REVIEW: Dark Breakers by C.S.E. Cooney

As you all know, occasionally I am blessed with an ARC, and if I read the ARC and enjoy it the book gets its own super special review. And seeing as I did indeed receive this review copy of Dark Breakers, out from Mythic Delirium on February 15th, allow me to tell you what you’re in for. If you love rich worlds, fairies, goblins, and shorter tales which each have their own astonishing conclusions, this collection will delight you.

“The Breaker Queen” starts off the collection, a wonderous whip crack of a tale in which a gentry queen finds the courage to cast off her heavy obligations in the form of a young artist. This story was everything a reader might want from a fae romance, and I loved every minute of it.

“The Two Paupers” is also a romance, though a far more complicated one, in which a writer falls in love with a sculptor who has dark secrets. She must decide first if she will save him from the enchantments that bind him and second if she will stay with him afterwards despite the pain he’s caused her. This story was a more complicated read for me, but one I ultimately enjoyed.

A shift in tone comes with “Salissay’s Laundries,” where an investigative reporter goes undercover in a working house that is reputed to target those under gentry enchantments, especially gentry babes or changeling children. Salissay doesn’t believe in gentry or enchantments, but finds her beliefs shaken at what she discovers inside and the horrors of what is done to those kept captive in the Laundries. This is probably Cooney’s most political story in all of her gentry tales, and ends on a note of hope that reminded me of the final book in C.L. Polk’s Kingston Cycle.

In the second to last tale, Cooney turns deeply personal and introspective with “Longergreen.” After the passing of her human husband, an old woman makes a pilgrimage to an enchanted wood and there meets a bygone lover who offers her a chance at immortality. It’s hard to say if this story or “The Breaker Queen” was my favorite. They are very different stories, structurally, but function as reflections of one another. Reading these two stories together is well worth the cost of admission.

Lastly, “Susurra Moon” closes out the collection with a bright look at the future, as two queens of the gentry contemplate the vastness of the mortal sky and a journey to the moon. This brief story was a bright spot that looks towards future possibilities in this fantastical world.

Each of these stories is a jewel in its own right. My only complaint with this collection was the desire for more — I wanted to know what happened to some of the characters who played a more supporting role in these tales, like Ms. Ympsie and her gentry babe. I wanted to see the mysteries of Ymbildegold. But that’s not so bad. Perhaps in some distant future, Cooney will write more tales.

We can only hope.

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