Thursday, April 21, 2022

"Saint Death's Daughter"

C.S.E. Cooney lives and writes in Queens. She is author of the World Fantasy Award-winning Bone Swans: Stories (2015), an audiobook narrator, and the singer/songwriter Brimstone Rhine.

Her new novel is Saint Death’s Daughter.

Cooney applied the Page 69 Test to Saint Death’s Daughter and reported the following:
From page 69:
Straightway, the mouse skeleton leapt off her hand and ran at Sari Scratch, cheeping and squeaking. Or not squeaking, exactly: the noises it made were much deeper than they should have been—as if they were sounding out from the bottom of an oil jar.

To her credit, Sari did not scream, but stared down at her undead admonisher, first in incredulity and then—to Lanie’s surprise—growing delight. She slid off her ivory throne, careless of the fancily flocked skirts of her suit, which had, upon closer inspection, a pattern of purple velvet birds applied to the purple taffeta: violet-backed starlings perhaps, or purple honeycreepers. Like the suit, the material itself was high Rookish fashion—aristocratic fashion—right out of Rookery Court. Bold, to sport such fashions in Liriat.

Lanie watched with narrowed eyes as Sari sank to hands and knees, stretching out a hand on the ground, palm-up, and crooning to the mouse skeleton in a surprisingly gentle voice, “Come here, pretty one. Come, uncannyling! Come to Mordda Sari!”

But the mouse, far from obeying, shied away from her, scampering back a few feet till it stood at a safe distance, whereupon it rose onto its hind legs and began scolding her again. Sari laughed, looking up at Lanie from the floor and shaking her head.

“I’ve never seen its like, Miss Lanie. And I’ve seen wonders.”

Ever susceptible to compliments, and today even more so, Lanie beamed. She was about to thank her most graciously for the compliment, and to explain all about embroidering with yellow fire, and how delicate and perfect was this particular act of panthauma, when Nita’s boot came down on the mouse.

Lanie gasped. She jerked away from the window and crossed half the room in a bound. She knew the mouse couldn’t feel any pain. But still! The indignity!

Nita flung up a hand, halting her. Lanie strained, as if fighting an invisible barrier. But there was no barrier, only a small part of her that was still practical, that could still fear, holding her back.

Sari, who had not yet risen from her genuflection, craned her neck back to stare at Nita. “Now, Mistress Stones, was that really—”

She stopped. Nita was glaring down.




Lanie shielded her eyes as her sister seemed to ignite, from her wizardmarks outward, until she stood at the center of her own conflagration.
If browsers open your book to page 69, would they get a good (or an inaccurate) idea of the whole work?

Okay, so--ha!--the answer to this question is both yes and no. I think readers would get a pretty good taste for the flavors, nuances, characters, and plot threads of Part One: On Death and the Stoneses.

In this selection, we have Lanie Stones working one of her greatest acts of necromancy to this point in the book: raising an entire family of mouse skeletons on one of her "surge days." (Surges happen four days a year, when magic floods the world, and wizards find it much easier to work their miracles). As a necromancer, Lanie feels towards her undead what most people feel when they watch baby animal memes: an instant, total tenderness and willingness to fight for their survival and well-being.

In the room with Lanie are Sari Scratch and her three sons, to whom the Stones family is deeply in debt, and who will take their house and lands if they don't work out some kind of a deal. We also have Nita, Lanie's older sister--a trained assassin, loose cannon, and minor magician in her own right--who is a danger to everyone around her even when she's in a good mood. (She's not, generally, in a good mood.) Nita doesn't think much of Lanie's powers; she considers her own superior: the ability to "fascinate" someone, after three heartbeats, into doing her will for a time.

There's a lot more to the book, the plot, and the characters--and not everyone in this scene will be alive by the end of the book. Not even the ones who are already undead. But I shall say no more, spoiling nothing.
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--Marshal Zeringue