In this sequel, though, her father brings home some boxer puppies that belong to his wealthy employer, who insists that her father (for no good reason that I could see - he's not a vet or dog breeder) "bob" the boxers (trim their ears and cut their tails off). This is understandably upsetting to Clemency, who is immediately besotted with the little pups, and her father is reluctant to do it but fears losing his job. There is a rather disturbing illustration of her father staring doubtfully at an enormous, sharp pair of shears in his hands while Clemency frolics with the puppies on the kitchen floor. I was surprised to find her father in this position, and that he was letting himself be pushed into doing things he clearly doesn't think are right. This subplot was rather disturbing to me, especially after the whimsy and humor of the first book.
I am unclear why this subplot was in the book in the first place - it has little to do with the main storyline, which is also quite dark. Chaphesmeeso, Clemency's grumpy but very funny hobgoblin friend from the first book, now has an apprentice. But there is a little problem - his apprentice is a human changeling, stolen from his parents as an infant. We learn that usually the clay baby that is substituted for the child simply dissolves into nothing the first time it's given a bath (and there is a scene of a baby dissolving before the eyes of its horrified and frantic mother to illustrate the point), but the clay baby that was substituted for Chaphesmeeso's apprentice never dissolved. It is living with its human family, unaware that it is not human, but feeling miserable because, try as it may, it can never fit in.
Clemency becomes friends with the apprentice, and she is sorry to learn that he can never become a true hobgoblin until his changeling is destroyed. But the reader is treated to sections of the narrative from the changeling's point of view, and in his mind he is very much alive and believes he is a human child. How on earth will Clemency come up with a satisfactory solution to this dilemma? It seems that the very balance of the world of Make-Believe is at stake.
I enjoyed Clemency's creativity and determination to do the right thing, but this story was not as enjoyable as the first one. Its darker tone mixed with glib and rather superficial humor was a bit jarring, and unfortunately the story never really gelled for me. Yes, the language was fun and witty, but it just wasn't enough for this reader.
To date, the books in the Clemency Pogue series are:
- Fairy Killer
- The Hobgoblin Proxy
- The Scrivener Bees
Other blog reviews:
Katie's Book Blog