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ARC Review: Dark Breakers by C.S.E. Cooney

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Publication Date: February 15, 2022

Synopsis:

NEW FROM WORLD FANTASY AWARD WINNER C. S. E. COONEY

A young human painter and an ageless gentry queen fall in love over spilled wine—at the risk of his life and her immortality. Pulled into the Veil Between Worlds, two feuding neighbors (and a living statue) get swept up in a brutal war of succession. An investigative reporter infiltrates the Seafall City Laundries to write the exposé of a lifetime, and uncovers secrets she never believed possible. Returning to an oak grove to scatter her husband’s ashes, an elderly widow meets an otherworldly friend, who offers her a momentous choice. Two gentry queens of the Valwode plot to hijack a human rocketship and steal the moon out of the sky.

DARK BREAKERS gathers three new and two previously uncollected tales from World Fantasy Award-winning writer C. S. E. Cooney that expand on the thrice-enfolded worlds first introduced in her Locus and World Fantasy award-nominated novella DESDEMONA AND THE DEEP. In her introduction to DARK BREAKERS, Crawford Award-winning author Sharon Shinn advises those who pick up this book to “settle in for a fantastical read” full of “vivid world-building, with layer upon layer of detail; prose so dense and gorgeous you can scoop up the words like handfuls of jewels; a mischievous sense of humor; and a warm and hopeful heart.”

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I LOVED this collection of connected stories, and I am very much looking forward to reading Desdemona and the Deep now.

The writing is absolutely breathtakingly gorgeous. It was challenging at first, a bit of a tangle, and then as I read it opened up and I fell in love with it. With Athe and the Valwode, humans and gentry and goblins, and doors that open at midnight and art that can change the world.

The characters were so layered and intriguing, so interconnected, and it was a joy to come to know them.

There was honestly nothing I would change about it – a rare thing – and I am hereby adding CSE Cooney’s name to my list of favorite and must-read authors.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Mythic Delirium Books for providing an e-arc for review.

Favorite Quotes:

They stood together on that liminal platform between second floor and first, and peered over the bannister into the main hall below.

“That same sandpaper tongue, that flays as it licks.”

Gideon did not like people touching him unexpectedly — or at all, really. But for some reason, sometimes, he suffered Elliot’s touch. Elliot did not know why. And he would never, for all the gentry gold in the Veil, ask.

A half-smile from Gideon was about as resistible as a riptide. Elliot returned a shy one of his own.

A little water, after all, might quench thirst — but a little more would drown you.

But she must be careful. Too much, too fast, all at once, all the time: that was Athe.

Illusionist artists painted ceilings that looked like skies — just to remind you that they were ceilings.

But sometimes, sometimes, Nyx the Nightwalker, Queen of the Valwode, ruler of the unruly gentry, exerted herself to dream a little fragrance into her life, just to delight her own dreaming self — even at the cost of a riot.

But Nyx was no longer young and stupid — which made her different from all the other perpetually young and stupid gentry…

He sounded practiced, patient, wise, and anciet.

She frowned at him in peeved admiration. That he dared use that voice on her! Did he imagine Nyx to be one of his unbaked human dough balls, his piglets, his caterpillars, come romping through his halls for an education? Watch her tell him her true name — all of it — pronounced by a bolt of thunder across the whole of the Valwode sky, and see if he survived it!

But she nodded. She trusted him to do what he did best — and to re-make her, so that she might re-make the world.

And perhaps, Ana thought, that very feeling of ridiculousness was part of what made the walls between worlds. The fear of humiliation, of talking nonsense, of babbling of things unseen and worlds unknown.

“Mortal children may learn these things. But they forget. Or they do not believe. But you — you, Ana — when you speak, you are retelling the World Flower into being; you are paving the way for Ymbglidegold!”

All Ana had to do was readjust a lifetime of perception. All she had to do was think of them, not as stories, as histories. Nixie’s personal memories