bride.” More recently she published a novella (Desdemona and the Deep, 2019), and in April of this year Solaris releases her long-awaited first novel, Saint Death’s Daughter.

Last week Mythic Delirium Books published her newest book Dark Breakers, a collection of five linked stories — including three never before published — all set in the same world as Desdemona and the Deep. ZZ Claybourne calls it “an art deco mural under the guidance of Galadriel, Zora Neale Hurston and the Brothers Grimm,” and Publishers Weekly proclaims it “Extravagant and gorgeous.”

Desdemona and the Deep-small Desdemona and the Deep-back-small

Desdemona and the Deep (, July 2019). Cover by Alyssa Winans

Dark Breakers has barely been out a week, and there’s already a bevy of enthusiastic reviews to cherry pick from. But let’s quote from one of my favorites: Jeremy Brett at Ancillary Review of Books, who calls it “Strange, beautiful, and dangerous.”

There are few authors that merrily dance so close to the borders of Fairyland as C.S.E. Cooney. Should the mortal world ever establish diplomatic relations with the fae, Cooney, whose warm writing beautifully merges the otherworldliness and sheer strangeness of fairykind with the rich and familiar emotions of humanity, would make an excellent ambassador… for either side of the line…

The stories in Dark Breakers take place in the same setting: a human world reminiscent of the Gilded Age that overlaps with magical underworlds ruled by fairies and goblins… The first and longest tale, “The Breaker Queen,” is set before Desdemona, and chronicles the romance of artist Elliot Howell – one of Desdemona’s glittering array of friends – and Nyx the Nightwalker, a gentry queen… The story centers around the growing passion between the two, and here the reader sees Cooney’s characteristic masterful blending of emotional resonance and puckish humor, wrapped together with a subplot concerning the deadly political machinations that drench the Valwode…

The most affecting of the stories is “Salissay’s Laundries”, a journalistic expose written by reporter Salissay Dimaguiba. Salissay is a Nellie Bly/Lois Lane-style investigative crusader, going undercover to expose injustice and corruption; in this case, at the Seafall City Laundries (Athe’s equivalent of the notorious Magdalene Laundries in Ireland, those secretive institutions where thousands of “fallen women” were essentially jailed for life, exploited, and abused, many dying and being buried in unmarked graves). Salissay, a skeptic who does not believe in the gentry or magic, masquerades as a woman touched by gentry and seeking shelter. What she finds once admitted to the Laundries is truly horrific… Cooney has infused fantastical tales of magic and fairy folk with a deep social compassion, which gives this tale an extra frisson of realism and relevance…

Cooney is the Mistress of the Liminal; her words and imagery thrive in the borderlands, the middle spaces where wildly different visions of life and creation, different understandings of responsibility and obligation, and different cultures, politics, and systems of power come together in interactions strange, beautiful, and dangerous.

Read Jeremy’s complete review here.

Here’s the complete Table of Contents.

Introduction by Sharon Shinn
“The Breaker Queen”
“The Two Paupers”
“Salissay’s Laundries”
“Susurra to the Moon”

Dark Breakers was published by Mythic Delirium Books on February 14, 2022. It is 292 pages, priced at $40 in hardcover, $23 in trade paperback, and $7 in digital formats. The cover and interior art is by Brett Massé. Order copies directly from Mythic Delirium at their website.

See all our coverage of recent books from BG Staff here.

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C.S.E. Cooney

JOHN! This is amazingly kind of you! THANK YOU SO MUCH! <3 <3 <3

Eugene R.

Yay, Clare! Time to play my copy of The Headless Bride again, and get another book order going.

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