The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge


M. T. Anderson


Eugene Yelchin


Science Fiction / Fantasy


Date Reviewed:

July 31, 2020

he format for The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge is the most interesting part of this story. Most of the novel is told in prose, but every fourth or fifth chapter is related as pictures without words. The story is a combination of written word and wordless graphic novel. I don't know if this is a unique idea, but I can't recall ever seeing a story told in this fashion before.

I was disappointed by the outcome of the story. Brangwain is sent to spy on the scary goblin society. The goblins are ruled by a terrifying monster called Ghohg. For some reason, Ghohg requires anyone who seeks his attention at the goblin court to join in an endless dance - but why? Apparently because the author's thought this would be amusing, no explanation is given. Brangwain is supposed to spy on the source of all Goblin magic powers - the Well of Lightning. But the Well of Lightning is depicted in the drawnings as a tall spiky tower of crystal - not a well at all. Perhaps a joke? But the Well of Lightning is forgotten in the second half of the story, so we never learn anything about its powers. At the end of the novel, Werfel cannot return to goblin land - he is a pariah in his home country. But this detail is also forgotten in the attempt to write a happy ending.

There are really only two characters in this novel - Brangwain the elfin ambassador / spy, and Werfel the goblin charged with welcoming his counterpart to the kingdom of the goblins. Brangwain is tough to figure out - in the beginning of the book, Brangwain is asked if he will travel to the goblin kingdom, a land so terrifying and dangerous that no elf who has ventured there has returned with his sanity intact. Brangwain immediately accepts the job, even though we are told what a lightweight he is - picked on in school and disrespected and bullied all of his life. When Brangwain gets to the goblin country, he is unable to appreciate the efforts of the goblins to make him welcome. Brangwain is aloof, critical, and judgemental. He is portrayed as a complete jerk.

Werfel, on the other hand, is shown to be conscientious, friendly and kind. I guess the authors are trying to make a point that outward appearance is not a true indicator of a person's character - despite Werfel's horrendous appearance and some frightening traditions (the goblins shed their skins, and keep their old skins hanging on display), Werfel is the true hero of the book. Werfel risks his career, his reputation and eventually his life as he tries to do what is right, despite the fact the Brangwain hardly seems to merit such attention.

Brangwain is tasked with delivering a valuable artifact to Ghohg as a sign of peace between the two warring nations. But the giant gem, unknownst to Brangwain, has actually be magicked to be a powerful bomb, so powerful that it will destroy everything in a 2 mile radius. The elfin plan fails, Brangwain does not give the gem to Ghohg. Suddenly Brangwain and Werfel are on the run, fleeing for their lives. Brangwain's personality changes - he appreciates the efforts of Werfel to save his life, and even reciprocates -saving Werfel - as the pair face perils during their escape. I was never sold on Brangwain's "redemption", he seems unlikable until the end.

I liked the original story-telling format of this book, but the characters and plot of this are not enough to make me recommend this book. It is okay when borrowed from the library, because the artwork is interesting, but the story is not worth seeking out.

Below are a couple examples from the artwork chapters. The first drawing shows Brangwain meeting Werfel - the goblin towers over the elfin ambassador. The second drawing is from the last section of artwork - Brangwain is now taller than Werfel! Huh? There is no explanation for this variation in sizes, it seems to be an error by the artist.