Nathan’s review of A Market of Dreams and Destiny by Trip Galey
A Market of Dreams and Destiny is a book that will transport you to a magical and dangerous place; one where the danger is in logic, deception, and the most horrifying thing of all – contract law. Bundle this quirky and deceptive world with a wonderfully adorable cute queer romance, and you have a book that is nearing perfection.
A Market of Dreams of Destiny follows our main character, Deri, as he works to earn enough money to buy himself of his indentured servitude to ruthless and wily master. Deri is a human but was raised in the Goblin Market, a place of trading, barganining, and decieving around the exchange of magical intangibles (think trading your “Destiny”, “True Love”, and things like that!). It through his responsibilities to his master that Deri meets Owain, another indentured servant to a wicked mother/son due who have children working on a mysterious and powerful machine.
There is so much to fall immediately in love with in this book. The magic system is brilliant as it is rooted in who can outthink everyone else. This makes the book a battle of the minds rather than brute physical strength, which was refreshing in a genre that tends to value military might over anything else. Here the battles don’t happen on a battlefield, but rather in contract negotiations as our characters all try to pull a fast one on each other. I can see how this can immediately turn some readers off. All of the characters in this book are clever bordering on smarmy, and everyone is a brilliant mental tactician. If you don’t like books where every character is pretty much a master at their craft, you might bounce off this one. For me, it really worked. I loved getting to follow the bread crums that Galey was dropping; I reveled in getting to try and figure out how all of the pieces would come together for one great legal deception – one that contains no lies (because you cannot lie in the Goblin Market!) but exploits and manipulates loopholes at every pass.
In fact, the only part of this aspect of the book that didn’t work for me was the awkward integration of “big words”. Every once in a while the author would choose an SAT word that took me out of the book because it happened so infrequently that I was jarred by it. Nothing major, but if that is something you absolutely loathe in your books, just know that it happens here.
The emotional core to this book is the gay romance between Deri and Owain. It is a fictional romance, so expect feelings to develop VERY quickly, but it is otherwise an endearing and adorable relationship. I commend Galey on not making the romance the source of tension in the book. Yes, the romance does intersect quite heavily in the main plot as Deri and Owain’s enemies seek to exploit percieved weaknesses they can, but Deri and Owain are never at odds with each other. This is a healthy relationship, and the romance is never threatened by genre-tropes like misunderstood intents, love triangles, and more. This is a romance that you can root for, and you’ll never roll your eyes at any of the developments (that is unless you have a heart made entirely of ice!).
Another aspect of this book that I really liked is how the plot MOVED. I hear this book getting comped to The Night Circus a lot, but I didn’t feel too much connection between the books. Yes, The Goblin Market has a particular kind of vibe that the Night Circus had, but there is much more plot here than in that other book. The characters have clear goals and stakes, and the logic-bending magic keeps things moving along at a nice clip, especially for readers who enjoy witty logic puzzles. I especially appreaciated that the plot is relatively contained here. There are rumblings of a much bigger world here, but the story never spirals out of control. This book is about a core romance, and nothing else.
This is not a perfect book, and there were times when we seemed to jump around a bit much. The worldbuilding also wasn’t always as clearly established as I would have liked. There is a long history between the magical world of The Goblin Market and the human world (especially this book’s version of an AU British Royal Family) that is barely touched upon and could easily have had more development. Overall these were minor concerns except when it came to the mother/son duo who are enslaving Owain and the other young people. I could never get a clear sense of place with this aspect of the storyline. Were they in the human world? How much do people actually know about the magical world? How easy was it to move from the human world to the magical world? I always felt oft-kilter with this part of the plot because I wasn’t told enough information.
In many ways this meant that I was more vibing with the worldbuilding than fully immersed in it. The Goblin Market was a feeling that dug into my brain rather than being a place that I felt I could fully picture in my mind. I completely understand why the author wanted to move in this direction. The Goblin Market is such an interesting place because it feels like it is held at arm’s reach from the reader. It’s mysteries and magic come from not being over-described or over-understood. However, just a touch more depth would have helped complete my reading experience. The author has mentioned that he is working on additional books in this world, and I really hope that we get more detail in future books!
Concluding Thoughts: Step into the world of The Goblin Market, a place where your every word can we used against you. It is a realm of logic puzzles, contract law, and unsettling horrors. Galey uses this world to full effect, crafting a book that is simultaneously clever, funny, tense, and relaxing. The gay romance fully resonates as an emotioanl core to the book, surrounded by the characters trying to outwit and outdecieve one another as they try to identify and exploit contractual loopholes. The book is a whole vibe, but with a plot that barrels forward and keeps you turning the pages. Whether you like queer romance, clever humor, or intense logic puzzles, this is a book worth picking up!