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 hierarchy.
This book was fucking weird and I loved it. The end.
Just kidding, of course I have more to say. First of all, don’t let that beautiful cover fool you–weird shit is happening in this book and it is amazing. And also beautiful in its own unique way. I love stories of the fae when they’re all dark and weird and they make dangerous bargains. I love when they’re other worldly and not humanized too much, like there is an almost alien feel to them, something very much not human that makes it just a bit tough to ever get a feel for them. This is done PERFECTLY in Desdemona and the Deep.
For such a short book there are quite a few things explored here and yet it never feels like there’s too much packed in, or too many things going on–each element is perfectly balanced. First you have Desdemona who, at the start, you get the feeling is a very shallow type of girl. But maybe she’s not that shallow, just very cynical due to her family and upbringing. She’s extremely wealthy, certainly a ‘one percenter’ if you will. She’s like one of the Vanderbilts back in the day or something. Lavish parties, designer clothes, nothing but the best of the best. And her mother does charity but she sees her mother’s work through a cynical lens, her mother putting on a show instead of doing anything to make a real difference. She’s living the high life but clearly has a lot of emotional issues going on. But we don’t feel sorry for her, there’s no poor little rich girl here. We’re not made to empathize with her and I’m glad the author didn’t go in that direction. Instead what we get is a great character arc as Desdemona goes on her journey with the Fae. But the important thing, the first step, is all on her–she wants to change things. She makes the decision. She doesn’t come to it because of anything other than her own willingness to say ‘this isn’t right’ and taking action. I think that’s important.
As for other characters, we have Desdemona’s best friend, Chaz. Also one of the elites, but someone like Desdemona who clearly has some other things going on beneath the surface. I really liked watching Chaz’s journey too, even though we only get to see them through the lens of Desdemona’s story and thus don’t get to spend as much time with them as a character. The fae in this story are beautifully grotesque and darkly mysterious, just the way I love them. I enjoyed the fae characters we meet, trying to figure them out. Some of them manage to inject some fun into the story, which I appreciated because it kept things from straying too dark.
In short, I really loved this story. I could gush about it some more but you should probably just pick up a copy and check it out for yourself. 5/5 stars.
9 thoughts on “Book Review: Desdemona and the Deep by C.S.E. Cooney”
This didn’t click with me, but be sure to check out her short story collection Bone Swans & Other Stories, a lot more powerful than this imo.
Thanks for the rec! I’ll definitely be looking into more of her work. 🙂
This book completely slipped past my radar! Now I need to track down a copy😁
The good news is it’s a quick read so easy to work in somewhere lol. 🙂
This also slipped by me but it sounds great and I love reading stories of the fae. I need this now.
It’s so weird and I loved it. Hope you enjoy!
This sounds wonderfully weird- I love this kind of thing!
It’s weird and dark and lovely and at first I kind of hated the main character but then I loved her and this wonderful story arc all in a novella–I was blown away.