Story/Poem Round-Up: What I Wrote in 2020

The Twice-Drowned Saint, a short novel in A Sinister Quartet

Locus Review by Ian Mond

“The book opens with Cooney’s sublime short novel “The Twice Drowned Saint”

…There’s so much to adore about the “The Twice-Drowned Saint”, everything from the inventive worldbuilding that fuses technology with magic; to the byplay between Ish and Alizar; to the Jekyll and Hyde nature of Ish’s Uncles forced to lend their bodies to the incorporeal angels, while also doing what they can – when their minds are their own – to undermine Gelethel’s cruel rulers. I particularly fell for Ish, though. More than her jaded but not overly cynical perspective, and her lively relationship first with Alizar and then Betony, it’s her love for cinema, and especially her father’s movie scripts that will sadly never be produced, that makes her such a wonderfully sympathetic character.”

Locus Review by Rich Horton

The Twice-Drowned Saint” is… as extravagantly imagined and lushly but playfully written as we have come to expect from Cooney.”

Review by author Francesca Forrest:

“…I think this may be my favorite thing I’ve read by Claire–and I’ve read lots, all of which I’ve enjoyed. But this was just–it was a whole other level. It reaches for something really big and achieves it.

It starts out an acrobatic tale of an angelic city that’s really a kind hell hole–(most of) the angels are creepy abominations who delight in human sacrifices offered them by starving refugees desperate for the safe haven the city represents in a war-torn world. OVERTONES, right?

(I say “acrobatic” because Claire has this prodigious imagination and she lets it run all over the place–it darts hither and yon like fireflies and then holds you fixed while it dances on a high wire like Philippe Petit. She’s a roller coaster, but if you just let yourself ride the roller coaster, it’s actually taking you to a destination…)

…In the end I was left with the impression of Hieronymus Bosch blended with CS Lewis–in the best possible way…”

…On the strength of this story alone, A Sinister Quartet is worth purchasing, but from the excerpts I heard the other day, the other three stories will also be wonderful.”

Review by Little Red Reviewer:

“…On a scale of zero to ten, the Cooney is a twenty, easily one of the best things I’ve read this year….

And now we get to C.S.E. Cooney’s “The Twice Drowned Saint”.   I loved so many things about this story, but what makes the story shine so bright is the worldbuilding.  The way Cooney does world building,  she makes the world absolutely gigantic, and then she focuses the lens onto these intimate moments in people’s lives…

…My clumsy words don’t do justice to “The Twice Drowned Saint”. Just read it. It is a sunrise, where all things are beautiful and possible,  and it is blood on the ground surrounded by those who lap it up, hungering for more. This is one of the best pieces of fiction I’ve read this year.  If you are on the fence about reading / buying a small press novella collection from a bunch of authors you’ve never heard of, “The Twice Drowned Saint” alone is worth five times the cost of the collection.”

Review by Anthony R. Cardno

“…And through it all, there is Cooney’s masterful use of language, soaring into the ethereal and plummeting through the earthen – colors and sounds and smells evoked with unexpected turns of phrase and exacting word choice. Sometimes the story feels sf-nal, sometimes high (almost Biblical) fantasy, but it never feels at odds with itself despite the mix of genres…”

“Or Perhaps Up,” in Where the Veil is Thin

A review from “Betwixt the Sheets“:

“My favorite story in the collection is ‘Or Perhaps Up’ by C.S.E. Cooney. I had never heard of her before, but Wikipedia states she’s best known for her fantasy poetry and short stories and has won the Rhysling Award for her poem ‘The Sea King’s Second Bride’ and the World Fantasy Award–Collection for ‘Bone Swans. 

It feels almost tragic that I’ve never read anything penned by her before, as she writes with an ethereal mixture of hope and despair that tugs right at my heart. I seldom become so invested in a short story as I did with this one. She managed within just a few pages to make me care deeply for each of her characters and I love the world she created. This story and this author were an unexpected gem buried within the pages for me.”

Review from

“Or Perhaps Up” by C.S.E. Cooney: Reeling from a recent breakup, a young woman meets disaster when she unearths an abandoned swan boat from a carnival ride and tries to take it out on the water. Along the way, Cooney beautifully fills in the warm relationship between the woman and her mother. The story is funny in places, though in a drier way than McGuire’s entry, and then when the heroine capsizes and finds herself in a surreal watery realm, the prose becomes dreamlike. And then the mother-daughter relationship reemerges to break your heart.”

“The Wyrm of Lirr,” a poem in The Book of Dragons: An Anthology

Enthusiasm from Amal El-Mohtar:

“So far I’ve only read my dear CSE Cooney’s magnificent poem, “The Wyrm of Lirr,” but I would frankly buy the collection on its strength alone.”

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One response to “Story/Poem Round-Up: What I Wrote in 2020

  1. Pingback: The Twice-Drowned Saint on Locus’s Recommended Reading List: 1st Novel Category | C.S.E. Cooney

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