Moonlight Market Reading Group Guide

Have you ever felt as if you were not quite a part of this world? As if the reality you knew were only a shadow of something else, waiting to reveal itself, like a photographic negative? Have you ever been in love – a love beyond doubt, beyond question? A love that feels impossibly old, though their face is that of a stranger?

Tom Argent is a photographer. Orphaned, lonely, lost in his work, he has no intention of falling in love. And yet, love finds him in the shape of beautiful Vanessa, who lives a dangerous double life in the heart of London’s King’s Cross, in which two warring factions –  one nocturnal, one in the light – wage war for the sake of a long-lost love that can only end in one side’s complete capitulation.

This is a story of the world that lies just outside human perception: a world that can only be seen by those who dare to look outside the frame. It’s set in a London of many layers; past, present, mythic, mundane. It’s about our interpretation of what is real; the illusions we cherish and those we reject; the things we hide even from ourselves; the magic and the science. It’s about tribalism, and visibility, and memory, and transformation. And it’s about the stories we tell; their quiet power to change our world.

But most of all, it’s about love. First love, last love; hopeless love, devouring love. A love that endures, and goes beyond race, or age, or gender. On one level, it’s a fairytale. On another, it’s an exploration of myth, and perception, and memory. In any case, take from it what you need; and please, enjoy the journey.


For Reading Groups:

The Moonlight Market was partly inspired by the way in which certain moths in urban settings evolve different markings to improve their camouflage. Read more about it here.

Tom spends a lot of time in his darkroom, developing film. Here’s how.

All the characters in the book are named after British butterflies and moths. Discover more about them here and  here.

Christina Rossetti’s long poem, Goblin Market, also features a market that exacts a steep price from those who try its wares. Read it here.


Need themed cocktails and snacks for your meeting? Why not try these delicious, easy recipes?










Questions for Readers’ Groups.

  1. The author has described this novel as Romeo and Juliet, with fairies. How true does this description feel for you?
  2. Tom Argent first sees the world as it really is through photographs and negatives. Why do you think the author chose to do this?
  3. The Moonlight Market takes memories as its currency. Why is this important, and what does it mean for Tom and Charissa?
  4. Vanessa and Burnet illustrate the toxic, destructive side of love. What other aspects of love are present in this story, and what role do they play?
  5. The Midnight Folk hide in plain sight, under an illusion of poverty and unimportance. What comment do you think the author is making on visibility in urban society?
  6. The Daylight Folk are both highly charismatic and dangerously predatory. What comment do you think the author is making here on the nature of glamour and attraction?
  7. All the characters in the book are named after butterflies and moths. Do you think the author wanted to make a point about the rapid decline in numbers of butterflies and moth species over the past few decades?
  8. Why do you think the author chose to set the story in an urban setting, rather than a more traditional one?
  9. What role does nectar play in the book, and what does it represent for you?
  10. In what way do the themes of perception and memory inform the narrative?
  11. As a boy, Tom is actively discouraged by his parents from reading fairy stories. Why? Do you think this might be a comment on gendered reading guidance for children?
  12. The Midnight Folk and the Daylight Folk have been at war for centuries over a cause no-one really remembers. Why do you think they persist in this conflict?
  13. Vanessa’s extraordinary beauty hides a grotesque reality. Why does the author do this? What are they wanting to convey?
  14. The story includes at least three different versions of London; past, present and mythic. Why? How would this story have been different if it had been set in any other city?
  15. Tom Argent discovers the world of the Silken Folk by accident, although he has been a part of it for all his life. To what extent is the theme of the “invisible world” central to this novel? Why is it important?
  16. Christina Rossetti’s long poem, Goblin Market, also features a market that exacts a steep price from those who try its wares. Do you see a parallel here?
  17. The forbidden love between Skipper and Brimstone is central to the battle of Welkin Close. What does it mean to the two factions and to the continuation of their war?
  18. The Midnight Folk and the Daylight Folk both have the ability to dissolve into a cloud of insects. Why did the author choose this image, and what are they trying to convey?
  19. Are you a Moth or a Butterfly? In what way are these two tribes reflections of personality?
  20. One of the recurring themes of the novel is development/metamorphosis, both as part of the photographic process, and following the change from chrysalis to butterfly/moth. Why is important, and what effect do you think it has on the story?