Book: Elantris Review

“Elantris rescues fantasy readers with it’s murky diseased gods..”

Author: Brandon Sanderson

Genre: Fantasy, Action, Adventure, Age: Adult

Released: 11 August 2011 (UK Version)

Elantris is the debut novel of my favourite author; Brandon Sanderson. Although many readers would have read it as a debut novel, Elantris was in fact released AFTER the Mistborn Trilogy in the UK, making it the second Sanderson series that people read.

Princess Sarene has fallen in love with a dead man that she’s only conversed with a few times, but never met. Prince Raod is exiled after becoming a diseased god. Hrathen wants to save the city from destruction, but stripping it of all other knowledge.

Warning! Contains spoilers!

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The three main characters of Elantris form a series of events that centers around a magical city. Once known as a paradise and the home of gods, it’s fallen into despair when the magic became destructive and turns into citizens into monsters.

Normally when a story is told through the point of a “princess”, I brace myself for the gushing onslaught of bad writing. However, Princess Sarene is a writer’s dream. Tall, bold and a little bit scheming, she’s never found a place in her own kingdom, and finds herself equally outcast when she becomes a widow. She picks up where her great Prince Raoden left off: trying to build a great kingdom after Elantris’s downfall.

Meanwhile Prince Raod, the charming prince of Kae, who has become a diseased Elantrian, tries to build a community in the once-beautiful city. He has his work cut out for him with the various problems that come from decay and aging.

Hrathin shows no compassion at first, but his love of people overcomes his own beliefs.

The book crashes around each person’s point of view, getting faster and faster with the chapters until all characters meet for the final battle. I absolutely loved the character interactions. They seemed to have their own mind, and even though an event is repeated multiple times from their views, the reader learns something new each time.

I liked Prince Raod’s character most of all. I felt that he was so charismatic and capable, and able to build an unlikely community. Actually… he reminds me of Kelsier from Mistborn.

Another similarity might be Galladon compared to Sazed, also from Mistborn. Sanderson has already mentioned his habit of building and perfecting arc-types as well as self-cannibalising characters and story. It was just odd coming across familiar-feeling characters.

The world of Elantris is pretty cosy. For such a wide world map, most of actions centers around Elantris. Princess Sarene is from Teod, Hrathen is from Fjorden, and there are other characters from varying areas. However, since most of them have come to Elantris or its nearby city Kae, they all have the same familiar voice patterns.

That’s not to say that the world culture isn’t distinctive. The Fjorden empire is expanding into other countries and they have a military based ranking system rather than a monarchy.

The magic systems, which is based on written symbols, is a clever system developed by Brandon Sanderson. It uses the geography of the world to determine how Elantris was functioning before, and why the city fell into it’s stupour.

In the climax of the book, the characters realise that the land around Elantris is one large Aon, and that because of the recent Chasm that has appeared 10 years ago, the Aon was destroyed. The magic of Elantris stopped functioning, and everyone became half-beings.

My criticism for this plot-point is quite large; I felt that the reader wouldn’t have had any clue or reason to figure this out. In fact, even Prince Raoden sort of stumbles into this conclusion.

Another criticism is that the map doesn’t quite line up city in the area that’s required for an Aon to work. This however has been addressed by Brandon Sanderson himself, who said the geography of the map had to be changed for artistic reasons. The rest of the book was very fulfilling, and it’s a good quality fantasy novel, so I let stuff like this slide by.

Yet another criticism is the terminology of the book.. I felt so confused with similar sounding words like Raod, Shaod, Teod.. It took a while to remember which referred to what.

Overall, and before anyone accuses me of criticising the book too much, I actually enjoyed the story. I found the characters to be likable and have varying depths. I found the desperation of the characters, to achieve their goals, endearing. I thought that world wasn’t large, it’s a fairly small continent, but the story worked perfectly with a small cast and a small area. Best of all, like Mistborn: The Final Empire, the book has a conclusive ending, with only minor plot-points continuing.

It’s rare that a fantasy book handles an ending this well, and develops it’s characters up to this point. Elantris is definitely a book to remember and re-read, long after the author has released a couple of new series.

Rated – 4/5 Charming characters, visible struggle and effort, and a solid ending.

Read the review for the Mistborn Trilogy!


Alternative Covers:

As much as I like the green-y looking UK cover, with the tiny Sarene, the alternative covers are beautiful!

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5 Comments

  1. Weirdly enough, I guessed that the geography and earthquake had something to do with why Elantris fell. One of the things about this book that made me happy is that one doesn’t often find fantasy like this in a standalone format; it’s nice to occasionally read a book that isn’t part of a trilogy but can still tell a story that is epic in scope.

    Reply
    • timeoftheday

       /  July 16, 2012

      Totally agree about the one-book thing. I know there are are going to Elantris sequels and mini-books, but it’s great to have a series where you’re not left hanging.

      Reply
  2. Hmmm, I have this one on my tbr pile so I skipped most of the spoilers. But my question is: I haven’t read any of his other books, so should I read the mistborn books first before this one? Or does it not matter?

    Thanks! :)

    Reply
    • Read the Mistborn trilogy, just so that you get used to his writing and trust him as an author. :)

      Elantris is more flawed as his first novel, and you really need that trust to finish it.

      Reply
      • Ok cool, I will bear that in mind. :) If I get the chance I will try and buy the Mistborn books first. :)

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