The kingdoms of the elves and the goblins are ostensibly working to maintain a fragile peace by catapulting the elfin scholar, Brangwain Spurge, into the goblin kingdom in order to bring the goblin king a gift. Little does he know that the beautiful gem that he carries is actually a powerful bomb. His host, the goblin archivist Werfel, is also unaware of the danger as he proudly escorts Brangwain around his home and city for a few days before his meeting with the king.
Brangwain is thoroughly disgusted with goblin culture, with its inedible food and their custom of keeping as mementos the skins that they shed every few years. The archivist, for his part, is less than impressed with the elfin scholar, who rudely rebuffs all of his obsequious attempts to share the most refined aspects of goblin life. Furthermore, Werfel has discovered that his guest goes into a trance in his room each evening, and he suspects that he is somehow transmitting information back to the elf government.
This wildly original story is told in both text and illustration, in much the same manner as Brian Selznick’s Wonderstruck. Anderson has written the prose chapters, and the story is deepened and continued in Yelchin’s black and white drawings across a succession of two-page spreads. The illustrations carry the key to the changing thoughts and attitudes of the two main characters as they begin to understand that reality may not be what they had been taught, and that good and evil exist in both of their kingdoms and in many of the people whom they thought they knew. But will they figure all of this out before disaster strikes?
What appears to be an almost comic fairy story holds deep relevance to our own lives as we seek to respect other cultures, but those who trust in governments may be disturbed. Reluctant readers will enjoy the fast pace and abundant illustrations. Despite being over 500 pages, it is a relatively quick read. Parents and teachers will find endless timely discussion points here. Brangwain is on everybody’s “Best of 2018” list, and you won’t read anything else remotely like it.
Disclaimer: I read a library copy of this book. Opinions expressed are solely my own and may not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.