Set around the time of World War II, young Tally Hamilton lives with her father and two aunts in a slightly shabby house in a slightly shabby street in England. The threat of war is in the air, and when an offer comes for a full scholarship for Tally in a private boarding school from a patient, Dr Hamilton gratefully seizes it, seeing it as an opportunity to see his daughter to safety in the countryside. The book then moves to Delderton Hall, which is introduced to us as school which ‘believes in freedom and self-development, and not forcing the children’: there are no uniforms, few rules and children can choose which classes to attend, if any at all. Tally, although initially reluctant, takes to the school quite happily and is soon shunted off as part of a delegation to the troubled kingdom of Bergania, where she meets and befriends the crown prince and has lots of adventures and eventually saves the day.

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