Tween Fiction Review: The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge

The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge by M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin. Candlewick, 2018. 9780763698225. 544pp. with a discussion by Anderson and Yelchin at the end, about creating a book in which the illustrations disagree with the text.

Elfin scholar Brangwain Spurge is loaded into a barrel then shot from a giant crossbow, sending him on a journey over the Bonecruel Mountains and into the goblin kingdom. (It goes worse than you’d imagine, even with that start.) He’s a spy with a mission from the Order of the Clean Hand and, unbeknownst to him, possibly an assassin. In the goblin kingdom he’s hosted by Werfel the Archivist, historian at the Court of the Mighty Ghohg, who’s excited to meet an elf despite the history of war between their peoples. Werfel tries to show Spurge the best of the goblin kingdom, and to prepare him to meet (and dance for) the otherworldly and somewhat inexplicable Ghogh. Nothing goes as planned: the pair don’t become fast friends, and it’s all Werfel can do to keep Spurge safe.

The story is immensely entertaining, especially as Spurge’s former tormentor back home starts to get what he deserves, and (minor spoiler) as a friendship forms between Spurge and Werfel. The book is full of silent sequences of images by Yelchin that look like 19th century goblin etchings sent through a library fax machine. They’re as hilarious as they are fun to read.


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