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Robin: Amadans, also known as Stroke Lads, are ugly shortish characters who go around temporarily paralyzing humans who are up to no good, heaven knows why. They seems to have gone overboard with the moral righteousness, though, as about a generation ago they started exiling their own people for bad behaviour, sending them to the NetherWorld, a cold grey country without enough food. Amadans sent there turn green for some reason, perhaps to bring some colour back into their lives, as their home country is highly coloured – with “scarlet hills and yellow forests, blue fields and purple farmhouses”.

Amadans seem to be a bit of a cross between gnomes and pixies. They have their own website (well, who doesn’t?) but unusually have somehow made it a portal between their country and the computer screen. Quite a neat bit of magic considering they don’t seem to have any past “the Stroke”, and they seem to be at the technological level of lobbing rocks at each other. And what do they use it for? To bring humans through “to help”, though with a little gumption on their part they wouldn’t have needed any help.

A power-hungry ogre called Haranga, three times as big and ten times as ugly as your average amadan, is trying to organize the NetherWorlders to revolt. However, a violent aversion to porridge is his Achilles heel. The admittedly silly story is told with tons of brio and is exciting in parts – made me hold my breath a couple of times!

The sequel Amadans Alert has Haranga reformed and popping over into human land to try to compensate for interfering with the effectiveness of the Stroke. But he leaves the door open, so to speak, and a couple of human criminals consequently wander into the colourful country. Shamelessly eavesdropping on the “ugly garden gnomes”, they realize what trouble the Amadans have been causing them all these years. They not unfairly characterize them as “a bunch of do-gooding fairies” and devise a dastardly plot to use the portal technology against the little nuisances. Meanwhile Haranga’s big sister Sonya has woken up and comes looking for her missing brother.

Eager and the MermaidRobin: Dulcie has seaweed-like hair, green eyes and a blue tinge to her skin. She has an elfin face and a voice like honey. She may sound like a fairly conventional mermaid, but unlike all the other fantasy mermaids I have read about, she is a robot. She was engineered by humans to act as a spy. But in using dolphin cells to make her tail (which is therefore smooth rather than scaled like a fish’s, making her a delphine type of mermaid) they gave her an affinity with sea mammals which overcame her programming, and she became one of the rare self-aware robots.

Dulcie has a rather abrasive personality and does not like humans at all, regarding them as selfish, greedy and deceitful. She particularly objects to the way they treat the sea and its creatures. She goes so far as to say that she prefers to deal with sharks. It galls her to have to trust some humans to protect her from others. This is a true reflection of the way some real (or perhaps I should say, non-robotic) mermaids feel. There do not seem to be any other mermaids in this world, although it is interesting that the sea mammals accept her so easily.

This book is one of the Eager series, about the cute self-aware robot EGR3 (hence – Eager) who learns by experience like a human child and feels emotion. In the former books the government had imposed a ban on self-aware robots, worried about a threat to humanity, but in this book the ban is lifted and Eager can come out of hiding.

The mermaid, although glimpsed in the prologue, does not fully appear until more than halfway through the book. Eager has been invited to join a robot think-tank to help solve the problem of the lack of rainfall in the world which is causing serious water shortages. When he and the other robots meet Dulcie and realize she is being held against her will, they decide to set her free. With the help of Eager’s human friends, they succeed, and discover that she holds the key to the very problem they were asked to solve.

Dulcie knows from her conversations with the sea mammals that the sea needs to be healed by whale song, but human noise pollution prevents it. Eager promises to find a way to stop the noise for one morning while Dulcie swims to inform the whales.

A romantic friendship develops between the two robots, despite their belonging to different elements. Eager is fascinated by her from the first, thinking her the most beautiful entity he has ever seen. Later he comes to appreciate more: “The water, her graceful movements, and the air above were as much a part of her as her tail. He began to understand why she longed for the vastness of the ocean.”