For those who don’t know me, I’m a Shakespeare nerd. I will go and get books that have the slightest hint of being a Shakespeare adaptation, because that’s just my Thing, and when it’s done well I love it. I had no clue about how this book would BE a Shakespeare adaptation, but surely with a title like that, it had to be, right? Wrong. But it was still absolutely amazing!
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.
I’m used to fairies and goblins being much darker and more cunning than that, and I like it – but it’s also really nice to have something different for a change. It was good to have a different take on faerie, one that is perhaps kinder, or simply different.
I really disliked Desdemona at first. I mean, she’s 28 or something and has the concerns of a 16 year old (no diss on 16 year olds, you’re just supposed to have more responsibilities at 28). But there is amazing character growth throughout the novella, as Desdemona realises all she’s been oblivious to, and what her privileges really mean: her father’s fortune literally comes from blood money. But she goes about fixing that. I was a bit miffed that she went and used the same goblin contract her father exploited, to get back the men who got taken in the process: it’s very clear the goblin ruler is as much a prisoner of that bargain as the men he took. But the way things unfolded ended up being very satisfying.
Ultimately I love a good book about hard moral choices, and social justice, and taking responsibility for doing the right thing where you can. I grew to like the heroine, I absolutely loved how queer the whole story was – and the fact that Desdemona realises halfway through (despite being queer herself) that she’s never truly seen her best friend for who she really is – and immediately changes pronouns to think of her. I really enjoyed all secondary characters too, there’s a lot of liveliness and fun there. It’s both a serious story and a very funny one, and maybe that’s what’s Shakespearean about it after all 🙂