By Jessica Divis
Book review on The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge
by M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin

At the beginning of every year, I look forward to participating in the YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) Hub Reading Challenge. Once the major awards for juvenile and teen books are announced, participants have until the end of June to finish reading 25 titles from a list of award-winners. Some of the titles I’ve already read and some of them have been on my radar, but there are always titles that surprise me and push me out of my reading comfort zone. One of the books I enjoyed listening to the most this year was The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge by M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin. Part of the reason that it was on the list was that it had been recognized by YALSA as one of its “Amazing Audiobook” picks from last year.  It was also recognized as one of the National Book Award Finalists for Young People’s Literature. I had high expectations going in and I was not disappointed.

The story opens with the Elvin historian and diplomat Brangwain Spurge being catapulted (literally) into enemy Goblin territory to present the leader of the Goblins with a gift symbolizing peace between their kingdoms. Spurge is welcomed by his host, the Goblin archivist Werfel, who is excited to welcome his guest and anticipates a new friendship founded in their mutual interest in history and culture. Almost immediately tension builds through misunderstandings and mistakes, forcing Spurge and Werfel to flee for their lives and work toward preventing another war between their kingdoms. While on the run, they develop an understanding and lifelong friendship.

Gildart Jackson does a fantastic job of narrating this story. He gives each character a distinctive voice, from the excitable Werfel to lofty Brangwain Spurge. However, if you only listen to the book you miss out on the illustrations of the images Spurge is mentally sending back to his homeland. These images further underscore the misunderstandings going on in the story but aren’t essential to understanding what is going on. Readers and listeners will enjoy the adventure the duo embarks on and will be anxious to learn how the characters survive it all. They will laugh through some of the blunders and insults thrown about (insults and name calling are a sign of respect in Goblin culture) and mourn for the loss of home and friends. This is a fun read with depth that would be appropriate for family road trips running just under 5 ½ hours.

Jessica is the Head of Adult Services, Assistant Manager at our Bainbridge Branch. She is currently reading Someone to Honor by Mary Balogh and listening to She Loves Me (The New Broadway Cast Recording).

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