A Journey into Strangeness, DESDEMONA AND THE DEEP by C.S.E. Cooney

The world is three petals of a single flower. On one petal, humans live and work and mine and struggle. In another petal, the dreamy realm of dangerous fae-like gentry lives just under the skin of the world. Beneath that, kobold kingdoms bite and curse and trick. Desdemona is the wealthy heir of a mining empire, and learns a horrifying truth about her family’s mining fortune. Her father cut a deal with the kobold king to trade the lives of miners for the placement of mineral elements where the man desires them. To cover up the taking of so many miners, the rest are killed in a mining “accident”.

Desdemona cannot escape the truth of what she has just learned. It gnaws on her soul, and she decides to journey into the underworlds to seek out those lost men and cut a deal with the dangerous kobold king to bring the lost men home.

The story is beautiful, with wild and imaginative and strange scenes and characters, and paints a rich portrait of the three worlds. Even the portrayal of the world of men is horrifying and beautiful, with details and descriptions that paint as if the painter of the book was painting it all. It has moments that remind of VanderMeer’s Ambergris, and Valente’s Palimpsest. The book sings scenery and setting of strangeness and malice. The whimsy is always edged. One is never permitted to believe that any of these strange sights or characters is anything but dangerous. The nanny of the kobold queen in apron and cloven, furry whimsy is never trustworthy, always too like the trickster, always too knowledgeable, and everything below the land of men is very deadly. The sisterly friend, Chaz, is a standout character in the genre, and clearly demonstrates in flesh why the world demands magic, still, and how dreams heal us.

The world above, of humans and mines and decadent wealth, is just as dangerous. The gruesome ways people treat each other contrasts starkly with the beauty of the world. It is a reminder that we will never be able to dream a monster more thoroughly awful than our own fellows in flesh and blood.

I enjoyed this little book, and recommend it to you.

Categories: Book Reviews

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