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Bone Swans: Stories by [Cooney, C.S.E.]
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Bone Swans: Stories Kindle Edition

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Length: 226 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Product Description

Winner of the 2016 World Fantasy Award for Best Collection

Contains "The Bone Swans of Amandale," 2015 Nebula Award finalist for Best Novella

2015 Locus Recommended Reading List, Best Collection and Best Novella

"C. S. E. Cooney is one of the most moving, daring, and plainly beautiful voices to come out of recent fantasy. She's a powerhouse with a wink in her eye and a song in each pocket."
—Catherynne M. Valente, New York Times-bestselling author of the Fairyland novels

"These stories are a pure joy. C. S. E. Cooney's imagination is wild and varied, her stories bawdy, horrific, comic, and moving-frequently all at the same time. Her characters are wickedly appealing, and her language—O! her language. Lush, playful, poetic, but never obscure or stilted, it makes her magic more magic, her comedy more comic, and her tragic moments almost unbearable."
—Delia Sherman, author of Young Woman in a Garden: Stories

"Bone Swans is a joy of feathery bones & ghoulish clowns. I adored every word. Like an eyas cries for meat, I cry for more. C.S.E. Cooney's a major talent and these are major talent stories. Who can resist hero rats, pouting swans, feral children, flying carpets and the Flabberghast? So tongue-tied am I with delight I fall back on the usual cliches: gripping, delightful, insightful, rollicking & lyrical—and yet not one cliche is to be found in Bone Swans, only stories of surpassing delicacy and wit, told by a lady of rare talent. Please, ma'am, might I have some more?"
—Ysabeau S. Wilce, Andre Norton Award wining author of Flora's Dare

A swan princess hunted for her bones, a broken musician and his silver pipe, and a rat named Maurice bring justice to a town under fell enchantment. A gang of courageous kids confronts both a plague-destroyed world and an afterlife infested with clowns but robbed of laughter. In an island city, the murder of a child unites two lovers, but vengeance will part them. Only human sacrifice will save a city trapped in ice and darkness. Gold spun out of straw has a price, but not the one you expect.

World Fantasy Award winner Ellen Kushner has called Cooney's writing "stunningly delicious! Cruel, beautiful and irresistible." Bone Swans, the infernally whimsical debut collection from C. S. E. Cooney, gathers five novellas that in the words of Andre Norton Award winner Delia Sherman are "bawdy, horrific, comic, and moving-frequently all at the same time." Cooney's mentor, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Grand Master Gene Wolfe, proclaims in his introduction that her style is so original it can only be described as "pure Cooney," and he offers readers a challenge: "Try to define that when you've finished the stories in this book."

More praise for Bone Swans

If your familiarity begins and ends with C.S.E. Cooney's poetry, do yourself a favor and stick around for these novellas. If you aren't new to her stories, know that you will find her here at the top of her not inconsiderable game. Highly original, mythic in scope, lyrically told, just plain fun.
—Nicole Kornher-Stace, author of Archivist Wasp

C.S.E. Cooney's Bone Swans is like visiting a literary Ys. Coaxed by her deft hand, lands and people long lost to memory resurface, breaking through the hearts of readers with the force of a gentle tsunami. Once that wave has broken over you, you are never the same.
—Tiffany Trent, author of The Unnaturalists

"Like one of her characters, C. S. E. Cooney is a master piper, playing songs within songs. Her stories are wild, theatrical, full of music and murder and magic."
—James Enge, author of Blood of Ambrose

"It's a treasure chest of a collection, and it's full of gems."
—Sharon Shinn, author of the Elemental Blessings series

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 3264 KB
  • Print Length: 226 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Mythic Delirium Books (7 July 2015)
  • Sold by: Amazon Australia Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #113,488 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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By Lazy Dai TOP 500 REVIEWER on 27 April 2016
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is one of the most original and inventive collections of stories I have read for years, and if you are bored with fantasy prose which sounds like it was generated by a word processor do yourself a favour and buy this book. While some of the themes in the stories are borrowed from traditional fairy tales, there is nothing childish in C. S. E. Cooney’s interpretation of the tales – this is more like the Brothers Grimm and the book is certainly NRC. Cooney has a wonderful style of writing, both vivid and dark with a mordant sense of humour and you get the feeling that every sentence has been lovingly crafted. Highly recommended for serious adult lovers of fine writing and fantasy who are willing to take the time to savour prose which should not be skim-read. This is definitely a ‘keeper’ - indeed one I’ll probably re-read (and I don’t say that of many books) and I look forward to reading more of her work.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program) 4.8 out of 5 stars 56 reviews
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and disquieting, like the best fairy tales 18 August 2015
By A. Rose - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I finished this book more than a week ago, and I'm still absolutely stunned by it.

Five stories, ranging in length from short story to novella. Each reminiscent of an old-school fairy tale, both beautiful and disquieting, with various recognizable tropes and archetypes and plotlines and characters all delicately woven together into something entirely new. Each told in phraseology that echoes the rhythm and poetry of a truly gifted oral storyteller, full of sure-footed language that carefully signals character, time, place, while nonetheless belonging clearly to the voice of this author alone.

Cooney clearly understands the evolution of stories, how bits and pieces of their DNA free-float between people before recombining in our minds, adapting themselves to the time and environment in which they're told. The stories themselves are familiar and yet different from anything I've read in a long time. Her masterful use of language reminded me more than once of David Mitchell; and yet, while Mitchell's cleverness is the sort that (justifiably) demands recognition, Cooney's style is almost the opposite. Subtle, lyrical, with a beauty that shines through its familiar trappings; you could read each story without ever noticing the careful craft of the words, and then they would be there to surprise and delight you upon reread.

These aren't long stories, but they're not quick reads either. They're as much poem as story, meant to be thoroughly enjoyed; read quickly, they lose much of their power. But if you love fairy tales, if you love stories, if you love beautiful use of language, if you enjoy the journey of the story as much as the destination? This is the book you didn't even know you desperately wanted.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Announcing a New Major Talent in SFF: C.S.E. Cooney 24 August 2015
By Carlos Hernandez - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Since Cooney hasn't published a novel-length work yet, many folks may not know her (though anyone who's read the "Year's Best" anthologies for the last few years does). My prediction is that soon everyone who cares about SFF will. There's still a lot of reading left in the year, so I can't be 100% sure, but as of now I will be casting my SFWA Nebula vote in the "Best Novella" category for Cooney's "The Bone Swans of Amandale," the title story of Bone Swans and easily the most mind-expanding, aesthetically complete work of short fiction I've read in years.

"The Bone Swans of Amandale" is a fairy tale mashup of "The Juniper Tree" meets "The Pied Piper" narrated by Maurice, a human/rat shapeshifter who is one of the most hilariously vicious and monstrously charming narrators I've run across in a long while. The swan people of Amandale are being killed by tyrannical mayor Ulia Gol and turned into ghostly musical instruments for her enjoyment (Gol is as unctuous as she is monstrous, a gloriously over-the-top antagonist for this type of collective-unconscious nightmare). Maurice assembles an unlikely band of heroes (including the Pied Piper) to save Dora Rose, the last of the swan people and the woman he loves: even if her hauteur and disdain for him should give him little hope.

For all its mythic underpinnings, "The Bone Swans of Amandale" is utterly contemporary in its sensibilities. You won't find hackneyed genre tropes here, or the stifling, overwrought language of pseudo-medieval fantasies. There's a telling section where the Pied Piper—the story is worth reading alone for the tragic, woe-burdened take on the Pied Piper Cooney spins—speaks to Ulia Gol in the language of the Gentry. The speeches are fill of "Thous" and "thees": anathema, right? But they're used so well, the language in that scene so heightened and powerful, that it conveys a deep sense of gravity and invites a bit of the numinous into this world. It's easily the best use of "thou" I've seen in recent fiction, deliberate, plot-appropriate, and beautifully written. Cooney in this section shows the limits of Ezra Pound's maxim "Speak in the language of your day." Nope. Be an artist, and use any tool you wish. Just use it well.

The clash of the mythic and the contemporary, the sacred and the profane, the ghastly and the noble create a wholly-satisfying reading experience. And I dare you to find a story with more gorgeous prose.

I've concentrated on "The Bone Swans of Amandale" because it's the title story and because it's the only original story in Bone Swans (and therefore the only work in the collection that would be up for independent awards). But as a whole, Bone Swans is a literary treasure-chest. "Martyr's Gem" is an eviscerating fantasy whodunnit, with the sadness and anger of the injustices it enumerates balanced by the principle characters who are by turns righteous and vengeful (Hyrryai); smart and modest (Shursta); or brazen, poetic and brimming with esprit (Sharrar). That, in general, is a recurring theme in Cooney's various stories: a monstrous world in which defiant, humorous protagonists refused to be cowed. And often those protagonists are women: the eponymous Milkmaid of "How the Milkmaid Struck a Bargain with the Crooked One" and Kantu of "Life on the Sun" are alternately indomitable to the point of self-defeating or submissive to duty to the point of plumbing and revealing as-yet undiscovered agency. And "The Big Bah-Ha," to mind the most phantasmagoric and nightmarish of the lot, is a grim carnival of grotesqueries and dream-landscapes that combine to create a vision of the afterlife that is unsettlingly delightful. It's a virtuoso performance, Bone Swans, with hat-tips to many genres even while, story after story, Cooney creates unique, heartbreaking worlds and situations and then places in them heroes who can, by hook or crook, come out alive on the other side. Kind of. (To say more would be spoilerish!)

Mike Allen has become known for the genre-bending Mythic Delirium anthologies he edits. Bone Swans is Mythic Delirium Press's first single-author collection, and you can see why Allen thought Cooney to be the perfect author to launch this new direction for the press. Cooney is an author whose originality will make attentive readers pause sentence to sentence, phrase to phrase. The worlds she depicts in these stories and novellas are so thoughtfully wrought, and the characters that inhabit them so decidedly alive, that if you find yourself being both emotionally overwhelmed and intellectually galvanized simultaneously, just know that you aren't alone. That's exactly the reading experience I had.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Vivid, rich and fascinating stories 6 September 2015
By tarsh - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
An excellent collection of five stories. the writing is rich and the characters fascinating. I'm not sure how or where I came across C.S.E. Cooney, but I'll definitely look out for her writing in future. Overall, highly recommended.

Life on the Sun: Incredible worldbuilding in just a few pages. The mix of cultures, desert landscape, rights wronged and wrongs righted, and a nearly perfect ending.

The Bone Swans of Amandale: Interesting fusion of faerie tales, brought down-to-earth by the wonderfully grounded narrator, Maurice the Incomparable. I especially adored the characterisation of the Pied Piper, fey and lost and eldritch when he needs to be.

Martyr's Gem: Again, excellent world-building in a very short space. About the only quibble I have with this story is the subplot and ending: <spoiler>I'd have preferred to wonder how Hyrryai would discover her way to herself from where they were rather than the lot of them sailing off over the horizon. New beginnings are just too easy for this story, somehow.</spoiler>

How the Milkmaid Struck a Bargain with the Crooked One: Excellent rumpelstiltskin. I really liked Gordie.

The Big Bah-Ha: This story let the collection down, somehow. While the ending came back up to par, the first half was... uninspiring, in comparison. In any other collection I probably wouldn't have noticed, but after the first four stories, it was glaringly clumsy in comparison.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Going story by story 15 July 2016
By Elizabeth - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
LIFE ON THE SUN: I really liked the writing, the world building, the fantasy elements. The one thing I didn't like was the romances, one seemingly only being there because no young-ish adult protagonist can be left single and the other... I'm just going to not post my complaint about that one because spoilers. I don't mind romances when they're necessary for the plot or when both characters are necessary for the plot and they're perfect for each other, but in this story, the protagonist's love interest could have been entirely cut from the story and nothing important would be lost.

THE BONE SWANS OF AMANDALE: This is a very well-written story, incorporating lots of cool fairy tale elements and characters. I really enjoyed it.

MARTYR'S GEM: Okay, this one I think is the weakest and it had some elements that annoyed me. First of all, there's the part with a man-eating shark and killing it is considered a glorious admirable thing. We need to stop villainizing sharks, because first of all, they don't want to hurt humans and only bite when they mistake us for seals, and second of all they're being severely overfished and overhunted largely due to people villainizing them. So that irritated me. Second of all,there's another out of nowhere gratuitous romance in this one, which as I mentioned before is a trope I don't like. Third of all, as part of the culture in the fictional world this story takes place in, they make all women required to have lots of babies. For me, this kind of cultural feature instantly makes the world a dystopia, but it isn't treated as such in the story. Granted having a culture that is focused on fertility is important to the story. It just bothers me that she'd put compulsory childbirth (childbirth being the most painful thing a person can experience) in a story and not acknowledge the horror of that. Like, if it was a man writing the story I could dismiss it as obliviousness, and if a woman from a time period or culture in which childbirth was compulsory had written it I could dismiss it as an alternate perception of normal. But the author of these stories is a woman in modern America, and her female characters are well developed and she puts female characters in positions of power fairly often. I guess I'm just kind of confused about where that artistic choice is coming from.

HOW THE MILKMAID STRUCK A BARGAIN WITH THE CROOKED ONE: A unique and creative interpretation of Rumpelstiltskin.

THE BIG BAH-HA: This one was really really well written. It takes place in a world where all the adults and teenagers have been killed by a particular disease and children fend for themselves until they're about twelve and old enough to also die of the disease. Sort of like that one episode of Star Trek (please don't ask me the name of it, I'm the most casual of Trekkies) except with much more fantasy elements. I really appreciated how she seemed to grasp child culture and children's patterns of speech. It's an extremely dark and disturbing story, so it probably won't be to everyone's taste. But it is definitely well written.
5.0 out of 5 stars Makes my heart sing 11 March 2017
By Randee Dawn - Published on
Verified Purchase
C.S.E. Cooney’s “The Bone Swans of Amandale” is probably the best thing I’ve read in a decade or more, maybe ever. “Amandale” is a novel’s worth of story bundled into a novella-sized tale at the heart of her World Fantasy Award-winning “Bone Swans” collection, and is something you should put on your list to purchase right this very minute.

It’s one of the first things I’ve read in a while where I couldn’t bear to put it down (but, you know, life) and always felt eager to pick it back up again. I can try to describe it but I will fail: using familiar mythos like the Pied Piper and human swans, ogres and the Fairy Queen she crafts a beautifully-described, instantly addictive story that’s also hella witty and just the right touch of cynical. She deftly bounces from heart-rending, horrific images to hilarious escapades and does it through just the right sort of narrator – a rat who can turn into a man and who has a lifelong crush on one of the human swans. There’s so much imagination going on in here, sprinkled with instantly-understood turns of phrase like “fleshed down” that it’s almost too much for one story to contain. Even more importantly, it’s never too self-serious or “literary” (I am not a “literary” fan, don’t get me started). It’s just a good story told in an awesome, self-assured way.

My main reason for writing this is to say that if any of what I’ve said here has tickled your fancy you should buy it immediately. Even if it hasn’t, you should because eventually you’ll read it and see I was right. Claire’s writing just makes my heart sing, and I can only hope one day to be a fraction as good as she’s already shown she is.