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The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge

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Subverting convention, award-winning creators M. T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin pair up for an anarchic, outlandish, and deeply political saga of warring elf and goblin kingdoms. Uptight elfin historian Brangwain Spurge is on a mission: survive being catapulted across the mountains into goblin territory, deliver a priceless peace offering to their mysterious dark lord, and Subverting convention, award-winning creators M. T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin pair up for an anarchic, outlandish, and deeply political saga of warring elf and goblin kingdoms. Uptight elfin historian Brangwain Spurge is on a mission: survive being catapulted across the mountains into goblin territory, deliver a priceless peace offering to their mysterious dark lord, and spy on the goblin kingdom — from which no elf has returned alive in more than a hundred years. Brangwain’s host, the goblin archivist Werfel, is delighted to show Brangwain around. They should be the best of friends, but a series of extraordinary double crosses, blunders, and cultural misunderstandings throws these two bumbling scholars into the middle of an international crisis that may spell death for them — and war for their nations. Witty mixed media illustrations show Brangwain’s furtive missives back to the elf kingdom, while Werfel’s determinedly unbiased narrative tells an entirely different story. A hilarious and biting social commentary that could only come from the likes of National Book Award winner M. T. Anderson and Newbery Honoree Eugene Yelchin, this tale is rife with thrilling action and visual humor . . . and a comic disparity that suggests the ultimate victor in a war is perhaps not who won the battles, but who gets to write the history.


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Subverting convention, award-winning creators M. T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin pair up for an anarchic, outlandish, and deeply political saga of warring elf and goblin kingdoms. Uptight elfin historian Brangwain Spurge is on a mission: survive being catapulted across the mountains into goblin territory, deliver a priceless peace offering to their mysterious dark lord, and Subverting convention, award-winning creators M. T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin pair up for an anarchic, outlandish, and deeply political saga of warring elf and goblin kingdoms. Uptight elfin historian Brangwain Spurge is on a mission: survive being catapulted across the mountains into goblin territory, deliver a priceless peace offering to their mysterious dark lord, and spy on the goblin kingdom — from which no elf has returned alive in more than a hundred years. Brangwain’s host, the goblin archivist Werfel, is delighted to show Brangwain around. They should be the best of friends, but a series of extraordinary double crosses, blunders, and cultural misunderstandings throws these two bumbling scholars into the middle of an international crisis that may spell death for them — and war for their nations. Witty mixed media illustrations show Brangwain’s furtive missives back to the elf kingdom, while Werfel’s determinedly unbiased narrative tells an entirely different story. A hilarious and biting social commentary that could only come from the likes of National Book Award winner M. T. Anderson and Newbery Honoree Eugene Yelchin, this tale is rife with thrilling action and visual humor . . . and a comic disparity that suggests the ultimate victor in a war is perhaps not who won the battles, but who gets to write the history.

30 review for The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge

  1. 4 out of 5

    Betsy

    If history is written by the winners then what happens when everyone loses? In my job I read a lot of books written for kids and middle schoolers. To guide this reading I take into account a lot of professional reviews from sources like Kirkus and Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal and the like. If a book gets multiple stars, I flag it for my To Be Read pile. This is a good, effective method for finding great books but it is not without its flaws. I am in constant danger of Realistic Fi If history is written by the winners then what happens when everyone loses? In my job I read a lot of books written for kids and middle schoolers. To guide this reading I take into account a lot of professional reviews from sources like Kirkus and Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal and the like. If a book gets multiple stars, I flag it for my To Be Read pile. This is a good, effective method for finding great books but it is not without its flaws. I am in constant danger of Realistic Fiction Burnout (RFB). RFB comes when an adult subject has been exposed to a large number of children's books involving realistic characters in realistic settings, all set in the present day. If I have to read one more bullying, school bus, lunchroom scene I’m going to melt into a large, rather unattractive puddle. I read outside my comfort zone, but truth be told I just wish I was reading more fantasy and science fiction. Those are my sweet spots. So when I just can’t take it anymore and the world is just too depressing and real, I turn to something like The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge for relief. Essentially a book that takes a Tolkien concept and wraps it up in a healthy bit of Cold War paranoia, M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin have created what has to be the kookiest interpretation of Middle Earth-esque events to hit the children’s book scene since Ben Hatke’s Nobody Likes a Goblin. This book’s like that only longer and with a plot that feels like what you’d get if you combined The Rite of Spring with Yakety Sax. If that and the concept of a fantastical buddy comedy between an elf and a goblin (who are both historical academics) done in the visual vein of Brian Selznick appeals, then buddy have I got the book for you. Open this book. It’s the darndest thing. The first thing you really see is what looks like a large, floating, warty Faberge egg. As you watch, the egg opens to reveal a jewel inside. And inside the jewel are grotesque carvings of a battle, pieces of fighters so inundated with spears and arrows that it resembles nothing so much as a pile of Pick Up Stix. That’s the Prologue, but Chapter One is equally visual. Now we are in a strange kingdom where elves load one of their companions into a barrel. He is handed the warty egg then launched into the sky, whereupon his vessel is plucked from the ether by a three-headed bird. This is where the text comes in and it is split in two. On the one hand we have the epistolary missives of the elf Ysoret Clivers, the Earl of Lunesse, who is dictating how an ancient artifact was found in Elfland and is now being sent with academic historical Brangwain Spurge to the land of the goblins to present to their leader as a peace offering. The other narrative follows Werfel the Archivist, the goblin historian who will be hosting Spurge, and who couldn’t be more pleased with the honor. A tentative peace has been laid between the two hostile countries and Werfel believes no one is better suited to treat his guest than he. But things don’t go exactly to plan. Alternating between text and images that represent Spurge’s point of view (which is not exactly reliable) readers receive a palpable understanding of what happens when two entirely different cultures have to fight through false assumptions and propaganda to reach a solid friendship. There is an art to a good unreliable narrator. I suppose someone somewhere has probably written rules on the subject. First and foremost, the author has to decide whether or not they want to let the reader in on the narrator’s skewed p.o.v. from the start (think Timmy Failure) or if they want the reader to experience a kind of creeping suspicion and dread as they read (think Pale Fire). What sets Brangwain Spurge apart from the pack is that you’re dealing far less with an unreliable narrator’s words and more an unreliable narrator’s eyes. In fact, aside from the occasional letter from Earl of Lunesse, all thoughts come directly from the brain of the incredibly kind-hearted Werfel. But look how the book is set up. From the moment you open it you encounter not anyone’s words, but the images of Yelchin. Images that consistently undermine Werfel’s testimony. It’s as if the creators of the book are challenging young readers to question everything, even their own eyes. Why is it that we are so inclined to believe what we see over what we hear? We know better in the 21st century than we ever did in the 20th that images are unreliable. That they can be twisted and turned and changed to fit our needs. So here we have a book that takes a Brian Selznick style (more on him in a moment) and then slowly reveals to the reader that these pictures are frauds. The unreliable visual narrator is a new creation in children’s books, as far as I’m concerned. New, and extraordinarily vital in our post-Photoshop existence. For Anderson’s book to work he needed an artist that knew how to indulge in pleasant grotesqueries. And since Stephen Gammell has long been out of the business of creepy, Yelchin makes a fascinating substitute. So let’s examine exactly what happens when you read this book. You open it up and encounter a series of illustrations that remind you, possibly, of the works of Brian Selznick. Yet for all that they are cinematic in scope and done in black and white, Yelchin’s art here is almost the anti-Selznick. Where Brian luxuriates in bringing forth subtle curves through the most delicate of crosshatches, Yelchin appears to have channeled Hieronymus Bosch by way of Terry Gilliam. And as I mentioned before, Selznick’s art is all about trust. The young reader trusts that if they pay attention to the art in his books, they’ll be able to solve the mysteries hidden in his words. I suspect that Anderson and Yelchin are playing with readers’ past experience with Selznickian books. If this book had been done as a graphic novel, it simply couldn’t have worked quite as well. Sure, there are plenty of comics where the art is filtered through an unreliable narrator’s perceptions, but when you do it through a book that is made up entirely of sequential art then you’ve no chance to surprise the reader later on. Whatever you may call this book (I think “illustrated novel” suits it best) the format fits the telling. When I go into a review of a book I like to do so cold, without having seen anything that might influence my opinions of the piece. Usually. When I am stumped, however, I’ll grasp at anything that might possibly help me in my interpretation. Take the art of this book, for example. What . . . what is it, exactly? I saw that my edition of the book included a little conversation between Anderson and Yelchin and I figured maybe they’d let slip what it is that Yelchin’s doing here. No dice, though they do have a nice debate over whether or not the book invokes the works of Faxian and Herodotus or John le Carre (the jury is still out on that one). Likewise, Anderson discusses how it is “a tragic meditation on how societies that have been trained to hate each other for generations can actually come to see eye to eye” while Yelchin calls it “A laugh-out-loud misadventure of two fools blinded by ideology and propaganda.” All righty then. This is probably the best explanation of what’s going on here that I could come up with. Yet for a book like this to work you need to get beyond clever details and grand gestures. You need heart and maybe a little soul. And to my infinite relief, I found both. Because for all that this book is visual Pop Rockets to the old eye sockets, it’s the relationship between Spurge and Werfel that props everything up. At the start of the tale Werfel (who is rather adorable) is just so giddy with the prospect of meeting Spurge that he imagines a glorious future where the two of them talk about his favorite things. “Finally: contact with the enemy. With another scholar. With someone else who loved antiquity and beautiful things, and who shared his hope for this beleaguered world.” When Spurge misinterprets everything he sees and rebuffs Werfel’s attempts at friendship, the goblin scholar sours on his guest. Yet their fates are tied closely to one another and slowly Werfel is able to peel away the skin of his guest’s prejudices with sheer kindness. My favorite part of the book is the moment when the two finally start to bond by “pretending to make friendly reading suggestions to each other while actually just trying to make the other feel stupid. It was the best evening either of them had enjoyed in a very long time.” By the time you get to the end of the book, the relationship is sealed, and you, the reader, are glad of it. I’ve often said that the best way to get kids to read about adults having adventures is to turn them into furry woodland creatures (see: Redwall). But making your characters mythical creatures works just as well in the end. Anderson has always flirted with his love of fantasy, though until now it was mostly relegated to his Norumbegan Quartet. Here he takes a deep dive into a full-fledged fantasy world. I admired many of his choices along the way. For example, it would have been so easy for both Anderson and Yelchin to have given the goblins a free pass in this book. So maligned in the works of Tolkien and subsequent Tolkien imitators, the twist of making them more sympathetic than the elves is sweet. What upsets the applecart a bit is the fact that while the goblins may be more open-minded than the elves, they are also living in a police state with ruler so strange that I’m still trying to find a metaphorical or real-world equivalent to his Mighty Ghohg. Methinks I’m barking up the wrong tree with that, though. Methinks. As strange as this may seem, the book that this reminded me the most of was the series of Avatar: The Last Airbender comics by Gene Luen Yang. Those books spend much of their time examining at length the intricacies of deconstructing an oppressive colonial system in a fantasy world, something that this book only touches on lightly. Yet even so, we live in a post-colonial world (for the most part). Colonialism didn’t go that well, and post-colonialism was botched in a variety of interesting and horrible ways. Which brings us to America in 2018, the year of this book’s publication. For kids reading this book today, a title that discusses prejudices born out of (often willful) ignorance coupled with warmongering and malicious leaders . . . golly, is there anything here that will speak to them? I won’t lie. This book will take some work to get through for some kids. Even dyed-in-the-wool comic book readers may stumble a little initially at the unfamiliar art style. But there will be a cadre of kids that stick with it. Kids that find the story of scholars in fantasy realms fascinating. And those kids are the ones that will cut through the treacle and figure out what this book is actually trying to say. I’d wager good money that more kids will get it than adults. A fascinating blend of the wholly original and what is normally overly familiar, Anderson and Yelchin are having way too much fun here. It shouldn’t be allowed. And I sure am glad that it was. For ages 10 and up.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Denny

    This book was a delight. There’s weight to it as you hold it in your hands. The cover gives a hint of the humor to come. The illustrations are a wonder. Spurge and Werfel are my kind of heroes. Highly recommend!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Cat

    M. T. Anderson is one of my all-time favorite writers, and this latest, a collaboration with illustrator Eugene Yelchin, is a witty wonder. This quirky novel, a collection of letters and dispatches concerning the ongoing strife between the Elves and the Goblins, is a brilliant reflection on nationalism, racism, and the frames that distort how we see people and events. It is rollickingly funny throughout as the titular Brangwain Spurge travels as an envoy (and secretly a spy) to Goblin country, w M. T. Anderson is one of my all-time favorite writers, and this latest, a collaboration with illustrator Eugene Yelchin, is a witty wonder. This quirky novel, a collection of letters and dispatches concerning the ongoing strife between the Elves and the Goblins, is a brilliant reflection on nationalism, racism, and the frames that distort how we see people and events. It is rollickingly funny throughout as the titular Brangwain Spurge travels as an envoy (and secretly a spy) to Goblin country, where an earnest scholar named Werfel hosts him and attempts to accommodate this most ungracious of guests. Yelchin's Terry Gilliam-like illustrations record Brangwain's impressions of this new terrain and these new people. Ultimately, Spurge and his host realize that they are both pawns in a larger game of statecraft, and they form a friendship. The central device of the book surprised me yet is also essential to its form. That's such a cryptic statement, but suffice it to say that Yelchin and Anderson make their political point by drawing our attention to words and images as vehicles for and reflections of propaganda and prejudice. Anderson's linguistic gusto and satirical sensibility married to Yelchin's simultaneous ornate and exaggerated illustrations make the book lushly and comically pleasurable, while the imminent likelihood of mutually guaranteed destruction bears a grim resemblance to our own geopolitical moment (significantly less pleasurable). Against this grand narrative of vainglorious, autocratic leaders and corrupt, pusillanimous bureaucrats, Anderson and Yelchin hold out the slim hope of intimacy, companionship, and the power of friendship to undo old ills and teach new lessons. I also love--predictably for me because I study food in literature--the way that this encounter between nations plays out in the meals and tastes of the characters: "Spurge gagged. He pushed his plate away. He murmured that everything was to spicy. too smoky. Too heavy. Too greasy. All the flavors were too strong" (164). Racial difference is imagined as unpalatable. How meaningful, then, that by the end of the novel, the two friends share a pie and a bottle of wine: "It was not yet dinnertime, but among friends--friends who want to change the world togehter--new beginnings always call for a celebration" (518).

  4. 4 out of 5

    Destinee Sutton

    My favorite part of this book is that a goblin's love language is insults. Honestly, I admired this, but it was not my favorite book of the year. Maybe I guessed the ending/twist too early, but it felt too long. I hope there aren't too many kids who fail to finish the story, because the pay-off at the end is worth it. This is an excellent exploration of prejudice and politics. Annoyingly, my library has put it in our Teen section, but I think it will work best for ages 10-12 (and it's sophistica My favorite part of this book is that a goblin's love language is insults. Honestly, I admired this, but it was not my favorite book of the year. Maybe I guessed the ending/twist too early, but it felt too long. I hope there aren't too many kids who fail to finish the story, because the pay-off at the end is worth it. This is an excellent exploration of prejudice and politics. Annoyingly, my library has put it in our Teen section, but I think it will work best for ages 10-12 (and it's sophisticated enough for adult readers). I also think it will work best if the child reader has the opportunity to discuss it. It's complicated and surprising and definitely begs to be discussed and dissected. I'm not a big fan of LOTR myself, but I got the feeling that this would appeal to Tolkienists. Finally, you can add this to a relatively small number of children's books that don't have child main characters. (THE TWENTY-ONE BALLOONS is another.)

  5. 4 out of 5

    DaNae

    There is no doubt this is brilliant, but often I found myself as confused as an Elf in a Goblin world.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Allison Parker

    An elf ambassador, Brangwain Spurge, is sent to the city of goblins to offer a gift of goodwill, a recently-found ancient artifact, after centuries of war and hostility. His goblin host, Werfel, is looking forward to the experience. He understands they both share a career and passion for history and learning, so he looks forward to bonding and founding an unprecedented, enlightened friendship with Spurge, while sharing the sights and sounds of his beloved city. But when Spurge arrives... things An elf ambassador, Brangwain Spurge, is sent to the city of goblins to offer a gift of goodwill, a recently-found ancient artifact, after centuries of war and hostility. His goblin host, Werfel, is looking forward to the experience. He understands they both share a career and passion for history and learning, so he looks forward to bonding and founding an unprecedented, enlightened friendship with Spurge, while sharing the sights and sounds of his beloved city. But when Spurge arrives... things don't go so well. Spurge seems disgusted with every new thing learned about the goblins. Werfel struggles to make him happy, but nothing works. Meanwhile, political forces are rising from both sides. Is it war, or peace, that is on the horizon? A super clever political satire. The awkward conversations between Werfel and Spurge are painfully hilarious to read. Eugene Yelchin's artwork is both spectacularly bizarre, and revealing in how our perception is shaped by prejudice and assumption.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kari

    All I will say is that I knew it was going to be Not For Me and indeed it was Not For Me at all. But I think it did its thing admirably even though I didn’t enjoy or admire it.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    This is a *really* fun take on the unreliable narrator. As an adult reader, it didn't take me long to figure out why the illustrations and text weren't matching up, but this is such a great way to introduce this concept to younger readers (not to mention all the commentary on revisionist history, colonialism, etc). I'm curious how much appeal this will have with kids - I feel like the satirical elements will go over their heads - but there's enough overt humour and adventure to keep them hooked, This is a *really* fun take on the unreliable narrator. As an adult reader, it didn't take me long to figure out why the illustrations and text weren't matching up, but this is such a great way to introduce this concept to younger readers (not to mention all the commentary on revisionist history, colonialism, etc). I'm curious how much appeal this will have with kids - I feel like the satirical elements will go over their heads - but there's enough overt humour and adventure to keep them hooked, I think. My one hang-up is that the art is printed really weird. It's hard to explain, but some of the illustrations looked like they were too.. pixelated? It reminded me of a digital image that's been blown out too much. However, there were other instances where the art was very detailed and clear. I dunno, maybe it's just me. Otherwise though, I really liked this. Very relevant in our "post-truth"/"fake news" world.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Shauna Yusko

    I’m just going to let everyone else gush over this one. I’m not the right person for the job.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Mathew

    If ever there was a book that used satire and the unreliable narrator with a deft, dry touch whilst still wholly appealing to children then this is that book. The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge might be seen as the disgruntled older pubescent sibling of Zelnick’s wriiten narrative/wordless format but it is also far sharper, clever and deeply political for being so. Anderson and Yelchin’s world is one of goblins and elves who have spent much of their past at war with each other. But the elves If ever there was a book that used satire and the unreliable narrator with a deft, dry touch whilst still wholly appealing to children then this is that book. The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge might be seen as the disgruntled older pubescent sibling of Zelnick’s wriiten narrative/wordless format but it is also far sharper, clever and deeply political for being so. Anderson and Yelchin’s world is one of goblins and elves who have spent much of their past at war with each other. But the elves now seek to renew their peace and send across the borders an elfin historian, Brangwain Spurge, with a gift for the goblins. Meanwhile, at the other end, Werfel, the goblin archivist, has been tasked with the job of entertaining his esteemed guest and giving him a tour of his city before the gift can be handed over to their supreme ruler: Ghogh – a nebulous, black creature from a wholly different dimension. But all is not what it seems in this story for the elf’s mission is not quite honest and both his world and his hosts is being cunningly manipulated by outside forces. Can Brangwain see past his prejudices and acknowledge the greater truth before it is all too late? A fantasy that is, perhaps, more real than the fake news we encounter daily today and certainly a satire on all political skewing of ‘outsiders’ and ‘others’, what Anderson offers in words and Yelchin in his Boschesque illustrations is a story from two different perspectives. Whose narrative can be trusted is another matter altogether but by the end of it, the reader will doubtless be in a place where they have the sense to question the propagandist images in their own world and reconsider what the truth is in their own lives. Whatever the impact of the book on the reader, Anderson and Yelchin make for a wonderful partnership and beyond its ideological ramifications, The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge is very, very funny.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Tony

    THE ASSASSINATION OF BRANGWAIN SPURGE. (2018). M. T. Anderson & Eugene Yelchin. **. I should have been warned ahead of time about this book. It combines several styles and genres into one large group of pages that represent an abandonment of trees. It is a partially graphic novel and a standard novel combined into one book. I later learned that it is considered a Young Adult novel – abbreviated YA – that does both genres serious harm. I cannot get through graphic novels. I keep feeling that I THE ASSASSINATION OF BRANGWAIN SPURGE. (2018). M. T. Anderson & Eugene Yelchin. **. I should have been warned ahead of time about this book. It combines several styles and genres into one large group of pages that represent an abandonment of trees. It is a partially graphic novel and a standard novel combined into one book. I later learned that it is considered a Young Adult novel – abbreviated YA – that does both genres serious harm. I cannot get through graphic novels. I keep feeling that I am being talked down to as I progress through the book. The way these authors have gotten around this is that by using both types of exposition, they suitably irritate both groups of people. I could not get through the book. Whether or not young adults will flock to this book or not is up to discussion as far as I am concerned. I suppose it ll depends on how you define the audience potential. Whether you are young, or whether you are an adult represent some large potential classifications. I’d not recommend this book to any of my friends. Of course, most of my friends are much like me: old farts that have been reading for over sixty years. We are set in our ways and not anxious to pick up on new ways of saying things.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Renata

    All of M.T. Anderson's books are so weird and I love them so much. He's such a funny, incisive author no matter what he's talking about. This book was a real trip. I also loved Eugene Yelchin's illustrations, and the whole conceit is so clever and so well-excecuted. I feel like this has appeal and accessibility for a wide range of ages--the language is pretty simple and straightforward but the story and concepts are complicated. I think it would be great to discuss in a classroom or book club se All of M.T. Anderson's books are so weird and I love them so much. He's such a funny, incisive author no matter what he's talking about. This book was a real trip. I also loved Eugene Yelchin's illustrations, and the whole conceit is so clever and so well-excecuted. I feel like this has appeal and accessibility for a wide range of ages--the language is pretty simple and straightforward but the story and concepts are complicated. I think it would be great to discuss in a classroom or book club setting.

  13. 5 out of 5

    J

    Having read enough of Anderson's books, I should realize by now that whatever I expect is not what is going to happen. I was also a bit dubious about the fact the book was listed as a finalist for the National Book Award in Young People's Literature. At first it was kind of ho-hum, meh, and feels vaguely familiar. And then it started to shift. I've been a fan of Eugene Yelchin's work for years, so this was a no-brainer in terms of me deciding to read it. The illustrated content and the written c Having read enough of Anderson's books, I should realize by now that whatever I expect is not what is going to happen. I was also a bit dubious about the fact the book was listed as a finalist for the National Book Award in Young People's Literature. At first it was kind of ho-hum, meh, and feels vaguely familiar. And then it started to shift. I've been a fan of Eugene Yelchin's work for years, so this was a no-brainer in terms of me deciding to read it. The illustrated content and the written content weren't quite coming together. Until I realized the point and that they were meant to play off each other in a way I shouldn't have expected. This book isn't going to be for everyone. This book is a meditation on perception vs reality and how much we let our preconceived notions guide our decisions. By breaking down our own ideas and attempting to look at the bigger picture, we may get a more real sense of the world and how things really are. Kudos to Anderson and Yelchin for creating a book that seems almost simplistic except is anything but. That finalist sticker is making a lot of sense after having read the book.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Rooney

    This was kind of an odd one, although I think perhaps that's to be expected from Anderson. Anyway, it's about an uptight elven historian who is sent (via barrel and catapult) as an ambassador to the goblins to deliver a gift to help reaffirm their peace agreement. Unknown to him the elven king has other plans for the gift. It's kind of an odd couple thing, as the ambassador is housed by a goblin historian who has to protect him from his social missteps.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Angie

    Want another illustrated story recommendation? How about this one? It's dark, it's humorous, and it is a lot of fun to read as you see one person's POV as illustrations and the other's POV written out. Two view points from two sides of an old, ongoing war (elves vs. goblins). Poor Werfel has to put up with so much shit!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Leah

    A snowday turned this 500+ doorstop into a one-sitting read.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Heidi Burkhart

    MT Anderson has a terrific range of writing styles! Every book that he has written so far is an absolute winner, each for different reasons. I never would have guessed him to come up with something this fanciful, political, and imaginative in such a unique style! Well, he did it. I could hardly put it down. Can't wait to see what Anderson comes up with next! * I just got the hardcopy version of this book from the library because, since I audiobooked this story, I missed out on all of the illustra MT Anderson has a terrific range of writing styles! Every book that he has written so far is an absolute winner, each for different reasons. I never would have guessed him to come up with something this fanciful, political, and imaginative in such a unique style! Well, he did it. I could hardly put it down. Can't wait to see what Anderson comes up with next! * I just got the hardcopy version of this book from the library because, since I audiobooked this story, I missed out on all of the illustrations. The illustrations are so brilliant that I highly recommend reading the hardcopy version. If you decide to audiobook this title I would suggest checking out the hardcopy book and following along chapter by chapter so that you can delight in the very clever and unique illustrations! Well done, Mr. Yelchin!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Castle Spooktacular

    A fun story of espionage and bad blood between goblins and elves. Loaded with trickery, tension, and tyrants. The illustrations were other worldly and helped moved the story along too. A cool read!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Paula Lyle

    This is a silly book about serious topics. Who can you trust when you can't trust the leaders of a country? An interesting question at this particular time. My biggest quibble was that the super secret transmissions were not adequately explained early on and I was not viewing them with enough suspicion at the beginning. Good drawings and lots of fun.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Shannan

    Love this book. Not only was it a great story about conflict and acceptance, but it was told through prose and incredible drawings. I loved how entire portions of the story were told in pictures and picked up in words without missing a beat.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Michael C

    This book was really good and might win the Newbery award because it has 3 different types of telling the story, one was pictures, one was letters, and one was text and having 3 different ways of telling the story is very unique

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    To all of my friends on Goodreads, "you clammy sweaty pedants" (how Goblins talk to their friends), put aside all your other books and read this immediately! Brilliant and very very funny, this collaboration between Anderson and Yelchin is a joyful challenge to readers everywhere. Can societal perceptions be trusted? Can we even trust the ones we form as eye-witnesses? As academics? As Open-Hearted Deliberately Culturally Sensitive (dare I say Liberal) Observers? And wait - what about those pesky To all of my friends on Goodreads, "you clammy sweaty pedants" (how Goblins talk to their friends), put aside all your other books and read this immediately! Brilliant and very very funny, this collaboration between Anderson and Yelchin is a joyful challenge to readers everywhere. Can societal perceptions be trusted? Can we even trust the ones we form as eye-witnesses? As academics? As Open-Hearted Deliberately Culturally Sensitive (dare I say Liberal) Observers? And wait - what about those pesky Unreliable Narrators? Thought-provoking in the best sort of way for me - a deeply interesting exploration of an fascinating theme wrapped in a gem of story. Part John Cleese, part inverted Tolkien, part Hieronymus Bosch. I needed more stars to award here. I LOVED this - every word, every intricate sketch, and I cannot wait to share it. Don't hesitate to hand it to high schoolers. Savvy middle schoolers will get it but it has an 7-12 grade feel to me.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge takes me back to the whimsy and invention of classics like The Phantom Tollbooth, Willy Wonky, and The Yellow Submarine. A comedy of etiquette errors, of historical hilarities… it’s been a long time since I genuinely laughed out loud while reading a book. I might have snorted once or twice (no witnesses). It’s easy for me to say that Yeltsin’s iconic art style and Anderson’s wit make this one an instant classic in YA fantasy literature. For my full review: ht The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge takes me back to the whimsy and invention of classics like The Phantom Tollbooth, Willy Wonky, and The Yellow Submarine. A comedy of etiquette errors, of historical hilarities… it’s been a long time since I genuinely laughed out loud while reading a book. I might have snorted once or twice (no witnesses). It’s easy for me to say that Yeltsin’s iconic art style and Anderson’s wit make this one an instant classic in YA fantasy literature. For my full review: https://paulspicks.blog/2018/09/03/th... For all my reviews: https://paulspicks.blog

  24. 4 out of 5

    Gianna

    I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Historian elf Brangwain Spurge has a very clear mission: travel to the land of goblins and present their King, a dark and mysterious alien, with a mighty present. Goblin archivist Werfel has his own mission: he is Spurge's host, and he's determined to please his guest and assist him in any way possible. Although things should have been very simple, those two will get in a lot of trouble. Facing hi I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Historian elf Brangwain Spurge has a very clear mission: travel to the land of goblins and present their King, a dark and mysterious alien, with a mighty present. Goblin archivist Werfel has his own mission: he is Spurge's host, and he's determined to please his guest and assist him in any way possible. Although things should have been very simple, those two will get in a lot of trouble. Facing hilarious, strange, and sometimes dangerous situations, the two scholars will struggle to ,like each other- but it's not so easy! Goblins and elves don't really get along; and that is pretty obvious from their countries' state of politics. Wars have already happened between them, and hate is strong between the two races. But maybe the two of them can learn more form each other than they have ever learned from their history books. Could they really be more similar than they are different? A story built expertly around two magical kingdoms, The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge is a witty, hilarious story full of adventure, action and laughter. But aside form the exceptional world building and the lovable characters (yes, you even get to love the grumpy elf historian in the end), what is most important about this book is what the authors have managed addressing: this is a very intelligent satire revolving around politics, racism, and the results of propaganda and intolerance towards other cultures. Did you think that this wouldn't be possible in a children's book? Well, think again, because the authors have managed to fit it all in; in fact they have done so in such a way, that the story never stops being funny or interesting at the same time! Through the difficult and strange relationship an elf and a goblin develop, we manage to see it all - and this makes the book an exceptional read for all children and teenagers. Accompanied by exceptional illustrations, The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge is an intelligent, pleasant read, fit for children and teenagers, as well as for adults. This is an enjoyable story, definitely recommended for everyone.

  25. 5 out of 5

    M. Lauritano

    This is a three star book for me, but I’m giving a bonus star for the experimentation behind it. In short, two historically warring races, elves and goblins, meet by way of a historian from each. Their perceptions are colored by prejudice. Hijinks ensue. The problem for me was that it was all rather predictable. As an adult reader, I could see the meaning and the resolution almost immediately. The pictures are the result of one unreliable elf narrator (worked into the story itself as some kind o This is a three star book for me, but I’m giving a bonus star for the experimentation behind it. In short, two historically warring races, elves and goblins, meet by way of a historian from each. Their perceptions are colored by prejudice. Hijinks ensue. The problem for me was that it was all rather predictable. As an adult reader, I could see the meaning and the resolution almost immediately. The pictures are the result of one unreliable elf narrator (worked into the story itself as some kind of magical telepathic transmissions), and the greater portion of the words come from a far more sympathetic goblin. I think the story would have been more effective if both narrators were equally unreliable, equally likable/unlikeable, creating an ambiguity that required the reader to form their own third point of view. Instead, I found myself hating the elves within the first couple chapters. The book drags a bit until the midpoint, when the plot becomes more personal and therefore increases the stakes. Although it mostly ended as I anticipated, there are still some moving character moments along the way. Some notes on the illustrations: their quality is varied. Some images feel like just the right mix of old engraving and grotesque caricature. But more often than not, they feel awkwardly cobbled together in photoshop, with noticeable differences in resolution quality. Maybe Yelchin didn’t feel like inking the same thing twice at different sizes or, more probably, he didn’t have the time. Just like in Selznick’s illustrated novels, corners have to be cut somewhere, I suppose. Another thought I had after finishing the book was that the more cartoonish style might have been something else that made the elf’s point of view seem less trustworthy. Regardless of all these nitpicks, it cannot be denied that this was a unique reading experience, which hopefully will inspire further works that play with the relationship between text and image.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jeweliana

    The elf was a guest. It was Werfel's duty to protect him. Okay, this is more like 3.5 stars. My feelings on this one are hard to explain. It's not the best book I've read, not ridiculously funny, suspenseful or outlandish. But it is nostalgic. Very reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings and really any fantasy story that involves an epic journey that takes you away. Plot: Werfel and Spurge make an odd couple who set off on an adventure together. Of course, there's lots of hijinks along the way an The elf was a guest. It was Werfel's duty to protect him. Okay, this is more like 3.5 stars. My feelings on this one are hard to explain. It's not the best book I've read, not ridiculously funny, suspenseful or outlandish. But it is nostalgic. Very reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings and really any fantasy story that involves an epic journey that takes you away. Plot: Werfel and Spurge make an odd couple who set off on an adventure together. Of course, there's lots of hijinks along the way and the story follows the predictable plot lines of most epic journeys. The plot could have been a lot more whimsical for how long the story is but it was enough to keep me reading. Characters: Werfel is my favorite! He and Spurge are really the main focus of the story and while I found them to be a bit...strange at first...eventually they both grew on me and by the end I was really invested in them. Writing: It's similar to the language in Lord of the Rings but less convoluted. There's a little bit of humor that might make you chuckle but it wasn't anything spectacular. The illustrations were beautiful though! Having those breaks every few chapters for pictures really helped move the story along. Do I Recommend? I would def recommend for fans of Lord of the Rings! Oddly enough, I wouldn't recommend it for actual children, the intended audience I assume. The book gets off to a slow start and even when it picks up, I still found it somewhat tame and boring. I can't imagine too many kids would be able to sit through this.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Told through a combination of third person narrative, spymaster reports, and sequences of medieval-like tapestry illustrations, The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge recounts the hilarious misadventures of the titular Brangwain Spurge. An elf historian tasked with returning a treasure to the "barbaric" goblin people, and forging better relations with them. Werfel, the archivist goblin tasked with hosting him, wants nothing more than to make his stay as pleasant as possible, but matters aren't as Told through a combination of third person narrative, spymaster reports, and sequences of medieval-like tapestry illustrations, The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge recounts the hilarious misadventures of the titular Brangwain Spurge. An elf historian tasked with returning a treasure to the "barbaric" goblin people, and forging better relations with them. Werfel, the archivist goblin tasked with hosting him, wants nothing more than to make his stay as pleasant as possible, but matters aren't as simple as they appear. It wouldn't be impolite to say that they are both ill-suited to the task at first. The former is close-minded, biased, and a spy, while the latter is naively hopeful, and keeps trying to show the wonders of his culture, not realizing his guest does not have enough context to understand. By being told from the point of view of Werfel, who sees Spurge's reactions, we are reminded that everything is a matter of perspective. To Werfel, his home and traditions are beautiful and something to be proud of, but to the elves, they are disgusting. Spurge's perspective is only directly shown to us through his spy "transmissions" via the illustrations which contradict Werfel's view. The biases of the characters lead to misunderstandings, and the transmissions only make matters worse because they are not objective. Fortunately, from exposure comes empathy and respect. This, and common ground, unites the two, even as the larger forces at play pursue their own ends. Anderson wraps the serious topics of cultural clash, reconciliation, and perspective up in a delightfully absurd tale with a style of humour (and naming conventions) similar to a Monty Python movie. A great, and very unique read, for the upper end of the middle grade range.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Elves and Goblins have been at war for a thousand years, but perhaps there's hope for change. The Elves have found an ancient Goblin artifact and are returning it via the least adventurous Elf in existence, Brangwain Spurge. Shot in a barrel over the Bonecruel Mountains, Brangwain is installed in the house of Goblin historian Werfel, who is thrilled to host a fellow historian and goes out of his way to make his guest comfortable and show the Elf all that Werfel so loves about his world and his c Elves and Goblins have been at war for a thousand years, but perhaps there's hope for change. The Elves have found an ancient Goblin artifact and are returning it via the least adventurous Elf in existence, Brangwain Spurge. Shot in a barrel over the Bonecruel Mountains, Brangwain is installed in the house of Goblin historian Werfel, who is thrilled to host a fellow historian and goes out of his way to make his guest comfortable and show the Elf all that Werfel so loves about his world and his city. The Elf, however, is snooty and uncommunicative and unappreciative, and uses spells to send back images of what he sees to the Elven secret police, the Order of the Clean Hand. He's not a good spy, and he has no idea of the real intentions of the Elven Court, and all he succeeds in doing is getting himself and Werfel in deadly trouble. Adventure follows. This story is told mostly in text, but also with sequences of illustrations that show how Brangwain views the Goblins' world and how he shows what he (thinks he) sees to the Elves. It looks like a horrific world, and while Werfel's descriptions don't make it sound much better, Werfel's love of his homeland is really the only true thing here to hold onto. I'm not giving this one stars because I really didn't enjoy it, but I recognize that it is well thought-out and that others will like it. I found it grim and depressing and not that funny, as well as covertly didactic (if not wrong). I couldn't stand Brangwain or any of the characters other than Werfel and his pet, and the illustrations are in the style of medieval/Renaissance horrors (like Dante's Inferno), so those were depressing as well. I think this was just not the book for me.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jonine Bergen

    This illustrated novel is really great. I love novels that are difficult to put into one box. The elf, Brangwain Spurge, is sent as an emissary to the goblin king with a gift of an old goblin artifact. He is also tasked with sending back visual images of his time with the goblins to be deciphered by the Order of the Clean Hand who will use this intelligence for the continued protection of the elves. In other words, he is a spy. Werfel, a goblin archivist, plays host to Spurge and tries to show him This illustrated novel is really great. I love novels that are difficult to put into one box. The elf, Brangwain Spurge, is sent as an emissary to the goblin king with a gift of an old goblin artifact. He is also tasked with sending back visual images of his time with the goblins to be deciphered by the Order of the Clean Hand who will use this intelligence for the continued protection of the elves. In other words, he is a spy. Werfel, a goblin archivist, plays host to Spurge and tries to show him the marvels of goblin society with the hopes that this will ease tensions between the two countries who have been at war, on and off, for centuries. Unfortunately, what Werfel shows and what Spurge sees are two very different things. The book is full of humour as Spurge continually misunderstands and misinterprets what is happening around him while Werfel tries to keep both of them alive and honor his responsibilities as a host. Spurge's bias colours everything he sees and makes him the perfect unreliable narrator as the reader is shown his visual transmissions sent back to the waiting elves. It is a fascinating look at how history is written or rewritten by the victors or the losers. In the end, the relationship that develops between these two who would have been friends if their countries didn't hate each other, is charming and fun. Great read on so many levels.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Barb Dixon Palmieri

    And they all lived happily ever after...? What a strange and interesting book. Werfel the Archivist is a goblin. Brangwain Spurge, also a historian, is an elf. When Spurge gets sent to the goblin's city by his former childhood bully, he assumes that he is there to spy. He doesn't know what the reader and the elf leaders know, he is actually there to assassinate the goblin leader. Werfel has opened his home to this elf ambassador. He takes pride in being the best host there is. That means also pro And they all lived happily ever after...? What a strange and interesting book. Werfel the Archivist is a goblin. Brangwain Spurge, also a historian, is an elf. When Spurge gets sent to the goblin's city by his former childhood bully, he assumes that he is there to spy. He doesn't know what the reader and the elf leaders know, he is actually there to assassinate the goblin leader. Werfel has opened his home to this elf ambassador. He takes pride in being the best host there is. That means also protecting this elf with his own life. Spurge doesn't seem to appreciate anything Werfel does for him and he quickly makes some powerful enemies. We follow the two through escape after escape. We watch them bumble through unplanned adventures. We also watch their dislike and distrust of each other turn into friendship. The book itself was written in an interesting way. There are 2-4 chapters of text. This usually includes a letter from Ysoret Clives, Earl of Lunesse. This is Spurge's former bully. Then there is a full chapter of nothing but illustrations. The illustrations are very much part of the story. They tell the story. Or do they? The illustrations are incredible. The cover is why I picked the book up in the first place. This is a YA book but I would recommend this for kids 10 and up. There is talk of war and death and there is some fighting but nothing graphic.

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