Elitist elf (is that an oxymoron?) historian Brangwain Spurge has a mission: go into goblin territory and deliver a gift – a peace offering – from the elf king to the goblin king. Oh, and he’s also supposed to spy on the kingdom, transmitting his thoughts back to the elves so they can get an elf’s-eye view of everything. He’s shot off in a large barrel, and invited to the home of goblin archivist Werfel, who extends every hospitality to Spurge, who is a culturally insensitive, rude, bumbling boob. Naturally, Spurge bungles his spying mission, setting off a cross-kingdom incident that leaves Werfel and Spurge running for their lives, and at one another’s mercies.
This brilliant socio-political comedy of errors is hilariously told by National Book Award winner M.T. Anderson and illustrated by Newbery Honoree Eugene Yelchin, and mixes action and adventure with a tale of friendship, culture clash, and intrigue. Eugene Yelchin’s mixed media, black and white illustrations let readers see what Spurge transmits back to his kingdom, but Anderson’s text lets us know that things aren’t exactly what they seem. So who’s telling the truth? Well… truth is in the eye of the beholder; something we learn as Spurge’s world seems to grow under the long-suffering Werfel’s guidance. There are false assumptions on each side that need to be cleared up, but Brangwain Spurge refuses to see the black marks on elf history, no matter how clear Werfel states it. After all, history is written by the victors.
It isn’t until Spurge creates an incident that puts his, and his host’s, lives in danger that he understands how words and memories can be manipulated. The two share a mutual love of books, and it’s there that they find common ground on which to build a relationship. That, and the fact that they need each other to survive. Want kids to understand Fake News? Put this book in their hands.
The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge is a National Book Award longlist nominee, and has starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, Kirkus, and The Horn Book.