Book Review: Elantris – Brandon Sanderson
Hi guys and welcome back to another blog post – a book review! In today’s post I’ll be sharing my thoughts on a highly-rated read from last year… Elantris by Brandon Sanderson. It’s no secret that Brandon Sanderson is one of my favourite fantasy authors. Since my teenage years I have read no less than eight of his books, including Elantris, and I’ve given them all a five star rating. He’s a brilliant writer of vastly different stories, and we are here to talk about one of those today.
So, without further preamble, let’s jump into my thoughts on Elantris.
Elantris – Brandon Sanderson
Elantris was the capital of Arelon: gigantic, beautiful, literally radiant, filled with benevolent beings who used their powerful magical abilities for the benefit of all. Yet each of these demigods was once an ordinary person until touched by the mysterious transforming power of the Shaod. Ten years ago, without warning, the magic failed. Elantrians became wizened, leper-like, powerless creatures, and Elantris itself dark, filthy, and crumbling.
Arelon’s new capital, Kae, crouches in the shadow of Elantris. Princess Sarene of Teod arrives for a marriage of state with Crown Prince Raoden, hoping — based on their correspondence — to also find love. She finds instead that Raoden has died and she is considered his widow. Both Teod and Arelon are under threat as the last remaining holdouts against the imperial ambitions of the ruthless religious fanatics of Fjordell. So Sarene decides to use her new status to counter the machinations of Hrathen, a Fjordell high priest who has come to Kae to convert Arelon and claim it for his emperor and his god.
But neither Sarene nor Hrathen suspect the truth about Prince Raoden. Stricken by the same curse that ruined Elantris, Raoden was secretly exiled by his father to the dark city. His struggle to help the wretches trapped there begins a series of events that will bring hope to Arelon, and perhaps reveal the secret of Elantris itself.
A rare epic fantasy that doesn’t recycle the classics and that is a complete and satisfying story in one volume, Elantris is fleet and fun, full of surprises and characters to care about. It’s also the wonderful debut of a welcome new star in the constellation of fantasy.
Elantris has all the elements I love in a fantasy novel – magic, a political threat and an altruistic hero. I praise the magic Brandon Sanderson creates in his worlds a lot and for good reason. Although built on the same principle, the magic he incorporates into his stories has a kind of physical element to it. There are rules to its use and how it works and so it is almost scientific in nature. That might not seem very interesting, but I really like that about it. I like how it can’t be used easily to cover up inconvenient plot holes, but most importantly, it gives it credibility.
I’ve read all the Mistborn books published to date, as well as The Way of Kings from the Stormlight Archives. They are all great for their own reasons, but I love the individuality each story has. These books were written at various stages of Sanderson’s writing career, with Elantris being the earliest. If I hadn’t known that already, would I have been able to tell? Not really. I saw a few reviews and comments about this being his ‘weakest’ book, but if that’s the case then I seriously look forward to catching up on the rest of his books!
Elantris differs from Sanderson’s later books in that the focus of the story revolves around one geographical location, Kae/Elantris. There is a decent amount of world-building and inclusion of other nations within the narrative, but perhaps a smidgen less than some other books. The inclusion of these nations stems from political persons that travel to Kae. Personally, I really enjoyed Sarene’s character. She is far from the political pawn you expect her to be from the outset. When her marriage falls through in the absence of her betrothed, she doesn’t wallow in self-pity. She steps up to protect the interests of her country against an oppressor in other ways, all the while investigating prince Raoden’s disappearance.
Elantris is a respectably long book (over 600 pages), yet I read this in just over a week. I really enjoyed the narrative style and the storyline. What’s even better is at some point in the future, this is going to become a series! I can’t wait to see where the author takes this and what happens next…
Have you read Elantris, or any other novels by Brandon Sanderson? Let me know in the comments!