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Desdemona and the Deep

(Dark Breakers)

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  84 ratings  ·  31 reviews
In Desdemona and the Deep, the spoiled daughter of a rich mining family must retrieve the tithe of men her father promised to the world below.

On the surface, her world is rife with industrial pollution that ruins the health of poor factory workers while the idle rich indulge themselves in unheard-of luxury. Below are goblins, mysterious kingdoms, and an entirely different
Paperback, 224 pages
Published July 23rd 2019 by
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C.S.E. Cooney You can totally read Desdemona without the other ones. It is a standalone novella in the same world as the other two stories. Some of the characters…moreYou can totally read Desdemona without the other ones. It is a standalone novella in the same world as the other two stories. Some of the characters appear as minor roles in other stories, but I've taken the first two out of print to fix some early errors. At the moment, I am trying to get "Book Three" struck from the title! Figuring it out right now!(less)
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4.18  · 
Rating details
 ·  84 ratings  ·  31 reviews

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Hannah Greendale
Aug 04, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy, novella, literary
Whimsical but rushed and insubstantial.
Austine (NovelKnight)
Jul 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Check out the original review and more on NovelKnight!
This book was provided by the publisher (via NetGalley). This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Desdemona and the Deep was the eerily but beautifully weird faerie book I've been searching for all year. I've been tricked time and again by the promise of the twisted world of the fae (or "gentry" as their counterparts are known here) and each time it hasn't lived up to the claim. But this book, with its gob
Tor-Dot-Com just coming right for my soul with ALL THEIR NOVELLAS, IT'S FINE, I'M FINE.

Desdemona is an atmospheric, slightly unsettling, misty, summer afternoon, but bound in a book. It's frenetic and achy, fierce and full of heart, sharp and delicate. It's fae, but done correctly--all sharp edged smiles and sleepy questions and thorny claws. It's a slow fall from the real world into something new, dark and sepia-toned and gorgeous. It feels and it hurts and it holds you gently until you heal.
Jan 31, 2019 marked it as to-read
Recommended to Dustin by: Christa
Shelves: fantasy
Oh you sweet, gorgeous, ridiculous book, where the HELL did you come from??

Do your brain a favour--read this. Read this now.

Jul 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

Desdemona and the Deep is an eerie story about family, sacrifice, and the faerie. Haunting and lyrical, this novella features our heroine Desdemona as she is tested beyond what she could even imagine. In a world of dreams and bargains, will Desdemona emerge the same? Desdemona and the Deep is a story about righting our family's wrongs. It's a story featuring a cast of queer charac
Rike @ RikeRandom
CN: Misgendering, mentions of transmisic behaviour

Really torn on this one. Captivating as hell, but using ridiculously absurd vocabulary at times, making it annoying to read (might be because I’m not a native speaker though?) and I’m not sure how I feel about the misgendering in the beginning. Okay, I feel pretty damn uncomfortable about it. I get where it’s coming from but I’m cis, so even if this didn’t seem off to me, I couldn’t just say „yeah, it makes sense story wise, so it’s alright“.
Jul 27, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-read, fantasy
A joyously incomprehensible mess. But still, you know, a mess.
Jeremy Brett
Jul 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What an absolutely beautiful story C.S.E. Cooney has chosen to tell with "Desdemona and The Deep". Cooney has brought to bear her usual skill with language and expression, and her use of intense, gorgeous imagery, in this story (simply summarized) of a young woman whose determination to do right brings her deep under the earth to darker lands and a kingdom of goblins. The novella is rich with passionate feeling, with life and strength, and with a deathless hope that the victimized and the outcas ...more
Zig Claybourne
Aug 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes a book is like a dream, and if you don’t get your thoughts down about it immediately after finishing it, each bit of solidity becomes smoke, not because the tale is slight, but because by the end it has transformed into its highest self. DESDEMONA AND THE DEEP was that dream for me. Beautiful throughout, but by the end—and by that I mean the actual closing of the book’s covers, setting the book down, then closing the eyes in silent thanks—by the end the sounds and images it’s produced ...more
Jul 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc-paper
Lush and imaginative, Desdemona and the Deep makes me eager for the rerelease of the first two novellas in the Dark Breaker series. Cooney's Breaker world is really stunning, with its world flower mix of humans, Gentry and Koboldkin. A dark tale of a daughter trying to undo the evil bargain of her father, my only problem was with Desdemona herself, who is a spoiled daughter of a coal mine baron who oh so spontaneously grows a heart when confronted with her father's sordid means of gaining wealth ...more
Aug 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that I have known CSE Cooney since relatively early in her career as a writer, and she has always held a curious power over me, such that when she reads aloud, I often forget to breathe, so eager am I for the next delicious, delirious turn of phrase to tickle my eardrum. There! Is it a trickle of honey, thick and sweet, to paint my thoughts with sticky langour? Or is it the trespassing frond of some uncouth insect, to leave its young to wriggle a ...more
Aug 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Desdemona and the Deep sings off the page. It is a novella wrapped in poetry. From the first sentence, I was awe struck by C.S.E. Cooney's lyricism and the way it painted the three worlds where the story takes place. The prose fits the storyline to a tee. In a story where most of the plot takes place in a gaudy world filled with extravagant characters and shifting settings, the prose has to do justice to that world and it does. Beyond the pure beauty of the writing, I came to care about Des
Sara Norja
Aug 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What a radiant book. C.S.E. Cooney's word-magic is a sparkling, dizzying drink, and I guzzled it all down with pleasure. I've read her previous Dark Breakers novellas years ago and enjoyed those too, but this was even better. Goblin magic, contracts, the fight for workers' rights, all wrapped in Cooney's delicious, lively prose.

Desdemona is a great protagonist - starting out spoiled and selfish, but her growth was a joy to behold. Her friendship with Chaz is a thing of beauty, and Chaz's develop
Aug 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A jewel box of delights, of decadent beauty, industrial horror, and magic. There's darkness here, especially in its allusions to real-world horror ("Phossy Jaw" was actually a real condition once suffered by workers in the matchstick industry). But there is also hope and triumph in a most satisfying ending. This journey to fairyland (two fairylands, actually) reminds me a bit of Catherynne Valente's Fairyland series with its lavish details of fairy-wonder. . . but starring decidedly adult charac ...more
Caleb Masters
May 04, 2019 rated it liked it
Desdemona is the spoiled daughter of a rich mining baron but she must learn to step outside of herself and venture deep into the worlds below, filled with goblins and kobold-kin, to rescue miners that have been trapped there because of her father’s shady dealings. Reading like a slightly more sinister Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Cooney’s lush novella is absolutely full to bursting with fantastical imagery and exuberant prose. A perfect read for those who wish that just beyond your bedroom ...more
Aug 06, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
There are some really good ideas here, and some wonderful descriptive passages, but overall the book needed at least two more rounds of revisions- everything happens far too fast and easily, and Desdemona herself doesn't really seem to be a whole character. Is she a spoiled, if cunning, socialite who only cares about fashion and parties? Or is she deeply affected by the guilt of knowing that her family's fortune is built on the deaths of innocent people? I know that it's possible she's both, but ...more
Aug 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love CSE Cooney’s writing so much. (You know it’s good when the author invents an in-world art style that also neatly captures their own style. Clooney is CLEARLY a voluptuist. The downside of the audiobook, of course, is I have no idea how to spell it.)
I was looking forward to this one for a while and it was just everything I wanted from a fairy story. And Cooney is now cemented on my list of authors who read their own work who I ALWAYS listen to.
Rick Brose
Desdemona and the Deep is another solid novella. The world is twisted and grotesque while being beautiful at the same time. It is the strongest part of the book. The three worlds and all the creatures within make a strong backbone to the book. At times it feels hard to like the main character, but overall, the fantastical elements and vivid imagery make it a worthwhile read.
Jul 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
 C.S.E. Cooney has written a novella that is an adult fairytale dark, lush and dense. The multiple worlds and characters come to life in spectacular fashion, which is quite an achievement, having just 200 pages to do so. Full disclosure, I don’t have a lot of experiences with novellas, but I’m going to stand by my beliefs.

Full Review at
Tori Kiersten Frost
DESDEMONA AND THE DEEP is a delightful novella for anyone craving an adventure into a creepy, awe-inspiring fairy realm at the side of a plucky heroine. It reads like a classic fairy tale -- if eldritch Fair Folk were the ones writing the tale, that is.
Aug 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novella
I was introduced the CSE Cooney via “The Bone Swans of Amandale” which had such a wonderful, lyrical approach to reconstructing a fairytale. This novella (approx 41,000 words) has the same virtues, albeit in quite a different type of story.
Desdemona is a spoilt, impulsive rich girl in a gaslight setting. Luckily she’s also got a big heart hiding in there, and so when she discovers that the old stories of faerie are far too true, and her family are complicit in something very nasty, she decides t
Joe Gannon
Jul 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I devoured this novella in an afternoon, and my head is still swimming a bit from the lovely imagery and breathless pace. It felt like a place I almost remember visiting and have spent my life trying to return to. Hopefully the author will show us more of this world.
Maria Haskins
Aug 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wondrous, lusty, fearsome, opulent novella that feels sort of like a tipsy opera, drunk on fantasy and art, full of goblins and shapeshifting and political resistance and intrigue, and it is singularly fun while also being dark and deep. Thrilling and gorgeously wrought.
Aug 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Delightful. :-) To read an imperious protagonist who is still sympathetic. To find all the shades of Faerie from Irish legend through the 17th century and into modern retellings. To see and be seen among the characters. And to hear: "We'll turn all these walls into doors."
Aug 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant, moving. Gorgeous language. Great twists.
Clare Rhoden
May 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I revelled in the glorious book. I'm reviewing elsewhere so will post a fuller description when that commitment is finished.
In the meantime, let me say that I loved every baroque word of this.
Aug 05, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fantasy, novella
I think I am the unpopular opinion here but I disliked the writing style and couldn‘t get into the story or the world. I really wanted to like this.
Aug 10, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The story was flimsy, rushed, and didn’t do much for me. The main character was unlikable. I wish I had more to say but the book doesn’t give me much to work with.
Aug 05, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Closer to 3.5 ⭐. I enjoyed the worldbuilding but sometimes the language seemed excessively complex. Or maybe I'm just dumb. Who can say?
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C.S.E. Cooney lives and writes in Queens, whose borders are water. She is an audiobook narrator, the singer/songwriter Brimstone Rhine, and author of World Fantasy Award-winning Bone Swans: Stories (Mythic Delirium 2015).

Her work includes the novella Desdemona and the Deep ( 2019), three albums: Alecto! Alecto!, The Headless Bride, and Corbeau Blanc, Corbeau Noir, and a poetry collection: H