You know what I’m talking about and I went there. For instance, the Brothers Grimm had Cinderella’s toes cut off, Ariel basically enters some form of Sea Foam purgatory for 300 years and Belle is eaten alive by her sisters. That isn’t to say Desdemona and the Deep doesn’t have a happy ending. I’m not saying whether it does or doesn’t I don’t do spoilers. That isn’t the point at all here.
Thank you to Tor.Com for the ARC of Desdemona and the Deep (We will talk about you a little later)
My point, is that 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.
Starting with the luxurious abundance of the surface dwellers that are dogmatic in good-will charity to ease their guilty conscience, as their lifestyle degrades air quality and work conditions of the lower class. Parading girls around at these events to raise money and improve these conditions.
The stench of infection rising from their abscesses. Swollen joints, collapsed jaws, exposed bone, barren eyes. Some wore neck and back braces to bear up their frames, because their disintegrating skeletons could no long do so… The Phossy Gals ranged from mid-teens to mid-twenties, the oldest being about twenty-seven– Desdemona’s own age– though years of factory work had so hagged the “gal” that she seemed a veritable goblin crone, fit only for boiling babies and picking her teeth with their bones.
Writing styles and language shifting with finesse as Desdemona finds the truth in her father’s side dealings with the those in the deep, the King of the Kobolds that maintains their lifestyle. By paying tithes with the living in return for oil. This time, lives of the miner that work for him.
Characters are built quickly without losing their unique voice, story contribution or arcs. Desdemona has only known life as the rich daughter of the most successful mining family in Seafall. But when she finds out how her father has managed that success all this time? She could easily fall in-line, turn a blind eye, keeping her life of luxury. She chooses otherwise.
And it is here that Cooney shines as shown in the quoted material above, she utilizes multiple writing techniques that I have come across, individually, in different books but never quite in the same book. Cooney interweaves them like a pro. Never to indulging herself on her ability to do so but always with a purpose. Instead to create complex worlds and characters, while continuing to drive a plot with multiple points of conflict.
But if Desdemona knew one thing, it was this: if misery loves company, malice adores it.
Seeking out those that will help her understand what to do to travel within the deep, the answers come but in a fashion that are exact in truth while delivered precisely how an exiled Queen of the Gentry would deliver them. Thus, moving the plot forward, creating a unique voice and changing the tone of the book in one swift move.
And then abruptly cutting it back to Desdemona’s matter-of-fact voice, thought and factual circumstance.
A poet, said Mrs. Howell, is always drunk. She is drunk on words. She is drunk on love. She is drunk on ego, on her very desire to write a poem: to be transported to a place of pure experience, and afterward, in some future tranquility, to record her ecstatic displacement, confining it to precise stanzas, measure and purified and distilled to an essence meant to be shared with others, transporting them in turn. A poet is in love with the world. She is like a virus born of love; she must travel to live, and her vehicle is poetry. Was it any wonder a poet is the preferred candidate for travel between worlds?
Desdemona was not a poet.
However, she will not be deterred, instead she grabs the hand of her best friend Chaz, her instantly loveable, crossdressing best friend, and starts her journey through the many levels of the deep to undo her father’s wretchedness.
World by world, through a kaleidoscope of imagery, the deep comes to life as Desdemona must not only cross-deal with the leaders of the underworld to undo the wretchedness of her father.
As the story unfolds, Desdemona isn’t just faced witH the original goals of her sojourn. She must also face the unrealized demons of her own life, truths about those she cares about most and the surface she will ultimately return to. Desdemona and the Deep at the end, will stay with you for a long time as she returns to the surface a deeper, more complete version of who left the surface having returned with more than she realized in having let go of more than she ever known possible.
Please check out my interview with C.S.E Cooney from last week!
Also one more side note… Tor.Com recently won an award for another piece of short work called Artificial Condition… there is something happening at Tor.Com that should be taken note of. I would love a chance to review more of their novellas. There are some interesting titles. Disclosure: I do have an ARC of Gideon the Ninth (not a Novella but exciting just the same). Just wanted to bring attention to something *I* have found recently and find interesting.