Robin: This is the second book in the Clemency Pogue series; you may remember she was that tender-hearted fairy-killer who did her best to repair her mistake, with the help of the friendly hobgoblin Chaphesmeeso. Hobgoblins in this fairy-verse (called the Make-Believe) “maintain the order, the balance”, according to Chaphe. Goblins, on the other hand are “nothing but chaos and nastiness”. They are skinny and shrivelled, with cloven feet and ears like goat horns. You can see some goblins on the cover (not to be confused with the baby).

This time Clemency’s concern is for a poor little puppy-dog called Henry; hoping that magic might help the sick animal, she calls on the hobgoblin. Chaphe has troubles of his own, however. He has charge of a fledgling hobgoblin called Kennethurchin who cannot graduate into full hobgoblinhood because… well, that’s complicated.

As Clemency learns, hobgoblins were originally human babies rescued from the goblins who stole them out of their cradles, leaving animated clay babies behind. The proxy babies melt away in their first bath water; somehow, Kennethurchin’s proxy has escaped this fate and grown up into a peculiar little boy known as Inky Mess. His continued existence threatens the Make-Believe as well as holding Kennethurchin back. Chaphe says that no changeling has ever grown up before, and that the fairies, who know everything, say it will be cataclysmic. He expects Clemency to help with this little problem, but she has secret plans…

Meanwhile Inky, befoxed by his inability to read, is holding some fairies captive in the hope of using their magic, and they are hopping mad! Also hanging around is the sinister Fairy of Long Goodnights with her deadly wand. The fairies in this series do have some peculiar talents and interests: there are the Papercut Fairy, the Fairy of Impossible Itches and the Fairy of Awkward Silences, just for example. Although all-knowing, they are, according to Chaphe, as “dumb as putty”. A strange but appealing story. The sequel, in which Inky does his worst, is called The Scrivener Bees.

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