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The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  325 Ratings  ·  120 Reviews
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
Hardcover, 544 pages
Published September 25th 2018 by Candlewick Press
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Mrs. Trimble This is not a graphic novel. It's an illustrated novel - sort of like The Invention of Hugo Cabret but with less illustrations.

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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
Oct 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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!
There is no doubt this is brilliant, but often I found myself as confused as an Elf in a Goblin world.
Sep 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Nov 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
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,
Oct 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya, fantasy, satire
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 ...more
Paula Lyle
Oct 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
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.
Sep 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
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
Barb Dixon Palmieri
Oct 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 03, 2018 rated it liked it
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
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
Oct 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I am going to break one of my personal writing rules and start this review with a question:

(view spoiler)
Sep 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, rc18
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.
This is a delightful, hilarious and altogether entertaining story about an elf on a diplomatic mission to the enemy goblin’s kingdom to deliver an ancient and valuable artifact. He is a historian and is hosted by his goblin counterpart. Things do not go as planned. This is the first book done with alternating sections of illustrations and text a la Brian Selznick I have encountered that was not created by Selznick, differing in subject matter and the use of a separate illustrator in Eugene Yelch ...more
Oct 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: fairies-and-fae, ya
Funny and clever, and sharply pointed in spots regarding long-held prejudices and history being written by the victors. The illustrations are magnificent.
Oct 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
While I *liked* this, but thought it might be a bit too clever, when I showed the husband (who HATES fantasy) he was enamored with them, and thought they would have driven him to read the book when he was a kid even though it wasn't his normal read. Would love to hear some feedback from kids. It's a super handsome package.
Marta Boksenbaum
Sep 15, 2018 rated it liked it
What a very strange book. I did enjoy it.
Oct 26, 2018 rated it liked it
A strange little tale of two warring nations whose fate is in the hands of a pair of historians, one from each side. I picked up the book because of the curious cover, very much in the style of older books. Inside I found pictures telling part of the tale instead of just depicting what the words described. A very unique way to tell the story.
Tim Wadham
Oct 14, 2018 rated it liked it
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
Oct 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
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.
Robert Kent
Oct 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely adored this book. So unique and the illustrations add to the story in such a unique and entertaining way.
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
Pop Bop
Jul 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
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.
Oct 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is pretty brilliant. And clever and funny. And...depressing. The illustrations and text work really well together-- this book needs both of them.
Dawn Abron
Sep 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
So this is middle grade and I knew that going in but it is an NBA nomination and I like Anderson's writing.

There is a STRONG message of warfare wrapped in a humorous story. Goblins are usually described as gross while elves are happy and somewhat cute. Anderson turned this on it's head and I appreciated this because this easily could have been a metaphor for any race or religion that's constantly viewed as bad/dangerous.

It is a bit long but then again, I read an ARC and the pages were thick. Th
Shauna Yusko
Sep 12, 2018 rated it liked it
I’m just going to let everyone else gush over this one. I’m not the right person for the job.
Jul 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
Brenda Kahn
This is a rollicking rollercoaster of satirical, sly fun. The art is utterly brilliant. I cannot wait to reread the finished book and share it with my students.
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Matthew Tobin Anderson (M. T. Anderson), (1968- ) is an author, primarily of picture books for children and novels for young adults. Anderson lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

His picture books include Handel Who Knew What He Liked; Strange Mr. Satie; The Serpent Came to Gloucester; and Me, All Alone, at the End of the World. He has written such young adult books as Thirsty, Burger Wuss, Feed, The