A MARKET OF DREAMS AND DESTINY by Trip Galey (BOOK REVIEW)
Ladies’ fingers, pale and cold, nestled among jars of grass-green eyes. Twists of hair in all colours of autumn leaves hung like shimmering vines in a fringe across the front of the stall. Things rarer still, iridescent scales and gossamer wings and even a satyr’s pride, were scattered about like garden ornaments, calculatingly placed to command attention…
A Market of Dreams and Destiny is a rich and beautiful queer love story played out on the streets of Victorian London and the goblin market that lies below Covent Garden. Our protagonists Deri and Owain are both indentured and tread fine lines of survival; Owain in a workhouse that will happily take his and his friends’ lives for the benefit of profit; and Deri to a goblin merchant of the Untermarkt, desperately trying to save to purchase his freedom whilst escaping the keen notice of his Mystrer, the Master Merchant Maurlocke.
The driving force of this novel is Galey’s exceptional imagination. Magic glimmers through every page; Galey has described his book as a gay Goblin Market and he truly does Rosetti’s poem justice in the scope of creatures, spells, and items bartered and bargained away. Deri’s sexless mystrer can speak the language of gold, and Deri himself can speak the language of the bells, which was one of my favourite elements of the story – the bells of London speaking and calling to Deri in rhyming couplets echoing the nursery rhyme Oranges and Lemons. There was plenty of Dickensian influence here too in the grubby workhouses, the social injustice, and quite literally in cameos of characters.
This isn’t a whimsical story of charming goblin creatures though. The Untermarkt is a dangerous place that twists and changes to match your desires, ever attempting to trap you. Deri, having been sold as a baby to Merchant Maurlocke, has grown up there and knows its ways better than anyone. He dreams of one day being a merchant himself – only one other human has ever achieved this, Jack Trades. Before he can contemplate setting up his own stall, however, he must buy back his contract from Maurlocke. He’s doing quite well, until he finds Owain in trouble at a market stall, and bargains to help him in exchange for a night on the town. They soon fall for each other, and Deri is swept away in a mission to get Owain and his friends out of their contracts with the workhouse owners and save the boy he loves.
Their love story is incredibly sweet as we follow them through infatuation and desire, Deri’s ingenuous means of snatching moments with Owain through any magical means he has at his disposal, to their realisation of just what they truly mean to each other.
‘Why does it have to be complicated? What’s wrong with plain money for stuff, no tricks?’
‘It’s boring,’ Deri answered without thinking, ‘and what would most of us do with a bunch of dead metal anyway? It’s easy enough to get, in Faery. The last blush of innocence, though, that’s truly rare. That has lasting value.’
Haunted by the ghosts of Rosetti and Spenser, this story is a wonderful homage to 19th century fairy lore. It was easy to get lost in Galey’s accomplished storytelling, in his sumptuous world. My one quibble is there wasn’t enough of Bess, the talking cat – if your book has a talking cat, I’m going to want 115% more talking cat. Every time. A perfect balance of romance, risk, and magic, come buy come buy this enchanting debut.
A Market of Dreams and Destiny is due for publication on 12th September from Titan Books.
You can pre-order your copy on Bookshop.org