Robin: Don’t be too shocked – the girl is no assassin, intent on ridding the world of fairy-kind a la Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But being chased over a cliff by a vicious and horribly persistent stinging sprite, she finally resorts to a desperate measure – and I may as well say now that it is a purely fictional method which would never work in real life – and says “I don’t believe in fairies”. It doesn’t work too well in the book either, but for some reason she says it six more times – at this point she is hanging from a bush over a deep gorge, so she has few options – and finally, “The fairy’s grin faltered… She did a tiny pirouette, and dropped dead as a gossamer-winged doorknob.”

Clemency is actually shocked to learn from a passing hobgoblin that her six previous attempts killed six other fairies round the world. And “Good fairies vastly outnumber the bad, so the massacre was a mostly horrible thing.” Can she fix it? Conceivably – but as the hobgoblin remarks: “gobs of notions are conceivable. Clot your imagination with kind wasps and rational adults, but you’d sooner find flying monkeys nestled between your toes.” Such bizarrely delightful discourse throngs the book. Chaphesmeeso (that’s the hobgoblin) is persuaded to use his magic to take Clemency on a whistle-stop tour round the world in an effort to undo the harm. You can imagine they meet some pretty peculiar characters of the human kind, and Clemency also takes part in a dramatic duel, fairy wand versus snowballs.

All in all, it makes a good story – one which Clemency tells her parents over dinner that night, before going to sleep with a fairy wand under her pillow. Yes, knowing it can make her dreams come true. Brave girl!

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