The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge by M.T. Anderson and illustrated by Eugene Yelchin is a half written/half-illustrated story of an Elf emissary venturing into Goblin territory to present a gift meant to promote peace between the two races. This book was a collaboration between Anderson and Yelchin, attempting to reflect warring perspectives between the two main characters, often to comedic effect.
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.
I LOVE the idea of telling a story not just with words, but also with art. Art has always been of interest to me, in fact I almost majored in Art History, so I was really excited to see this story would interweave illustration throughout to tell this tale of two races trying to come together in the spirit of peace.
I’m a really big fan of Anderson. I’ve read a couple of his books now and I always find myself cracking up – he’s such a good writer and his humor and parody are always on-point. I loved all the little nods to traditional fantasy tropes, even down to names and customs between these elves and goblins. It was also really refreshing to see elves and goblins depicted in a different light then they usually are, especially with the goblins being show as an otherwise refined people who have always been painted as the bad guys, when really they are just misunderstood.
I loved seeing the contradictions between what Werfel conveyed in his chapters and what Spurge would illustrate in his communications back to the elves. Anderson and Yelchin wanted to write a story that was conflicting on purpose. I really enjoyed the parody of the traditional fantasy, as well. There were so many moments that had me cracking a grin or even laughing out loud.
Despite all the humor, this book did cover some pretty serious topics, like mistrusting the other, war, and historical inaccuracies. I think this book sends a really powerful message about how, despite all the differences, people (or in this case, goblins and elves), are more alike than they think and can come together and be friends, respect each other, and work together. It was a really nice message.
Literary Value: 4/5
Anderson is such a skilled writer. I was so engaged with this text, and it really reflects all those fantasy stories I know and love. I think this book is a great example of how humor can be used to effectively. There were funny moments, but it wasn’t overboard. The drama and the serious undertones of the story still shine through and are very impactful because there are many quiet moments peppered throughout the story. These moments really serve the characters well. I think Anderson did a good job of creating fleshed out, complex character and the illustrations by Yelchin bring a whole new angle with which to see these complexities.
From an artistic standpoint, I love how Yelchin used images that evoke medieval art. Not only does it suit the fantasy element of the story well, but it also makes for some really dynamic tableaux. With each illustration section, I was so excited to see what would be presented, because it’s like a new layer of the story being added and getting to really see through Spurge’s eyes. A picture really is worth a thousand words in this case.
Entertainment Factor: 4/5
As I said earlier in this post, I laughed a lot while reading this book. I really had a lot of fun and there were so many twists and turns. I enjoyed that I didn’t know where this story was heading. It felt really new and unique to me, not just because half of the story is told in illustrations. All the while, you’re expecting one thing to happen, and then something completely different does, but it makes perfect sense. The book is really fast-paced this way, which I liked as well.
Aside from a few slow sections, this story really clips along at a nice pace. It didn’t feel to fast, though, and there was plenty time for the reader to get to know the characters and sink into the story. The humor lends itself really well, because despite being a 500 page book, the story moves along quickly and before you know it, you’re at the end!
Cover Art: 5/5
It seems kinda silly to rate the cover art without also rating the inside illustrations, but the cover is a pretty good reflection of what you’ll see inside. I love that the book is made to look like an old, historic tome that some scholar might look into. It fits in perfectly, since both the main characters are archivists and constantly refer to ancient books and papers.
I like the striking red, and I like that the font matches the “oldness” that the book is expressing. I think it’s a really striking cover and I was immediately drawn to it when I first saw it. I don’t think there’s anything I would change.
Overall Rating: 4.25 Lances
I so enjoyed this book. I loved the fantasy elements, the parody, and the illustrations. There are some really poignant moments in this book, and I really love the overall message of friendship despite differences and that people (in this case, Goblins and Elves) are more alike than they think.
This is a great book for fantasy lovers. It paints goblins in a new light, which I enjoyed. If you’ve read The Invention of Hugo Cabret, then you’ll probably enjoy this one. The illustrations tell half the story, and they are a really fascinating element to the book as a whole. It’s humorous and it’s fast-paced with lots of action. Definitely check it out!
Thoughts & Thanks
Thank you so much for checking out my review. I really enjoyed this book and I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. Have you read it, too? Are you thinking of reading it? Let’s chat in the comments!
And, as always, happy reading!