The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge (英語) ハードカバー – イラスト付き, 2018/9/25
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Subverting convention, award-winning creators M. T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin pair up for an anarchic, outlandish, and deeply political saga of warring elf and goblin kingdoms.
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. A hilarious and biting social commentary that could only come from the likes of National Book Award winner M. T. Anderson and Newbery Honoree Eugene Yelchin, this tale is rife with thrilling action and visual humor . . . and a comic disparity that suggests the ultimate victor in a war is perhaps not who won the battles, but who gets to write the history.
The book, which is on this year’s National Book Award long list, is at times both moving and hilarious. Spurge is not just an unlikely hero — it’s hard to know if he’s a hero at all. But that only makes the finale of this political satire all the more surprising.
—The New York Times Book Review
Anderson’s latest foray into middle-grade fantasy is executed with the all smarts and finesse his fans have come to expect. Joining him on this storytelling adventure is Yelchin...Yelchin’s black pen-and-ink illustrations, in Medieval style, capture the humor and fantastical details of the text, as well as Brangwain’s changing view of goblins. Biting and hysterical, Brangwain and Werfel’s adventure is one for the history books.
—Booklist (starred review)
Together, Anderson and Yelchin craft something that feels impossible, a successfully unorthodox epistolary, pictorial, and prose narrative that interrogates the cultural ramifications of unchallenged viewpoints and the government violence they abet even as it recounts the comedic blunderings of a spy mission gone wrong. Monty Python teams up with Maxwell Smart for a wrestling match with Tolkien—splendid.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
With the look and feel of medieval lithographs, they include touches of humor, whimsy, irony, and menace; as such, they are well suited to both the acerbic wit and the affecting tenderness of Anderson’s prose. The result is a fantasy that couldn’t feel more real, obliquely referencing a political climate marked by a lack of civility, underhanded diplomacy, fake news, widespread bigotry and prejudice, and the dehumanization of marginalized people.
—The Horn Book (starred review)
Told in narrative and illustrated pages—Werfel’s experiences and Spurge’s visual dispatches back home—the story by Anderson (Feed) and Yelchin (Arcady’s Goal) blends the absurd and the timely to explore commonality, long-standing conflict, and who gets to write a world’s history.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Sophisticated, witty and sharply political, the book tells of the elf Brangwain Spurge and the goblin Werfel, two scholars from feuding kingdoms who are swept into a maelstrom of espionage, deceit and prejudice.
—The Wall Street Journal
The satirical tone is reminiscent of Lemony Snicket’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” while the format is similar in concept to Brian Selznick’s work; Yelchin’s black-and-white ink drawings reveal the viewpoint of the visiting Elfin historian, contrasted with the text descriptions from Werfel’s viewpoint. A relevant...message on the importance of perspective and finding common ground. A good choice for most middle grade shelves.
—School Library Journal
This comic spy story addresses prejudice and cultural misunderstandings in a unique way, and could complement both historical and political discussions in the classroom.
—School Library Connection
A brilliant, satirical take on cultural chauvinism, objectivity and war and peace, The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge is witty, wise and wondrously unique.
[A] smart and smarting history with its consequential warning: Truthfully recall the past to change the future.
—San Francisco Chronicle
This beautifully crafted, thrilling fantasy entertains even as it offers a powerful lesson about national narratives, the power of myth and the difficulty of acknowledging "the other." A perfect novel for our times.
All I can say is that it’s a book for our time. An unreliable visual narrator. A Cold War, Middle Earth, buddy comedy. Art that looks like the lovechild of Hieronymus Bosch and Terry Gilliam. You know. One of those.
—A Fuse #8 Production (blog)
For me, however, the cream of this middle school crop is The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge by M.T. Anderson, illustrated by Eugene Yelchin. This masterly political satire in the form of a fantasy novel feels more relevant to our current political strife, two years into the Trump administration, than any book published this year.
—School Library Journal (blog)
This hilarious political satire details a thousand years of animosity between the elves and the goblins.
Hidden among Yelchin's ornate illustrations, Clivers' posturing, Spurge's sneaking and Werfel's confusion is a surprisingly humorous tale of misunderstanding, betrayal, miscalculation—and the power of preconceived notions. As both nations hurtle toward a new chapter in diplomacy, Yelchin and Anderson offer a sly commentary on who really gets the last word in history.
If Hieronymus Bosch and Terry Gilliam had a love child, it couldn't be more twisted and brilliant than the silent visual sequences you'll find on these pages.
Snarky, clever, and brilliantly executed, this is my number-one favorite book of the year.
—The Booklist Reader
“Anderson and Yelchin’s fable of goblins, elves, and the cultural brouhahas that put their respective nations on a war footing is accessible, darkly comic, and rewarding.”
—Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked
“What a fun wild crazy smart gorgeous book! And oh! that art — insanely beautiful.”
—Jon Scieszka, first U.S. National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature
1件中1 - 1件目のレビューを表示
Open this book. It’s the darndest thing. The first thing you really see is what looks like a large, floating, warty Faberge egg. As you watch, the egg opens to reveal a jewel inside. And inside the jewel are grotesque carvings of a battle, pieces of fighters so inundated with spears and arrows that it resembles nothing so much as a pile of Pick Up Stix. That’s the Prologue, but Chapter One is equally visual. Now we are in a strange kingdom where elves load one of their companions into a barrel. He is handed the warty egg then launched into the sky, whereupon his vessel is plucked from the ether by a three-headed bird. This is where the text comes in and it is split in two. On the one hand we have the epistolary missives of the elf Ysoret Clivers, the Earl of Lunesse, who is dictating how an ancient artifact was found in Elfland and is now being sent with academic historical Brangwain Spurge to the land of the goblins to present to their leader as a peace offering. The other narrative follows Werfel the Archivist, the goblin historian who will be hosting Spurge, and who couldn’t be more pleased with the honor. A tentative peace has been laid between the two hostile countries and Werfel believes no one is better suited to treat his guest than he. But things don’t go exactly to plan. Alternating between text and images that represent Spurge’s point of view (which is not exactly reliable) readers receive a palpable understanding of what happens when two entirely different cultures have to fight through false assumptions and propaganda to reach a solid friendship.
There is an art to a good unreliable narrator. I suppose someone somewhere has probably written rules on the subject. First and foremost, the author has to decide whether or not they want to let the reader in on the narrator’s skewed p.o.v. from the start (think Timmy Failure) or if they want the reader to experience a kind of creeping suspicion and dread as they read (think Pale Fire). What sets Brangwain Spurge apart from the pack is that you’re dealing far less with an unreliable narrator’s words and more an unreliable narrator’s eyes. In fact, aside from the occasional letter from Earl of Lunesse, all thoughts come directly from the brain of the incredibly kind-hearted Werfel. But look how the book is set up. From the moment you open it you encounter not anyone’s words, but the images of Yelchin. Images that consistently undermine Werfel’s testimony. It’s as if the creators of the book are challenging young readers to question everything, even their own eyes. Why is it that we are so inclined to believe what we see over what we hear? We know better in the 21st century than we ever did in the 20th that images are unreliable. That they can be twisted and turned and changed to fit our needs. So here we have a book that takes a Brian Selznick style (more on him in a moment) and then slowly reveals to the reader that these pictures are frauds. The unreliable visual narrator is a new creation in children’s books, as far as I’m concerned. New, and extraordinarily vital in our post-Photoshop existence.
For Anderson’s book to work he needed an artist that knew how to indulge in pleasant grotesqueries. And since Stephen Gammell has long been out of the business of creepy, Yelchin makes a fascinating substitute. So let’s examine exactly what happens when you read this book. You open it up and encounter a series of illustrations that remind you, possibly, of the works of Brian Selznick. Yet for all that they are cinematic in scope and done in black and white, Yelchin’s art here is almost the anti-Selznick. Where Brian luxuriates in bringing forth subtle curves through the most delicate of crosshatches, Yelchin appears to have channeled Hieronymus Bosch by way of Terry Gilliam. And as I mentioned before, Selznick’s art is all about trust. The young reader trusts that if they pay attention to the art in his books, they’ll be able to solve the mysteries hidden in his words. I suspect that Anderson and Yelchin are playing with readers’ past experience with Selznickian books. If this book had been done as a graphic novel, it simply couldn’t have worked quite as well. Sure, there are plenty of comics where the art is filtered through an unreliable narrator’s perceptions, but when you do it through a book that is made up entirely of sequential art then you’ve no chance to surprise the reader later on. Whatever you may call this book (I think “illustrated novel” suits it best) the format fits the telling.
When I go into a review of a book I like to do so cold, without having seen anything that might influence my opinions of the piece. Usually. When I am stumped, however, I’ll grasp at anything that might possibly help me in my interpretation. Take the art of this book, for example. What . . . what is it, exactly? I saw that my edition of the book included a little conversation between Anderson and Yelchin and I figured maybe they’d let slip what it is that Yelchin’s doing here. No dice, though they do have a nice debate over whether or not the book invokes the works of Faxian and Herodotus or John le Carre (the jury is still out on that one). Likewise, Anderson discusses how it is “a tragic meditation on how societies that have been trained to hate each other for generations can actually come to see eye to eye” while Yelchin calls it “A laugh-out-loud misadventure of two fools blinded by ideology and propaganda.” All righty then. This is probably the best explanation of what’s going on here that I could come up with. Yet for a book like this to work you need to get beyond clever details and grand gestures. You need heart and maybe a little soul. And to my infinite relief, I found both.
Because for all that this book is visual Pop Rockets to the old eye sockets, it’s the relationship between Spurge and Werfel that props everything up. At the start of the tale Werfel (who is rather adorable) is just so giddy with the prospect of meeting Spurge that he imagines a glorious future where the two of them talk about his favorite things. “Finally: contact with the enemy. With another scholar. With someone else who loved antiquity and beautiful things, and who shared his hope for this beleaguered world.” When Spurge misinterprets everything he sees and rebuffs Werfel’s attempts at friendship, the goblin scholar sours on his guest. Yet their fates are tied closely to one another and slowly Werfel is able to peel away the skin of his guest’s prejudices with sheer kindness. My favorite part of the book is the moment when the two finally start to bond by “pretending to make friendly reading suggestions to each other while actually just trying to make the other feel stupid. It was the best evening either of them had enjoyed in a very long time.” By the time you get to the end of the book, the relationship is sealed, and you, the reader, are glad of it.
I’ve often said that the best way to get kids to read about adults having adventures is to turn them into furry woodland creatures (see: Redwall). But making your characters mythical creatures works just as well in the end. Anderson has always flirted with his love of fantasy, though until now it was mostly relegated to his Norumbegan Quartet. Here he takes a deep dive into a full-fledged fantasy world. I admired many of his choices along the way. For example, it would have been so easy for both Anderson and Yelchin to have given the goblins a free pass in this book. So maligned in the works of Tolkien and subsequent Tolkien imitators, the twist of making them more sympathetic than the elves is sweet. What upsets the applecart a bit is the fact that while the goblins may be more open-minded than the elves, they are also living in a police state with ruler so strange that I’m still trying to find a metaphorical or real-world equivalent to his Mighty Ghohg. Methinks I’m barking up the wrong tree with that, though. Methinks.
As strange as this may seem, the book that this reminded me the most of was the series of Avatar: The Last Airbender comics by Gene Luen Yang. Those books spend much of their time examining at length the intricacies of deconstructing an oppressive colonial system in a fantasy world, something that this book only touches on lightly. Yet even so, we live in a post-colonial world (for the most part). Colonialism didn’t go that well, and post-colonialism was botched in a variety of interesting and horrible ways. Which brings us to America in 2018, the year of this book’s publication. For kids reading this book today, a title that discusses prejudices born out of (often willful) ignorance coupled with warmongering and malicious leaders . . . golly, is there anything here that will speak to them? I won’t lie. This book will take some work to get through for some kids. Even dyed-in-the-wool comic book readers may stumble a little initially at the unfamiliar art style. But there will be a cadre of kids that stick with it. Kids that find the story of scholars in fantasy realms fascinating. And those kids are the ones that will cut through the treacle and figure out what this book is actually trying to say. I’d wager good money that more kids will get it than adults. A fascinating blend of the wholly original and what is normally overly familiar, Anderson and Yelchin are having way too much fun here. It shouldn’t be allowed. And I sure am glad that it was.
For ages 10 and up.