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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. 5 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. 5 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

    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

  4. 4 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).

  5. 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.

  6. 5 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.

  7. 4 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.

  8. 5 out of 5

    KWinks

    I have read enough M. T. Anderson to know I usually like his style. It's weird, off the wall, and you never know where he is going until it gets there. Feed is a book I read 10 years ago and still think about and Landscape with Invisible Hand was a wild ride. This one, however, gets tedious quickly and I just kept plowing along to see where it was going. I get the concept of the book (I read the interview in the back), sort of. I thought the illustrations were the best part of the story. And I g I have read enough M. T. Anderson to know I usually like his style. It's weird, off the wall, and you never know where he is going until it gets there. Feed is a book I read 10 years ago and still think about and Landscape with Invisible Hand was a wild ride. This one, however, gets tedious quickly and I just kept plowing along to see where it was going. I get the concept of the book (I read the interview in the back), sort of. I thought the illustrations were the best part of the story. And I get why Spurge is such an a-hole (I'm pretty sure he represents all of us and our misconceptions about those who are different from us) but man, oh, man did I want to see him actually get assassinated. And so many unanswered questions! I may have learned that a popular goblin opera is 29 hours long, but who (or what) was the Goblin king? Just.... WHAT? This is going to be a hard sell at the library. I can't think of who to recommend it to right now. Luckily, if such a reader should cross my path, I will be armed with this title. Great opening line.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Charlotte

    gripping to the point of almost unputdownable. It's a long book, but with many interspersed sequences of illustrations that carry the story forwards, which make it a faster read. I might have given it a fifth star, except that my heart was too sad for the Goblin Historian, who was the so good intentioned host of the visiting elf historian, Brangwain Spurge. Even though it is a hopeful ending, all his nice life was destroyed and he didn't deserve it.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Marta Boksenbaum

    What a very strange book. I did enjoy it.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Tim Wadham

    The writing is briliant--and often funny as all get out. But I'm not sure about how much I liked the ending and the gentleman who kept losing his finger

  12. 4 out of 5

    Violinknitter

    I don’t know if I’ll still think this book was worthy of four stars later. I liked the artwork, I liked the conceit of the story, I liked that it was a super-fast read for such a thick book.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Robert Kent

    I've got a fun one for you this week, Esteemed Reader. Did you know "Esteemed Reader" would be a dire insult in goblin culture? It totally would. A compliment would be to address you as "Despised Illiterate." Boom. I'm totally woke to goblin life and I'm going to hit you with some mad knowledge this post. M.T. Anderson will be here on Wednesday to face The 7 Questions and you know that's going to be awesome, so make sure you come back for that. I was a big fan of his YA dystopian novel, Feed, an I've got a fun one for you this week, Esteemed Reader. Did you know "Esteemed Reader" would be a dire insult in goblin culture? It totally would. A compliment would be to address you as "Despised Illiterate." Boom. I'm totally woke to goblin life and I'm going to hit you with some mad knowledge this post. M.T. Anderson will be here on Wednesday to face The 7 Questions and you know that's going to be awesome, so make sure you come back for that. I was a big fan of his YA dystopian novel, Feed, and when I first read the description of The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge, I was expecting something similar, but with fantasy elements. That's not what this book is, at all, and it's a pleasure to discover a skilled writer capable of successfully telling a very different type of story while still making it feel like an M.T. Anderson novel. My favorite writers excel in multiple genres and I hope to do so one day myself (but first I'd have to excel in a single genre, ha, ha--see, goblin compliments to myself cause I'm woke). This is one book where I'd recommend reading the paper edition rather an ebook, which is what I did, and the ARC formatting was not well done. I assume the official ebook is better put together, but really, you're going to want to hold this one in your hands. The wonderful illustrations by Eugene Yelchin do a lot of the storytelling, so much so that this is in part a graphic novel. The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge is a very funny comic novel that has some political overtones, but nothing too heavy handed. And there's no direct one-to-one parallels, so don't bother trying to figure out which shelled goblin without a soul or a shred of patriotism is a metaphorical stand-in for Mitch McConnell. I don't know about you, Despised Illiterate, but I've had enough of politics recently (although, make sure you're registered to vote as we need everybody who likes books and thinking to vote this November). I'd prefer to focus on the issues of Elf V. Goblin: Dawn of Spurge-st. And that's mostly what Anderson does. Brangwain Spurge is an elfin historian who's catapulted into goblin territory (probably less hassle than plane travel) to stay for a time with goblin archivist Werfel. Their hope is to improve relations between the long warring species, despite the fact that they both have pointed ears (it's a recurring joke in the book). Improving relations is their official story, anyway. More on that momentarily. The two do their best to accommodate each other, but naturally the scholarly fellows see the world very differently: "Why do you think it is of goblin make, if it was under the palace of the elves?" "We think it must be from a thousand years ago when the forests were ruled by your people, before you yielded them up to us." Werfel murmured, "Before they were taken from us, yes." Spurge nodded. "Yes, before you lost them in fair battle." Much of the comedy through the first act comes from Werfel showing off bits of goblin culture, with which Spurge is largely unimpressed: I'll try to show him that goblins can be fun! Werfel thought, so during a furious thunderstom he took Spurge out on the streets to watch the children jumping from rooftop to rooftop with their elaborate metal wands, tying to catch lightning bolts. Magister Spurge did no seem much more pleased by the solemn Museum of Eminent Skins. He did not take any interest in the discarded skins of famous goblin heroes and actors, despite all of the interesting dioramas. At the end of the tour, he did not even want to pet the Slough of Vertigrin the Wise for good luck. During my favorite sequence, Werfel takes Spurge to a goblin opera which plays for more than twenty hours. Around hour six, Spurge sneaks off and I've been thinking about this next passage of Werfel trying to find the elf since I first read it: He crouched over the privy and looked down. Someone could easily crawl out the hole and jump down into the street below. Spurge must be off spying. He stuck his head through the hole and and peered up and down the alley. At the far end of the street, there were signs for various posh businesses: an optician, a doctor, a kitchenware boutique, a maker of ladies' fine opera gloves. But no sign of anyone. He was furious. Spurge had betrayed his trust. When he looked up from the toilet, shifting on his knees, he saw a wealthy goblin woman draped in strings of pearls glaring at him. "Just vomiting, madam," he apologized. "That shrieking harpy who's playing Blulinda really should not be singing a solo role." He stood up and, with dignity, left the privy. So, do the goblin's just yell "look out below" before doing their business to the street beneath? Do the goblins below have umbrellas, or do they just accept the downpour as part of the price of living in the city? I have so many questions about goblin toilets. I've been wondering about the practicality of living in a world with such toilets for a couple weeks now. I keep thinking I'm done contemplating such juvenile matters, and then questions come creeping back into my brain at odd moments. Alas, Spuge is a pawn in a larger game. He's been tasked with bringing a gift to the goblin king. Unbeknownst to him, the gift is actually a brilliantly described MacGuffin: As you know, the gift we sent, the carved gemstone, is not simply an artifact of ye olden days. It is also a death-dealing device. Didn't used to be. It was just a pretty gemstone when they dug it up in Your Majesty's wading pool. But before we sent it, our crack team of wizards imbued it with the power, when activated, to open a hole in the world and destroy everything around it out of time and space and into--well, I don't know, Your Maj, because I was never frightfully good at science, but, you know, the Great Nothing or some such. Get some wizards to explain it. Incidentally, the fellow providing this exposition as well as the exposition in the opening paragraph and throughout the book is Ysoret Clivers, Lord Spymaster, Earl of Lunesse, Order of the Clean Hand. His letters to the king are quite amusing as he and the king start out as best buds who golf together and their relationship deteriorates drastically due to Spurge's antics and unknowing failures to destroy the goblin's leader. This is a fun way to deliver exposition and the interplay between Ysoret and the elfin king who begins chopping off his fingers with each failure to give him a truly clean hand reminded me of the--going to date myself here--bickering PA anouncers in the movie Airplane! If you recall the tone of that comedy, or perhaps the tone of The Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy, that's sort of treat you're in for with The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge. This is an absurd comedy. Laughs are the top priority and they are abundant. But if you're hoping to be convinced of a believable world of goblins and elves, this isn't that story. Me, I always loved R.A. Salvatore's The Dark Elf trilogy for that sort of nerdy fun. The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge is a different sort of nerdy fun. Not only is the interplay of these narrating letters between Ysoret and the king amusing on its own, it's thematically relevant. Without spoiling, our odd couple of elf and goblin are about to learn an important lesson that applies to both their kingdoms and our own as well: "You cannot trust the wealthy and powerful." "I thought I would be useful," wept Spurge. "I thought I could be different than I was. I thought I could be one of them." "You were useful," said Werfel. "Buy just because you're useful to the wealthy doesn't mean they'll reward you. It just means they'll use you." But this isn't a book about messages and politics so much as it's a book about the fun of learning the outlandish rules of a made-up world. M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin want to show their readers a good time, and in this aim they are successful. I particluarly loved Werfel's pet, Skardebek, or Becky for short, who screeches at night. But what is Becky: It was just Skardebek, rubbing his cheek with her tentacles. The icthyod mewled. Skardebek screeched and darted forward to bite the intruder. Werfel reached up and grabbed her tail just in time. Werfel was still busy trying to hold Skardebek back as she flapped and struggled. Trying to imagine how Skardebek functions is fun, and that's what this book is. Just a whole lot of fun. Treat yourself, Despised Illiterate, and laugh out loud at this buddy comedy that never takes itself too seriously. And don't miss author M.T. Anderso's interview on Wednesday. As always, I'll leave you with some of my favorite passages from The Assassination of Branwain Spurge: Skardebek fluttered softly around the room's rafters like an unsettled thought. "You'll never hear interesting stories if you don't ask questions. And there are interesting stories everywhere. Even the most boring person has one interesting story." "You cannot simply bang on the door of an elfin emissary while he does his business! For the elves, all aspects of life are an art. Even on the toilet, they think of nothing but beauty and elegance. Knocking on the door would be like hurling a fry-pan at a great artist painting a masterpiece of a sunset on distant hills." "There is no reason to keep sitting here like a couple of grapefruits rotted to the shelf." The vast plain was hairy with dead grasses. The towering figure roared: a creature so large that a man could have bathed in the soupy spittle of its mouth and sat curled up in the chambers of its heart. "I have so many... so many secrets I could tell Ghohg. About the kingdom of the elves. And the Order of the Clean Hand. do you know of the Order? Top secret, of course, but I know it all." "You're disgusting," said Regibald. "Willing to sell out your own country just to save your life." This irritated Spurge. "As it happens," he snapped, "I was going to lie to you anyway." It seemed unfair that his one chance at being alive should end so stupidly.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    Absolutely adored this book. So unique and the illustrations add to the story in such a unique and entertaining way.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Munro's Kids

    Boy did I enjoy this book. It was so weird and different and totally bizarre, that I wasn't really sure how I would feel about it, so I approached the thing with trepidation. For starters, there is the title, which I can safely say I will never have memorized. Next, there are the illustrations, which are almost Boschian in their grotesqueness and weirdness (especially at the beginning). But I was wrong to worry, because it was GREAT. The writing was funny and interesting. The plot was excellent, a Boy did I enjoy this book. It was so weird and different and totally bizarre, that I wasn't really sure how I would feel about it, so I approached the thing with trepidation. For starters, there is the title, which I can safely say I will never have memorized. Next, there are the illustrations, which are almost Boschian in their grotesqueness and weirdness (especially at the beginning). But I was wrong to worry, because it was GREAT. The writing was funny and interesting. The plot was excellent, and I gobbled it up in a day and a half. The illustrations were bizarre, but so so wonderful in how they functioned to interact with the test. If you want to know why, then bear with me... The premise is that Brangwain Spurge is an elf who has been sling-shotted over to the Goblin Empire to return a jeweled historical goblin artifact that has just been dug up. It is meant to be a peace offering as the two kingdoms have been at war for one thousand years. Goblin archivist Werfel is there to meet Spurge and act as his protector and host for the visit. Werfel takes his job extremely (comically) seriously, and stakes his honour, reputation and life on the line in order to keep his guest safe as custom strictly details. What Werfel and the rest of the goblins don't know is that Spurge is a spy and sends home images from his brain of what he is seeing to the elves. This is where the illustrations come in. Those grotesque drawings are Spurge's interpretation for the elves of what he is seeing. The mis-match between them and the narrative from Werfel's point of view is sometimes telling, sometimes hilarious, and often nail-biting. The depiction of people and events also shifts as Spurge's character develops during the course of the novel... Oh, and don't even get me started on the chief spy-master figure. Just so perfectly pompous and awful and hilarious. All this said, I really don't know who this book is for. Is it too dark for middle school kids? Too simple for high school? Please (someone) read this thing and give me a second opinion! -Kirsten

  16. 4 out of 5

    Pop Bop

    Like A Medieval Graphic Novel This is so copiously illustrated that it almost qualifies as a graphic novel. And the text is light enough to feel modern, but just formal enough that it doesn't clash with the illustrations. The illustrations look like medieval woodcuts and, if you're willing to be a bit fanciful, wouldn't be out of place in a copy of "The Divine Comedy" or some sacred monastic volume. The result is unique and entertaining. (Of note, the drawings don't illustrate the text narrative. Like A Medieval Graphic Novel This is so copiously illustrated that it almost qualifies as a graphic novel. And the text is light enough to feel modern, but just formal enough that it doesn't clash with the illustrations. The illustrations look like medieval woodcuts and, if you're willing to be a bit fanciful, wouldn't be out of place in a copy of "The Divine Comedy" or some sacred monastic volume. The result is unique and entertaining. (Of note, the drawings don't illustrate the text narrative. They appear in brief sequences and substitute for text. So the single story is told in words, then pictures, then words, then pictures. The effect is a bit unnerving but intriguing.) That said, we do start very slowly. An "expendable" elf academic, Spurge, is sent to a neighboring goblin kingdom, with which the elves have a long history of warfare, to deliver a gift to the goblin king. Spurge is hosted by a goblin scholar, Warfel. The elf is supercilious and condescending. The goblin Warfel is a good-hearted fellow who is both duty bound and honestly excited to be guiding this esteemed elfin visitor. There are lots of coy, arch and precious bits about elves. There are even more heavyhanded jokes at the expense of the supposedly boorish goblins. A few chapters in I began to wonder how this story could develop into anything more than a clever, but one note, comedy of manners. (At one point a high born goblin family hosts the elf at a banquet at which the goblins try to recreate elfin food, dress and entertainment, and the whole failed enterprise is more painful than amusing.) At best, would this end up just being a rather obvious political parable? But wait, NO SPECIFIC SPOILERS, but at this point the tale changes its stripes. The elf has secrets and a hidden purpose that is hidden even from him. Through a variety of misadventures Spurge and Warfel end up on the run and, surrounded as they are by schemers and political toadies, they are revealed as the only noble and innocent characters. They also begin to develop as rather appealing personalities in their own right rather than just placeholders. While on the run the two encounter new and very interesting regions of the goblin kingdom. They have many hair raising escapades, close calls, and in-the-nick-of-time escapes. All of this speeds up more and more until the socko and very satisfying ending. The upshot is that a clever but vaguely lifeless comedy of manners becomes a very engaging adventure buddy comedy. And, as Spurge and Warfel grow in substance and appeal, the jokes that fell flat at the beginning of the book, (a goblin expresses affection for another goblin by insulting him), take on life and charm, (as when Spurge and Warfel insult each other while awaiting execution). By the end the reader has been rewarded with a unique, entertaining, and very cleverly constructed treat about not just politics, but also even more about friendship. A nice find. (Please note that I received a free advance will-self-destruct-in-x-days Adobe Digital copy of this book without a review requirement, or any influence regarding review content should I choose to post a review. Apart from that I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.)

  17. 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.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ann

    A unique book, and I understand why it's been getting a lot of buzz. (view spoiler)[The interaction of the pictures as seen through Spurge's eyes (although I question why the images are not literally through his eyes - he features in many of the images. I guess it's because he thinks hard about what he's seen, and then sends the impression of what happened, instead of what actually happened? But when I think about and remember things, I usually give them my own perspective, not a wide-camera per A unique book, and I understand why it's been getting a lot of buzz. (view spoiler)[The interaction of the pictures as seen through Spurge's eyes (although I question why the images are not literally through his eyes - he features in many of the images. I guess it's because he thinks hard about what he's seen, and then sends the impression of what happened, instead of what actually happened? But when I think about and remember things, I usually give them my own perspective, not a wide-camera perspective?) Anyway, as I was saying, the interaction of the illustrations as Spurge's impression alongside the text that for the most part is third person focused on Werfel is brilliantly done. I foresee the book being discussed in classrooms, focusing on perspective and history and how background knowledge and biases influence how we experience the world. In that sense it is an extremely timely book. I did not like that the mutilation of the spymaster's hand was played up for laughs. It was clearly intended to be funny, with the reader secretly pleased that the odious spymaster was getting what was coming to him. But it just clanged a sour note for me. Torture isn't funny, even if it is enacted against a character I'm clearly not supposed to like. His goals are awful, he's devious and manipulative and frankly a nasty guy. I'll admit that it didn't bother me when his plans were totally reversed and he died in the bomb blast he had intended to kill Ghorg from a safe distance. But the finger thing did bother me. I'm not totally sure what to think about the last scene either. Are all elves also goblins? They have similar ears after all. It's implied that this is not normal for Spurge. If shedding is part of being goblin/elf, why has it never happened before? Part of it is the symbolic shedding of the old self to revel in the new, but that implies that Spurge, nor any other elf, has ever remade themselves, which I find to be impossible, even if it's just the transition from child to adult. I wish we knew more about Ghorg. If he's from another world and so powerful, why not just destroy all the elves? His ways are mysterious, that's why. I almost feel like this character was created simply so that both the elf leader (who we know to be okay with genocide, slavery, and torture based on the letters being written to him by the spymaster) and the goblin leader can be killed at the end without anyone feeling too badly, since Ghorg is supposedly an interloper and a capricious and dangerous ruler. (hide spoiler)]

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jenni

    Goblins and Elves have been at war for thousands of years but all that is about to change. Historian Brangwain Spurge is sent to give a rare artifact to the Goblin King as a token of peace. The Order of the Clean Hand (an Elvin Spy ring) gives Spurge a second mission: Find the Well of Lightning (the source of Goblin magic) and learn how it works. Brangwain Spurge agrees to both missions and leaves with the gift to meet Archivist Werfel and the Goblin King. Werfel does his best to make Spurge comf Goblins and Elves have been at war for thousands of years but all that is about to change. Historian Brangwain Spurge is sent to give a rare artifact to the Goblin King as a token of peace. The Order of the Clean Hand (an Elvin Spy ring) gives Spurge a second mission: Find the Well of Lightning (the source of Goblin magic) and learn how it works. Brangwain Spurge agrees to both missions and leaves with the gift to meet Archivist Werfel and the Goblin King. Werfel does his best to make Spurge comfortable but the elf complains about each activity. The food is too spicy, the museum is too gruesome and the opera is too loud! Spurge just wants to meet the king, give him this gift and get this over with! What Spurge does not know is that his gift is really a bomb that will kill both him and the goblin king!                 Will Spurge and Werfel learn about the bomb before it's too late?                 Can Spurge escape detection?                 Will war be avoided?                 Will Spurge and Werfel ever learn to see things eye to eye?                 Read and find out! This book is half anti-war fantasy and half graphic novel... It's like a strange mix of the storyline of a Studio Ghibli movie (I'm thinking Howls Moving Castle not Secret World of Arrietty), the art of Chris Riddle (illustrator of the Edge books -- I still call them Santiphrax) and the humor of a Lemony Snicket (Series of Unfortunate Events) book. The story is funny but it has some heart. Some of my favorite lines are when Spurge and Werfel are running for their lives: “How can an apology be enough? It’s nothing but air! Air weights nothing. Your words mean nothing and no one is coming to save us!” Spurge agrees, “They call me the weed for a reason. A weed is a plant no one wants.” “Those who really know plants never call anything a weed. Because each plant has special, secret uses. Every weed is a treasure to those who know them.” The story might be too dark (or violent) for many middle-readers but as an adult who loves MG and YA novels, I loved the book and would recommend it to friends.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    I've loved M.T. Anderson's books with their social underpinnings (like Feed) and Eugene Yelchin's story, Stalin's Nose, showing more historical humor and bite. This time, unassuming elfin historian Brangwain Spurge volunteers for a mission of a lifetime: he will be catapulted across the mountains into goblin territory, deliver a priceless peace offering to their mysterious dark lord, and spy on the goblin kingdom. It's dangerous, yet enticing for the experience. Brangwain’s host, the goblin Wer I've loved M.T. Anderson's books with their social underpinnings (like Feed) and Eugene Yelchin's story, Stalin's Nose, showing more historical humor and bite. This time, unassuming elfin historian Brangwain Spurge volunteers for a mission of a lifetime: he will be catapulted across the mountains into goblin territory, deliver a priceless peace offering to their mysterious dark lord, and spy on the goblin kingdom. It's dangerous, yet enticing for the experience. Brangwain’s host, the goblin Werfel the archivist loves the idea of learning from this never-before visitor and goes to extreme lengths to prepare for him. It can feel like an earth human visiting Mars with the mistakes that occur accompanied by cultural misunderstandings. Even the idea of insult or compliments contradict. Goblins show their love for one another with insults; elves do not. Interspersed within the plot are secret letters from Ysoret Clivers, Lord Spymaster, who hints at a double-cross when Spurge closes in with his peace offering. These two erratic (yet oh so sincere) scholars end in the middle of an international crisis that may spell death for them — and war for their nations. The story holds humor, beauty and an inspiring call for changing one's skin. (You'll have to read it to understand my meaning.) Eugene Yelchin illustrates the elf side of this story. In pen and ink archaic style, a few of his chapters move the plot along, enabling us to see the world-building and action from Brangwain's point of view, as the "other", Werfel's story is told in prose by Anderson. The reader will be thrilled to see and read the details of this new place, home of Goblins, and the fantastical plot that moves like a speeding train, across landscapes hard to imagine unless one is M.T. Anderson or Eugene Yelchin. To meet Brangwain Spurge and Werfel, both earnest and honest creatures that just happen to come from very different worlds, and histories, is a pleasure.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Blue

    Another gem from M.T. Anderson, this time in collaboration with Eugene Yelchin. Anderson's story and Yelchin's illustrations work really well together. The premise is not that complicated: the elfin historian Spurge ("The Weed") is crossbowed in a barrel across and over the Bonecruel Mountains into the goblin empire to deliver an old goblin artifact as a gift to the mysterious (and otherworldly) goblin kind, Ghohg. The goblins have an archivist, Werfel, who is charged with hosting Spurge and ass Another gem from M.T. Anderson, this time in collaboration with Eugene Yelchin. Anderson's story and Yelchin's illustrations work really well together. The premise is not that complicated: the elfin historian Spurge ("The Weed") is crossbowed in a barrel across and over the Bonecruel Mountains into the goblin empire to deliver an old goblin artifact as a gift to the mysterious (and otherworldly) goblin kind, Ghohg. The goblins have an archivist, Werfel, who is charged with hosting Spurge and assessing the authenticity of the gift before Ghohg sends word to see this elfin emissary. Of course, the plot is complicated by the fact that Spurge is really supposed to spy on the goblin kingdom and find out how the tower that gives the goblins many of their magical powers works. The Assassination is really an exploration of the ideas of trust, friendship, home, prejudice, and most importantly, truth, as in historical truth. How and why history is captured and recorded the way it is, and what is our responsibility in witnessing and, if possible, attesting to what really happened. At the height of the information age, when misinformation is the bloodiest and most powerful war being waged in many fronts around the globe, the message of the novel is priceless and one that should be discussed with all children growing into the age of massive deluge of unqualified information. It is also a story of friendship, specifically the friendship between two people who are very much alike, but who belong to warring nations. Anderson does a very good job of bringing the pain and suffering of not only the war, but also the survivors of the war, who live with the memories of lost ones and unfinished lives. Recommended for those who like pets, whimsical aliens, dancing, and opera. Thanks to LibraryThing and the publisher for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review. I enjoyed reading it immensely!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Tasha

    The goblins and elves have found peace after a long war. Brangwain Spurge, an elf who studies goblin history, is catapulted into the goblin kingdom to deliver a gift to the strange being who rules the goblins. He is hosted there by Werfel, a goblin who studies elven history. Werfel is delighted to host Spurge, but that soon changes as Spurge is cantankerous, judgmental and hates everything goblin. He even detests an elven feast put on in his honor. Werfel also discovers that Brangwain is actuall The goblins and elves have found peace after a long war. Brangwain Spurge, an elf who studies goblin history, is catapulted into the goblin kingdom to deliver a gift to the strange being who rules the goblins. He is hosted there by Werfel, a goblin who studies elven history. Werfel is delighted to host Spurge, but that soon changes as Spurge is cantankerous, judgmental and hates everything goblin. He even detests an elven feast put on in his honor. Werfel also discovers that Brangwain is actually a spy, sending messages in images back to the elves. As the political intrigue grows, readers discover that Spurge is being used by his own government to start a new war, one that the elves will have the upper hand in thanks to duping him. But never doubt the ability of Spurge to ruin a solid plan! What a pairing of master storytellers! Anderson writes the clever text, showing Werfel’s point of view and delighting in the slapstick comedy moments, the clashing of two cultures, and the dangers of hosting a guest. Meanwhile, Yelchin tells Spurge’s side of the tale through sly images alone, depicting what Spurge is sending back to the elves. The tales of course do not match and yet the also work together to tell a more complete story of misunderstandings, biases and prejudice more fully than words ever could. The political pieces of the tale are particularly well drawn, showing how forces at work are not really in charge but may just be playground bullies who are being bullied themselves. The focus on differences and similarities is cleverly crafted into the story with the finale strengthening the connection and leaving no doubt that change is possible. A timely look at political intrigue and getting beyond what holds us apart with plenty of humor to make it a delight. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Rosemary

    Elitist elf (is that an oxymoron?) historian Brangwain Spurge has a mission: go into goblin territory and deliver a gift - a peace offering - from the elf king to the goblin king. Oh, and he's also supposed to spy on the kingdom, transmitting his thoughts back to the elves so they can get an elf's-eye view of everything. He's shot off in a large barrel, and invited to the home of goblin archivist Werfel, who extends every hospitality to Spurge, who is a culturally insensitive, rude, bumbling boo Elitist elf (is that an oxymoron?) historian Brangwain Spurge has a mission: go into goblin territory and deliver a gift - a peace offering - from the elf king to the goblin king. Oh, and he's also supposed to spy on the kingdom, transmitting his thoughts back to the elves so they can get an elf's-eye view of everything. He's shot off in a large barrel, and invited to the home of goblin archivist Werfel, who extends every hospitality to Spurge, who is a culturally insensitive, rude, bumbling boob. Naturally, Spurge bungles his spying mission, setting off a cross-kingdom incident that leaves Werfel and Spurge running for their lives, and at one another's mercies. This brilliant socio-political comedy of errors is hilariously told by National Book Award winner M.T. Anderson and illustrated by Newbery Honoree Eugene Yelchin, and mixes action and adventure with a tale of friendship, culture clash, and intrigue. Eugene Yelchin's mixed media, black and white illustrations let readers see what Spurge transmits back to his kingdom, but Anderson's text lets us know that things aren't exactly what they seem. So who's telling the truth? Well... truth is in the eye of the beholder; something we learn as Spurge's world seems to grow under the long-suffering Werfel's guidance. There are false assumptions on each side that need to be cleared up, but Brangwain Spurge refuses to see the black marks on elf history, no matter how clear Werfel states it. After all, history is written by the victors. It isn't until Spurge creates an incident that puts his, and his host's, lives in danger that he understands how words and memories can be manipulated. The two share a mutual love of books, and it's there that they find common ground on which to build a relationship. That, and the fact that they need each other to survive. Want kids to understand Fake News? Put this book in their hands. The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge is a National Book Award longlist nominee, and has starred reviews from Publisher's Weekly, Booklist, Kirkus, and The Horn Book.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Laura Gardner

    🔥 B E S T B O O K F O R 2 0 1 8 🔥 . 〰 〰 BRANGWAIN SPURGE came out one week ago. IT IS AMAZING. I’ve now previewed all the books on the #nationalbookday2018 longlist and it’s my favorite. Simply put, this is one of the quirkiest, most creative books I have ever read. The series of cultural misunderstandings borne of xenophobia and fear have flavors reminiscent of the Cold War, but at its heart it is a buddy comedy with some of funniest banter I have ever read. There's much more here -- a fully formed 🔥 B E S T B O O K F O R 2 0 1 8 🔥 . 〰️ 〰️ BRANGWAIN SPURGE came out one week ago. IT IS AMAZING. I’ve now previewed all the books on the #nationalbookday2018 longlist and it’s my favorite. Simply put, this is one of the quirkiest, most creative books I have ever read. The series of cultural misunderstandings borne of xenophobia and fear have flavors reminiscent of the Cold War, but at its heart it is a buddy comedy with some of funniest banter I have ever read. There's much more here -- a fully formed fantastical world, a brewing war and gorgeous, detailed images. Best of all, there's a twist at the end that will make students want to go back and read the entire book over again (the elf and goblin's accounts differ so much that it's obvious someone is an unreliable narrator...). . 〰️ 〰️ The authors' note at the end of the book is a fascinating look at an unconventional collaboration; I was so glad to get more insight into how they co-wrote this book. 〰️ 〰️ Swipe to see some awesome images from the book! I’ll post a summary in the first comment. . 〰️ 〰️ #bookstagram #book #reading #bibliophile #bookworm #bookaholic #booknerd #bookgram #librarian #librariansfollowlibrarians #librariansofinstagram #booklove #booktography #bookstagramfeature #bookish #bookaddict #booknerdigans #booknerd #ilovereading #instabook #futurereadylibs #ISTElibs #TLChat #mgbooks

  25. 5 out of 5

    Emmy

    This was an amazing book! A real treat! I can't wait for it to be published so I can get my hands on a physical copy! When it comes to reading fantasy, I can be super-picky. I don't think a lot of high fantasy. I don't want a ton of romance. And heaven forbid it gets too political! I say "no" to fairies, am iffy on elves, and I certainly don't want some big dramatic tale stuffed to the gills with Mary Sue and Marty Stu. My ideas of what makes excellent fantasy are very particular. And there are on This was an amazing book! A real treat! I can't wait for it to be published so I can get my hands on a physical copy! When it comes to reading fantasy, I can be super-picky. I don't think a lot of high fantasy. I don't want a ton of romance. And heaven forbid it gets too political! I say "no" to fairies, am iffy on elves, and I certainly don't want some big dramatic tale stuffed to the gills with Mary Sue and Marty Stu. My ideas of what makes excellent fantasy are very particular. And there are only a handful of fantasy authors that I absolutely devour. Lately, my favorite has been Walter Moers. And wouldn't you know that this read so much like a Moers book? It was almost uncanny. Obviously, it wasn't quite the same, but the combination of a perfectly written story coupled with detailed illustrations was just what I needed! This is not a little book. Yes, it's illustrated but it's still 544 pages. And I read it in three days. I couldn't put it down (which was tricky, since it was an ARC that I was reading on my computer, but somehow I managed)! I was instantly drawn in because of the hilarious plot. Two neighboring kingdoms (Elves and Goblins) are at war, so when the Elves find a Goblin artifact on the castle grounds, they decide to send historian Brangwain Spurge to deliver it. Meanwhile, Goblin archivist, Werfel is excitedly preparing himself or his new guest, making sure that everything will be comfortable for the Elf's stay. However, from the start, things go wrong. Spurge is a spy, sending back secret illustrated messages to his people back home. He's also cold, somewhat snooty, and not interested in making friends with a bunch of goblins, obliviously causing disaster after political disaster, and leaving Werfel to pick up the pieces in his wake. What makes this story so special is the balance between the illustration and what actually happens. (view spoiler)[You can see how Spurge's interpretations change as the story goes on. Werfel gets smaller and cuter each time you see him, the goblins become less grotesque, and Spurge himself seems less and less grandiose with each illustration. Looking at the images from when Werfel is first introduced until the end, it's amazing to think that both illustrations are of the same character! (hide spoiler)] I'm all for books having pictures, as long as the pictures contribute to the reading experience. I love that in this story, they not only contribute to the experience, but to the story as well. In fact, they are almost indispensable, which makes things even more fun! All in all, an excellent read, and one that I would highly recommend, from young teens to adults. Also recommended for fans of Walter Moers. (And vice versa).

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tom Franklin

    A somewhat heavy-handed tale about the cultural differences between Elves and Goblins told through a pair of Historians/Archivists who have each studied the others' cultures. Each views their culture as superior and the others' a barbaric; each views the wars fought between them as the fault of the other side. This book could have been so much more. Brangwain Spurge is sent into Goblin territory to deliver a gift of peace between the two nations. He stays with a Goblin Archivist who is excited to A somewhat heavy-handed tale about the cultural differences between Elves and Goblins told through a pair of Historians/Archivists who have each studied the others' cultures. Each views their culture as superior and the others' a barbaric; each views the wars fought between them as the fault of the other side. This book could have been so much more. Brangwain Spurge is sent into Goblin territory to deliver a gift of peace between the two nations. He stays with a Goblin Archivist who is excited to have a fellow scholar staying with him, hoping for an intellectual exchange of ideas and cultural beliefs and understandings. Instead, Spurge shows himself to be every bit the barbarian that he believes his Goblin hosts to be -- and thereby setting up the main character as a very unlikeable protagonist. The authors try a bit of Brian Selznick's technique of mixing prose with pages of wordless illustrations. This is meant to so Spurge's view of the ugliness of Goblin society, but without a counterpoint illustrating or describing these same items from the Goblin's perspective, it is lost and largely ineffective.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    There are wonderful, wonderful parts of reviewing books. Mainly, the books, right? Right. But then there is the reality that I am often reading books that I might not have chosen on my own. Case in point, this title. I mostly likely would not have chosen this book on my own if not offered a copy. And even as I began reading, and even as I kept reading, I thought that this book was not quite to my liking. But then this happened: I finished it last night and now I miss these weirdos! A story of two There are wonderful, wonderful parts of reviewing books. Mainly, the books, right? Right. But then there is the reality that I am often reading books that I might not have chosen on my own. Case in point, this title. I mostly likely would not have chosen this book on my own if not offered a copy. And even as I began reading, and even as I kept reading, I thought that this book was not quite to my liking. But then this happened: I finished it last night and now I miss these weirdos! A story of two enemy people, the elves and the goblins, both writing history to favor themselves. Both peoples painting the other to be worse, to be wrong. When the elfin nation plots to send a deadly gift to the ruler of the goblins, a wild story of betrayal, hope, loyalty, and scholarly studies, takes off. It'd be weirder and funnier if it wasn't 100% truth. Because even though we're reading about elves and goblins, we are reading about people, and the way we separate and wonder about, and fear the unfamiliar.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Theresa Milstein

    When I saw this in my school librarian's office, I knew I had to drop everything and read it. This middle grade didn't disappoint! Anderson's wit, humor, and irony is here in spades, along with illustrations that perfectly match the voice of the story. In this novel, elves and trolls have battled on and off a thousand years--and it's led to fear, accusations, losses, and hate. It soon becomes clear that leaders on both sides aren't exactly kind to their own people and there's little reason to be When I saw this in my school librarian's office, I knew I had to drop everything and read it. This middle grade didn't disappoint! Anderson's wit, humor, and irony is here in spades, along with illustrations that perfectly match the voice of the story. In this novel, elves and trolls have battled on and off a thousand years--and it's led to fear, accusations, losses, and hate. It soon becomes clear that leaders on both sides aren't exactly kind to their own people and there's little reason to believe they're playing fair with the other side. When the elf, Spurge, must be launched into Troll territory to bring a gift his host, Werfel, is hopeful this will a chance for new beginning. But Spurge couldn't be less agreeable and looks down at everything troll. Instead of a chance at peace, cultural misunderstandings and secrets bring them both into greater and greater danger. If they can't understand each other, what hope is there for the rest of society? Important message and a fantastic read!

  29. 4 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.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sandy Brehl

    Truth: I only read this because it was strongly recommended by someone I respect and because it uses a technique in which dense text interacts with essential and sometimes confusing extended graphic/wordless visual narrative, a la Brian Selznick (The Invention of Hugo Cabret, et al). Truth: I had to push myself to get engaged, because I have so many books thread and this is not my preferred genre. Truth: No regrets. There are countless reasons why this book is getting raves and attention among a Truth: I only read this because it was strongly recommended by someone I respect and because it uses a technique in which dense text interacts with essential and sometimes confusing extended graphic/wordless visual narrative, a la Brian Selznick (The Invention of Hugo Cabret, et al). Truth: I had to push myself to get engaged, because I have so many books thread and this is not my preferred genre. Truth: No regrets. There are countless reasons why this book is getting raves and attention among award committees. The central characters, Brangwain the elf and Werfel the goblin, are both historians, seeking truth and an eventual and lasting peace between their two "peoples" after wars and fear for many centuries. If you, like I, are finding excuses why NOT to read this book, get over it. You won't regret a minute spent with these remarkable characters in their remarkable (and remarkably familiar) world. A brilliant analogy.

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