From the publisher: “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. Spurge’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.”
I’ve been in something of a reading slump lately. Nothing sounds interesting and everything I’ve been reading just doesn’t grab me. Fortunately I’ve heard a lot of buzz about The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge and since fantasy is smack dab in the middle of my reading comfort zone, I decided to check it out. And I’m glad I did since it kicked me right out of my book slump! This fantasy adventure/odd couple buddy comedy/spy thriller is witty, exciting, and an excellent look at the effects of propaganda without resorting to a boring lecture about morality. Similar to some of Brian Selznick’s popular books, The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge is an illustrated novel, with the art (excellently done by Anton Yelchin) showing Spurge’s magical reports of his experiences in the goblin kingdom sent back to his fellow elves. However these reports are influenced by his cultural misunderstandings and prejudice against the goblins and so frequently contradict the text, which is from the kind and brave goblin Werfel’s point of view. It did take awhile for me to get the hang of understanding the illustrations, but for the kids willing to work through the initial confusion it’s well worth the effort. Kirkus Reviews described it as “Monty Python teams up with Maxwell Smart for a wrestling match with Tolkien,” which is a spot on analogy (that will likely go over its target audience’s heads, unfortunately). Recommended for ages 10-14.