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The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge

The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge

Book - 2018 | First edition
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"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."--Publisher.
Publisher: Somerville, Massachusetts : Candlewick Press, 2018
Edition: First edition
Copyright Date: ©2018
ISBN: 9780763698225
Call Number: y ANDERSON 2018
Characteristics: 516 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Additional Contributors: Yelchin, Eugene - Illustrator


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Apr 21, 2021

We love M.T. Anderson's non-fiction books. We've read a few, reviewed Symphony for the City of the Dead, and love the historical narrative tales he tells.

We just recently discovered the author / illustrator Eugene Yelchin, and enjoyed his historical fiction books and reviewed his historical fiction, Spy Runner, set in the Cold War.

So I was intrigued to find this, a collaboration by both publishing titans, featuring, of all creatures, an elf of the title name, Brangwain Spurge.

Now, I'm going to spoil the ending a bit -- but not really -- when I say, don't let the title fool you. It's really the tale of his planned assassination, poor idiot. Miraculously, he makes it out alive. So he's not doomed, but it is close.

Brangwain is loaded into a barrel, shot across his land (the Realm of Elfland) with a "gift," a precious gem contained in an elaborately carved box (with gruesome scenes of death, hint-hint), for the elusive, never-seen ruler of the goblins, Ghohg the Evil One, as a sort of peace-keeping gesture after a long war between Elves and Goblins. (Emphasis on sort of -- oh, it's so tempting to reveal this plot twist, but I won't, I promise!)

When he lands in the goblin lands, he becomes the special house guest of Werfel the Archivist, goblin historian of the Court of the Mighty Ghohg. It's his job to see to Brangwain's needs during his visit, make sure he's well taken care of, and present him to the Mighty Ghohg, who doesn't often see visitors -- there's a complicated dance, and waiting around, and plenty of opportunities for Werfel to botch this, which he's terrified he'll do.

Of course, Brangwain doesn't cooperate and he fails to see the goblins as people, but rather as evil, horrific, gross, etc. He has a secret mission to complete -- to spy on the goblins, gather as much intelligence about the Mighty Ghohg as he can, and make it back to the elf kingdom.

The goblins contend the elves nearly wiped them out in a war a few years ago, pushing them to worst possible bits of what was left of their land, over the Bonecruel Mountains. They don't see the elves as such an enlightened and wonderful "race." The goblins are just eking out an existence with what's left of their once-bountiful and beautiful homeland, which the elves now control.

It would help if Brangwain could see this, but he's blinded by his preconceptions of the goblins, and oh, how Werfel suffers for the dolt!

I won't reveal the plot twist, or how the book ends. Enjoy the read!

Candlewick Press offers a free discussion guide with 16 questions, and Yelchin posts many of his images / illustrations for the book on his website. The black and white illustrations have a Where the Wild Things Are feel to them, both scary and fascinating at the same time, sure to delight the most reluctant reader. They're featured prominently in a 3 minute book trailer offered by the publisher on YouTube.

Jan 05, 2021

A delightful book for young teens that teaches lessons on friendship and choices. I would recommend this for young teens who love the fantasy genre and for anyone who wants to try and read a unique and different type of book. The book is about an Elven historian sent to the Goblin Kingdom to deliver a gift for diplomatic purposes. Here, he meets the Goblin historian Werfel, but there is a lot of confusion between them as they are of different cultures. However, Werfel does not know that Weed arrived with harmful intentions as he was planning to spy on the Goblins. This later leads to Werfel being forced to help Weed escape and starts the journey. What makes the book unique and enjoyable is that it had a mixture of chapters described by words and chapters expressed by pictures like a comic book. I also enjoyed how the author uses the two characters to show us how different opinions can be. The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge is a fantastic story that lets you imagine far and wide.

Jun 10, 2019

Love this book. Delightfully entertaining. Would be fun to read to children and discuss the pictures. Love it.

vpl_childrens May 15, 2019

While digging the king's new pool, the elves have found an old goblin relic. In an effort (supposedly) to fortify their new truce with the goblins, after 1000 years of war, the elven kingdom sends one of their scientists to gift the strange carved egg to the goblin king. What follows is an illustrated account of the elf's visit from several points of view, none of which are reliable.

WoodmontTeens May 02, 2019

There is high art in this book. Read it if you like fantasy, and things that can get twisty.

Apr 24, 2019

This utilizes a format that I don't think has been named, but which I like. It intersperses prose with sequential picture story-telling, or a kind of comics. Brian Selznick has done this successfully more than once, and there are Scade and Buller's "The Fog Mound" books. The latter uses word balloons in the graphic sequences. Selznick and this book do not. I really enjoy this format, and since I first saw it have been thinking it is a way of writing in the future. Usually, now it is published as young adult or young readers. M.T Anderson is a veteran of young adult fiction with two absolute classics in print - "Feed" and "The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation, Volume One: The Pox Party". In "...Spurge", he and Eugene Yeltsin use the two different narrative styles- prose and graphics - to present the story from two different points of view. It is fantasy with elves and goblins, but with new ideas and imagination. The two different styles pull you through the book, with the picture sections relieving the prose, and vice versa. The two protagonists and the strange friendship they weave is unforgettable. It is a study in where differences between people stem from, and consequences of how we see such differences. It has humor and a new magic sustaining it throughout. The pictures seem like illustrations because they cover one or two pages, but they are sequential story-telling in nature. It even offers sound advice for young adult or otherwise: “You cannot trust the wealthy and powerful….Just because you’re useful to the wealthy doesn’t mean they’ll reward you. It just means they’ll use you.”

Jan 14, 2019

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.

IndyPL_SteveB Jan 08, 2019

Fantastic novel for older children and teens (and adults who haven’t left those ages behind). This immensely creative and complex book is a combination of words and pictures, where the words tell part of the story and the pictures tell a very different version of the story. Except that sometimes the pictures are completely wrong.

Brangwain Spurge is an Elfin historian, picked to carry a treasure to the King of the Goblins, ostensibly to help begin peace talks. He is to stay with Werfel, a Goblin historian, in order to share historical insights and promote cultural exchange. But Spurge has a secret assignment to spy on the Goblin capital city. Neither historian understands the other’s culture, so complete confusion reigns. When Spurge accidentally insults various Goblin warriors and gets caught trying to spy, Spurge and Werfel must flee for their lives. The cultural misunderstandings are often hilarious, especially in the proper etiquette of insults. But most of the humor is more Swiftian as we see the way each race thinks of the other as the villainous group who started all the wars.

The pictures are fascinating and require a lot of attention. Some sections of the plot are ONLY told in the pictures. But many of the pictures are actually the results of Spurge’s frightened imagination and tell a false story.

JCLChrisK Nov 20, 2018

A delightfully fun deconstruction of ethnocentrism and skewed perception starring an archivist and a historian. Each is an expert on the long history of hatred and war between the elven and goblin kingdoms, paired together as part of a diplomatic mission. The elf's story is told through wordless illustrations, the goblin's through pictureless text, and even though they are recording the same events they tell wildly different stories. Plus there might be more to the mission than either knows, espionage and subterfuge in which they are unwitting pawns. The serious underlying themes are gradually revealed through humorous narration and sometimes silly events, as the cultures involved in this clash are easily lampooned without fear of offense. It makes for a unique, enjoyably off-kilter, and ultimately humanizing tale.

Nov 19, 2018

I liked this a lot. It feels like hums it's own version of a tune Terry Pratchett played. I want smoked pickles after reading this. I also really enjoyed the pictures.

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LibrarianDest Nov 09, 2018

LibrarianDest thinks this title is suitable for 10 years and over


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