Bane of Kings writes a review of Brandon Sanderson’s epic fantasy debut novel, Elantris, with the edition used for this review published by Gollancz in the UK.
“An enthralling, captivating novel, with wonderful world building and an action-packed plot, Elantris is a novel that fantasy fans should love, despite the flaws.” ~The Founding Fields
Having read two novels by Brandon Sanderson, I thought I’d take a step outside of the Mistborn world when the chance came to read Elantris. Even if it was only because the WHSmith that I was in at the time didn’t have a copy of Hero of Ages (despite having every other non-Wheel of Time Sanderson novel), but I was glad that I picked it up. Although it may not match the quality of his Mistborn series, Elantris is nonetheless an awesome read.
ELANTRIS WAS A PLACE OF GLORY
The capital of Arelon, the home to people transformed into magic-using demigods by the Shaod.
But then the magic failed, Elantris started to rot, and its inhabitants turned into powerless wrecks.
And in the new capital, Kae, close enough to Elantris for everyone to be reminded of what they have lost, a princess arrives. Sarene is to be married to unite Teod and Arelon against the religious imperialists of Fjordell. But she is told that Raoden, her husband to be, is dead.
Determined to carry on the fight for Teod and Arelon’s freedom, Sarene clashes with the high priest Hrathen. If Hrathen can persuade the populace to convert, Fjordell will reign supreme.
But there are secrets in Elantris, the dead and the ruined may yet have a role to play in this new world. Magic lives.
What first struck me about Elantris was the originality of the blurb. I haven’t read a lot like Elantris before, and I found the novel fresh and engaging, despite its initial release in 2005. (The edition that I picked up was released in August last year). The setting is one of Sanderson’s strong point – he planned it ahead rather than writing it as he went along, and the end result shows. There isn’t any continuity mistakes that I spotted, and although it can occasionally feel like info-dumping at times, the pace is mostly fast and enjoyable. Elantris is a impressive debut novel, and I think, if I had read it before The Final Empire and The Well of Ascension, I would have liked it better as I wouldn’t have had my expectations raised by those two books.
The characters are interesting, particularly the female lead, Sarene, who develops over the course of the novel. Sarene’s male counterpart (I can’t really say who he if I want to leave it spoiler-free), is also engaging, three-dimensional and could have supported the novel by himself without Sarene. However, these two combined together allows Sanderson to switch back and forth between inside Elantris and outside the decaying former capital, and as a result, allows us to get a perspective as to what different factions view Elantris as, and what the surviving Elantrians view themselves as.
The world that the reader finds themselves in is richly developed and believable. There aren’t the stock Elves, Dwarves and Orcs that are typically found in high-fantasy tales here, as Sanderson manages to diverse from this cliche in order to keep the reader hooked and enthralled. Although the ending seems rushed, three-quarters of the novel is superb, and it’s a huge read as well, meaning that you’ll get a lot out of it. Although the tension isn’t very high as the main characters lives don’t feel as if they’re dangling on threads, the pace is nonetheless engaging and the novel is entertaining enough to keep you reading.
Having read Elantris the other side of the Mistborn series, I can tell that in some places it feels as if this was some sort of proto-Mistborn novel, with similar characters, such as the strong female lead surrounded by men, (as Vin was in the Mistborn novels). However, Elantris is still a strong read at is core, with the intense political maneuvers that can sometimes feel like a game of Chess is being played with the characters.
Fans of George RR Martin should enjoy Sanderson’s novel. The huge-length of Elantris allows the author to tell an entertaining standalone tale, where many newcomers to the genre throw themselves in at the deep end with long-winded series or trilogies. The cover-art is also amazing as well, I prefer it greatly to the US version and am glad that they released this in a similar manner to Sanderson’s other books in the UK. I loved Elantris despite its flaws, although it doesn’t get the four-star mark for me (even though I put it at four star on Goodreads, that’s only because they don’t do halves and I felt that it didn’t deserve a three), Elantris will have a high 3.5 stars out of 5 from me.
More by Brandon Sanderson: Elantris, The Final Empire, The Well of Ascension, The Hero of Ages, The Alloy of Law, The Way of Kings.