Brandon Sanderson is one of the biggest newcomers to the fantasy genre. Most notably, he was chosen by Robert Jordan’s wife and editor to finish the Wheel of Time. But prior to that he was obviously writing his own books and stories. He wrote: the Mistborn Trilogy (which I’ll most likely review very soon), Warbreaker (his most recent novel which I will also review shortly) and his debut novel, back in 2005, Elantris. This, I have to say, is probably one the best first novels I have ever read. It is entrancing, captivating, thrilling and just downright awesome. To his credit, I have heard that Sanderson wrote something like 12 novels before first getting Elantris published so we can safely assume he had some practice, but still.
In Elantris, Sanderson creates a world that greatly appeals to my love of faded glory. In the country of Arelon, people were (and still are) chosen by the Shaod and they gained the privilege to be changed into an Elantrian, a man of beauty, different kind of skin, longevity and immense power; they were gods. The city of Elantris was at the center of the entire aonic civilization and they ruled the country until ten years ago when the Reod came and cast down the Elantrians. Their magic, AeonDor, stopped working and the Elantrians became weakened and disfigured people. The city itself crumbled and was quarantined. The inhabitants of Arelon rebelled against them and formed their own government. Now, the monarchy is unstable and enemies from the east, the Fjordell, followers of the Shu-Dereth want to conquer Arelon and its ally Teod once and for all. Matters get worse when the Crown Prince of Arelon, Raoden, gets taken by the Shaod days before the arrival from Teod of his future wife.
The story is told from the point of view of three of the characters: the Prince Raoden, exiled in Elantris; the Gyorn Hrathen, a high official of Fjordell come to convert Arelon; and Sarene, princess of Teod and widow of Raoden, politically manipulating the court of Arelon to which she just arrived. Each of these characters offers an exciting and valuable perspective to the overall story, though I will admit that I found myself looking forward to the Raoden and Sarene POVs more than Hrathen’s. Sanderson best uses his points of view when two of the characters meet or play a part together at which point he appropriately switches from the two POVs to produce the best quality of storytelling.
The magic system created by the author is also refreshingly different as are the specifics of the situation the Prince finds himself in once inside the walls of Elantris. If you have ever listened to Sanderson’s podcast: Writing Excuses, then you will know how much he stresses the importance of a good, coherent magic system for fantasy books. He also creates the character of Sarene as a strong female lead, a type of character often clichéd, but Sanderson manages to stay away from that and create a realistic and relatable character.
In both writing style and plot creation Sanderson is a clear winner. What is especially great is that he manages to fit a fulfilling, plot-twisting masterpiece into a single volume, something which is becoming extremely rare in today’s fantasy market.
If you are a lover of epic fantasy then most definitely buy this book (and read it of course) and even if you’re looking for a book to introduce you to the genre, Elantris is pretty good for this due to its one book storyline. But really, if you haven’t read this yet then I suggest you get to it!
My Rating: 5 out of 5
Reading Age: 13 and up, once again, just read it
Brandon Sanderson’s website: http://www.brandonsanderson.com/