In which the Reader is Respectfully Advised to invest in a Good reading light.
Goblin Moon, recently re-released by Tickety-boo press, is unlike any fantasy book I’ve read. Its swashbuckling setting gives a vibrancy and unique feel, and the light handling of the scope of the story and intertwined storylines, makes for a book that’s easy to read and keeps the pages turning long after lights-out.
We start on a river under a Goblin Moon, with the discovery of a coffin and the body it contains, and follow a story that stays intimate to its characters but expands to fill a richly created world, where fae, dwarves, goblins and humans intermingle in polite society. The descriptions of the world are lush, with details of the clothes, food and manners all adding up to a convincing world that fully pulled me in.
The plot follows several strands: what happens to the body found in the coffin; Sera’s tale as the impoverished companion to a sickly heiress; Lord Skelbrooke’s derring-dos as a vigilante determined to bring justice to those in need. Each of these strands – and several sub-stories – intertwine and keep the reader guessing throughout.
It’s refreshing to see female protagonists allowed to be both women of their time and active and strong, even when in a weakened position as Sera is socially, and Elsie health-wise. So often we hear the argument in fantasy that women characters are inhibited by the times they must live in, yet here we have two women, shaped by their times and forced to live within its constraints, fully fleshed out and strong. It would have been easy to portray Elsie as meek, under the thrall of her mother and those who wish to use her for their own ends, and leave Sera to be the strong female character. But, in fact, Elsie has strength as a person who has met her challenges and continues to meet them as best she can.
In the two main protagonists we have a nice contrast. Sera, unafraid to speak her mind, is an engaging point of view, whose knowledge of both the rich society she must operate within and the poorer culture of her wider family, brings richness to the world, as well as a sense of its injustice. Lord Skelbrooke, however, presents a contrast: a dandy on the one hand, intelligent and poetic; ruthless on the other. He presents a hero we can fully buy into, one with edges that are unflattering, and a vision to believe in.
The antagonists are suitably odious and nicely-drawn with subtle hints to their depravity left for the reader to pick up. In fact, the subtlety of the different threads, the ah-ha moments the reader suddenly gets when a strand leads to a satisfying resolution, are one of the joys of the book. So, too, are the chapter headings, which are both playful and give a sense of place. They gave me, an inveterate ficker on if a book has grabbed me, something to glance at, wondering what the chapter might contain, and take a hint but not an answer.
The book ends by tying many of the loose ends, but leaves enough that the need for a sequel is fully built, and a wider story arc supported.
I, for one, will be lining up to read it and I very much recommend Goblin Moon to any lovers of high fantasy: it’s a fantastic tale, well-written and executed, with a charm rarely found.