Hidden below the streets of Covent Garden you’ll find the Untermarket, a bizarre bazaar home to the fey and fairy, where anything you wish is possible; for a price.
A Market of Dreams and Destiny takes readers to an alternate Victorian age, one where magic and the supernatural lives alongside ordinary humans. The London above is much like that which we are familiar with, but in the Untermarket you find fey creatures, goblins, and talking animals all plying their trade, all eager to make their deals. It’s here that readers are introduced to Deri, a human boy delivered into the world by a goblin midwife, who’s grown up as the indentured servant of one of the Untermarket’s greatest merchants, the twisted Maurlocke.
Deri is under a mystical contract, one that leaves him as little more than a slave, but with the possibility that he might one day be able to work out his time (as long as Maurlocke doesn’t add more), or that he can buy out his contract early. To this end, Deri has been working side deals within the Untermarket, slowly building his own wealth, making connections, and readying himself to buy his freedom. However, when a runaway princess from London comes to the Untermarket, Deri is able to help her by getting rid of her destiny for her. Now Deri has the most valuable and dangerous piece of merchandise in the Untermarket, something that he has to find a way to unload for enough profit to buy his freedom before Maurlocke learns what he has.
His plans, however, hit a number of snags. The first is that no one wants the item, despite its vast wealth, forcing Deri to have to get creative and form an even more complex scheme. The other is that he meets Owain, a young indentured servant from a London workhouse. The two of them grow close, and a romance starts to bloom between them, something forbidden in their contracts. Now Deri not only wants to free himself, but Owain and all of his fellow workhouse children too.
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It doesn’t take long into A Market of Dreams and Destiny for Trip Galey to grab your attention. The Untermarket is a strange and unusual world, one that feels like it sticks to a strict set of rules, yet is ready to trick you and twist things at a moment’s notice. It’s a place where you have to be constantly on your guard, a place you should probably never go to, yet one that demands your attention. Every time that Deri delves into the Untermarket, every merchant and patron that he meets is a delight, as it continues to build this fascinating world, this place both beautiful and horrifying in equal measures.
But there’s also a hugely entertaining human story at the heart of the book, one where love and freedom, things that most of us would take for granted, are not only rare, but the goal for our heroes. The relationship between Deri and Owain is incredibly sweet, and it’s a delight to watch the two of them go from nervously waiting to see if the other has feelings for them, to being so deeply in love that they’re both willing to give everything for the other. There are several moments throughout the book where the romance between these two young men feels so genuine and so real that you can’t help but get swept along with them, and when that love is put in jeopardy it feels horrible.
The book is over four hundred pages long, but thanks to the amount that Galey packs into the pages, and the way in which he unfolds the narrative it feels both wonderfully full of things, and impossibly short at the same time. There are much shorter books that feel like long slogs to read, but A Market of Dreams and Destiny felt like reading a book barely half its length. Part of this is down to the fact that it’s hard to put down, and that you’ll be reading it wanting desperately to know what happens next, constantly telling yourself ‘just one more chapter’. This was a book that almost felt like a fey deal in itself, one that’s a wonderful read, but so cursed that it means you will stay up way too late trying to finish it.
With a wonderfully creative world filled with characters that you’ll come to care for, mystery and secrets that you’ll want to know more about, and a narrative that showcases the beauty of queer love stories, A Market of Dreams and Destiny is very much in contention for my best book of 2023. This is not something you’re going to want to miss out on.
A Market of Dreams and Destiny is out now from Titan Books.