Rapiers & Goblins
Born in 1949, Teresa Edgerton made her debut in her forties, at the end of the 1980s with the first Celydonn trilogy – also known as the Green Lion Trilogy.
Apparently Edgerton is a regular at Renaissance fairs, a tarot reader and a puppet creator – in addition to having worked as a psychic – and her first novels construct a secondary Dumasian world of alchemy and intrigue.
The three volumes come out for ACE types – which in 1991 published Goblin Moon, a stand-alone novel that is probably Edgerton’s most popular and beloved work.
With its sinister magicians, romantic intrigues, a masked hero that recalls the Scarlet Pimpernel and an urban and eighteenth-century setting, the novel belatedly fits into that interregnum of which I have written in other posts – that period when the fantasy it is popular but not yet imprisoned in a standard scheme designed to please an audience who simply wants some variation on the theme. These are the glorious years in which the market was testing the waters, and on the shelves appear different and exciting works that then, mysteriously, disappeared.
Now I am a sucker for rapiers and goblins.
Both are more elegant and deadlier than brutish broadswords and equally brutish orcs, and I like fantasy with a Dumas-influenced twist – be it Steven Brust’s Taltos series, Mary Gentle’s excellent Sundial in a Grave or a handful of others.
Goblin Moon was a late arrival in the Interregnum of Fantasy fiction, and it does not follow the rules of template fantasy, and is a pleasant and refreshing read.
The opening is an open reference to Our Mutual Friend, by Charles Dickens1, and from here on the world-building is absolutely wonderful, deep and detailed, and developed with a feeling of ease and lightness that leaves you impressed.
The dialogues are perfect, rhythmic and elegant.
And there are the dwarves and goblins, so the reader desperate for a dose of the usual stuff will not be too disappointed.
Although they are not necessarily the usual dwarfs and goblins.
This first novel was followed by The Gnome Engine, which might almost look like steampunk (or gaslight fantasy) but shares the same setting of Goblin Moon. The two books now go under the collective title of Mask & Dagger.
A mother of four, Edgerton is not an extraordinarily prolific author: a second trilogy of Celydonn came out in the mid-90s, but apparently sales do not satisfy the publisher.
Edgerton further slowed the pace due to serious health problems and, when she returned to writing, with the promising The Queen’s Necklace (title borrowed directly from Dumas), it is now 2001 – another single-volume stand-alone (a rarity, in this age of massive multi-volume series), the novel had a good critical response, and was greeted with enthusiasm by old fans by Goblin Moon, but the publishing house (this time, EOS/Harper Collins) was apparently not satisfied with the sales – and the book fell out of print for fifteen years.
Based on one of those strange choices that publishers understand but readers often do not, the author’s later novels come under a pseudonym, as written by Madeline Howard.
They are a bit more conform to the template, but still have the mark of Edgerton in the world building and in the general sense of adventure for the adventure of the plot. We are waiting for the release of the third volume.
And here it is – eleven novels and a handful of stories in twenty-six years of activity, different stories from the usual fantasy that’s been dumped on us for two or three decades now.
And for the delight of readers who missed it, the Mask & Dagger duology was recently reprinted in an omnibus in digital format, with a handful of extra stories – almost seven hundred pages of excellent fantasy. The cover’s nothing to write home about, but the contents are first rate.
And even The Queen’s Necklace saw the light again – another six hundred pages of different and excellent fantasy fiction. If you are tired of the usual pseudo-middle ages infested with dwarves with axes and elves with their unbearable poems, these two ebooks could be a good investment of time and money. And there are goblins!