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The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  3,054 ratings  ·  788 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, 525 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.…moreThis is not a graphic novel. It's an illustrated novel - sort of like The Invention of Hugo Cabret but with less illustrations.(less)

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Average rating 4.11  · 
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 ·  3,054 ratings  ·  788 reviews

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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 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
May 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, own, middle-grade
I had seen the cover of this, and knew a lot of people loved it, but didn't know what it was until a week ago, when Jill from the wonderful bookshop bbgb in Richmond told me I just HAD to read it! She was so right! What a delight! the book is, first of all, beautifully designed. Everything from the cover and endpapers to the paper itself and the fonts. Yelchin's art is fabulous, and the story is truly strange and fantastical, grotesque and funny at the same time! ...more
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!
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
Robin Bonne
Jan 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An elf and goblin, both scholarly fellows, go on an adventure. This was one of the best fantasy novels I’ve read in recent years. Don’t skip this because it was marketed at middle grade readers; adults will enjoy this as much, if not more, then young readers.
Marc *Dark Reader of the Woods*
Well, I was going to write a review, but Betsy Bird has already written the definitive review for this book.

I will simply say, I loved it! It was a random sighting on Goodreads and my library happened to have a copy, and it was a match made in heaven.

This is a timeless book. It could have been written in 1968 just as well as in 2018. Not just suitable for literally all ages, but also recommendable for all.
There is no doubt this is brilliant, but often I found myself as confused as an Elf in a Goblin world.
If ever there was a book that used satire and the unreliable narrator with a deft, dry touch whilst still wholly appealing to children then this is that book. The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge might be seen as the disgruntled older pubescent sibling of Zelnick’s wriiten narrative/wordless format but it is also far sharper, clever and deeply political for being so.

Anderson and Yelchin’s world is one of goblins and elves who have spent much of their past at war with each other. But the elves
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,
Mar 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, thriller
The Elves have battled the Goblins for centuries and despite the commonality of pointed ears (not Vulcan), they are mortal enemies. The Elves find a unique jewel, which they think is a Goblin creation and send an emissary to deliver it to the Goblin king. Brangwain Spurge is kind of prissy and a stooge, not realizing he is a pawn in a game of deadly politics. His host, a Goblin scholar, names Werfel, does his best to be a good host, trying to show all of the high points of Goblin society, but Sp ...more
Jun 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
If you are my Goodreads friend, you can probably imagine that when life is tough I escape into books. Yesterday, I decided to read this fantasy book which I had bought as a hardcover two years ago and had never gotten around to reading.

At first I was finding it slow and boring, but now I am in awe of the relevant and timely allegory the author and illustrator have created. Here is what the illustrator had to say about the collabortion, “I wanted to work on a book in which the pictures wouldn’t i
Apr 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book had been on my TBR list since I saw it on the shelf. Just flipping through it, you quickly see that this is something different. Eugene Yelchin's artwork is so unique and strange, very Brian Froud-esque, I knew this would appeal to my Dark Crystal/Labyrinth fangirl heart.

The story is quirky and weird, but at its heart, it is about prejudice and biases and how we see "others" when we don't really know them. It is far smarter than it might look at first glance, especially when Spurge ha
Allison Parker
Dec 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
An elf ambassador, Brangwain Spurge, is sent to the city of goblins to offer a gift of goodwill, a recently-found ancient artifact, after centuries of war and hostility. His goblin host, Werfel, is looking forward to the experience. He understands they both share a career and passion for history and learning, so he looks forward to bonding and founding an unprecedented, enlightened friendship with Spurge, while sharing the sights and sounds of his beloved city. But when Spurge arrives... things ...more
R. G. Nairam
Apr 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mmm-gilt
So clever and fun! I want to read it again and pay even MORE attention to the pictures...
Dec 26, 2018 added it
Shelves: read-in-2018
All I will say is that I knew it was going to be Not For Me and indeed it was Not For Me at all. But I think it did its thing admirably even though I didn’t enjoy or admire it.
Heidi Burkhart
Jan 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
MT Anderson has a terrific range of writing styles! Every book that he has written so far is an absolute winner, each for different reasons. I never would have guessed him to come up with something this fanciful, political, and imaginative in such a unique style! Well, he did it. I could hardly put it down.

Can't wait to see what Anderson comes up with next!

* I just got the hardcopy version of this book from the library because, since I audiobooked this story, I missed out on all of the illustra
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
Nov 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
All of M.T. Anderson's books are so weird and I love them so much. He's such a funny, incisive author no matter what he's talking about. This book was a real trip. I also loved Eugene Yelchin's illustrations, and the whole conceit is so clever and so well-excecuted.

I feel like this has appeal and accessibility for a wide range of ages--the language is pretty simple and straightforward but the story and concepts are complicated. I think it would be great to discuss in a classroom or book club se
Nov 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, humor
Want another illustrated story recommendation? How about this one? It's dark, it's humorous, and it is a lot of fun to read as you see one person's POV as illustrations and the other's POV written out. Two view points from two sides of an old, ongoing war (elves vs. goblins).

Poor Werfel has to put up with so much shit!
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.
Jan 20, 2019 rated it liked it
A snowday turned this 500+ doorstop into a one-sitting read.
Ai Miller
Dec 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, mg, fiction, comics
This was fun and also like a great commentary on how our perceptions shape the stories we tell! The art by Eugene Yelchin is incredible--my landlord glanced at it over my shoulder and commented how cool it looks--and the language is simple but with big enough ideas that I think a wide range of kids (and adults!) could read this and get varying levels out of it. (Teachers I think especially it could be a good read to discuss like meaning and analogy in books.)

The arc of Spurge in particular was
Jun 20, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: ms-appropriate
This book did not appeal to me. I do not care about goblins and elves, even if there was some higher message about actual people. The illustrations did not interest me, and I did not look at them long enough to even realize that they were telling a different story from the words.
If I didn't have to read this for a reading program at work, I would've absolutely abandoned it after the first chapter.
Oct 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, satire, ya
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
May 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Just finished this one and greatly enjoyed it! The illustrations are amazing and the story one of a long building friendship that nearly was not. It is a story of how people are quick to judge and how society thrives on misinformation, power and greed. It is also a story full of emotion and satire. A unique but incredibly clever tale!
Jan 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Visceral. The metaphor translated so well into teaching moments about ethnocentrism and cultural differences. The mixing of images and text to tell a story made it an incredibly rich experience. I think it can serve as an excellent foray into discussions about racism and nationalism. It made me uncomfortable, in a good way. Also, it's a captivating story. ...more
Sarah I
Mar 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
What a neat story! Reminded me of a mixture between Lemony Snicket and The Hobbit. It's Elves vs. Goblins with phenomenal illustrations. ...more
Genna Roth
Aug 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
4.5 rounded up

this was just delightful. very terry pratchett/douglas adams/monty pythonesque
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. ...more
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Western NY Book Club: "Hospitality is Holy" 2 9 Apr 12, 2021 02:56PM  
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How I am Connected To Werfel and Brangwain 1 5 May 28, 2019 12:35PM  

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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

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