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Billed as a spoof, this is set in the impoverished kingdom of Sirrushany, where Agotha visits the once-grand castle with her stepmother, the queen's sister, and noses out the family's disagreeable plans to restore their fortune: the daughter of a wealthy merchant, Agotha herself is to be married off to Sirrushany's obnoxious Prince Everitt, and his sister Princess Gwyn (who only has eyes for Sir Wulfurd) is to wed a neighboring king who's beheaded all his previous wives. Concluding that she must save Sirrushany in order to save herself and Gwyn, Agotha sets off on a quest for the giant fortune-telling celbonite snail. There are sorcerers, and one of them, currently a frog, becomes Agotha's companion. There's a misunderstanding with a wolf, who leads Agotha to an ailing dragon instead of guiding her to the snail. Then when Agotha does meet the object of her quest she can't bring herself to kill it--but, true to her upbringing, she comes up with a plan to save Sirrushany by making the snail a sort of tourist attraction and the dragon a royal treasure. Complete with map, this is indeed an elegant imitation of the genre best described as frivolous fantasy--but, except for an occasional line like Agotha's "". . . But without danger there would be no ballad,"" it's hard to tell the difference.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1978
Publisher: Macmillan