Apr 21, 2021AMB_4 rated this title 5 out of 5 stars
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.