We’ll start this series of book reviews with the debut book of Brandon Sanderson, Elantris, published on the 21st of April in 2005 by Tor Fantasy.
Genre: Adult Fantasy/Romance
Rating: (scroll to the bottom for my scoring system)
Relationships: A straight CIS main relationship.
Trigger warnings: Mild pain, death, and depression.
“Elantris was built on magic and it thrived. But then the magic began to fade, and Elantris began to rot. And now its shattered citizens face domination by a powerful Imperium motivated by dogged religious views. Can a young Princess unite the people of Elantris, rediscover the lost magic and lead a rebellion against the imperial zealots?”
This is the book summary written on Amazon. I prefer the summary of the 2011 edition because this summary, to me, does not feel true to the book.
The magic didn’t fade, it suddenly disappeared ten years before the events occurring in the book, and that is integral for the plot. The summary is right in the fact that Elantris thrived before that.
The book starts with a prologue, which describes Elantris before that wretched event. Yes, I know, I also groaned when I saw that it had a prologue, but this prologue is actually good. It’s short and explains what happened ten years ago.
Here’s a tiny excerpt:
“They were divinities. And anyone could become one. The Shaod, it was called. The Transformation. It struck randomly – usually at night, during the mysterious hours when life slowed to rest. The Shaod would take beggar, craftsman, noble, or warrior.”
After the event ten years ago, anyone taken by the Shaod became a husk, a zombie, the walking dead. The people who are chosen by the Shaod are cast into the walled-in city of Elantris. Pitied and forgotten, like their old magic.
Elantris, that once-grand place is rotting and molding. The inhabitants are dead and therefore their bodies do not heal their wounds. A stubbed toe, a paper cut or a scratched elbow might be small wounds and pains for us that are living. But the people in Elantris have to carry them all, until the only thing you can do is let go of your mind and huddle in a corner, repeating what drove you over the edge.
“Failed my love. Failed…”
Elantris has 3 POV characters. The first character is Prince Raoden of Arelon. Elantris used to be the capital of the Nation of Arelon before it began to rot. The first chapter starts with Raoden waking up in the morning, only to find out that he has been taken by the Shaod.
The second is Princess Sarena. At the beginning of chapter 2, she arrives in Arelon. She arrived early. She is there to meet her betrothed for the first time, only to find that he has died. At least that is what people are telling her. She does not believe them.
Hrathen, the last POV character, is introduced in chapter 3. Like Sarena, he disembarks from a ship in the port of Kae, the new Capital city of Arelon.
“NONE of Arelon’s people greeted their savior when he arrived. It was an affront, of course, but not an unexpected one.”
These three characters form a trinity, Raoden’s chapters start the cycle, and then we see a series of events from his view. The same time frame repeats for Sarena and Hrathen in their chapters and when we come back to Raoden the cycle is repeated.
Raoden is a leader. He knows how to gather people, and he quickly sets out to make the lives of the people living in Elantris better. Even though that is a monumental task. He also sets out to find out what happened ten years ago.
Sarena tries to figure out what happened to Prince Raoden. She believes that his own father might have ordered his assassination. Her own country is on the brink of war. She fears that the Fjordell empire will attack and thus she quickly sets out to play politics. She did betroth herself to the Prince of Arleon to have them help in the fight against Fjordell after all.
Hrathen is a high priest of Fjordell, and he is sent to Kae, to save the heretics of the city and the entire nation. They need to be turned, or the town will be cleansed within 3 months.
These three people all want to save Elantris for different reasons, and thus they step on each other’s toes while trying to do that.
I’m a character reader. If there is a character I like, I will trudge through any book. In Brandon’s books, I generally only like one or two characters. However, I liked all three of these POV characters. Especially Raoden, since I have a thing for hardworking do-gooders.
The worldbuilding, the magic, and the point
The worldbuilding in this book is exquisite. Like always in Brandon’s books, pieces of the world is shown to the reader when it is needed. The worlds of his books feel large and lived in. Both the worldbuilding and the magic system is solid, in my opinion.
The only gripe I have with this book is the plot. Which I can’t tell you about because that would be spoilers. However, it is related to my gripes with the point.
Three characters set out to save their people. This is the plot, and the only point that I could find in the book is, “God helps those who help themselves.” which is a weak point for a book that is supposedly catered to adults.
I enjoyed all of the characters. 4
It was easy to read and to understand. 4
The point/theme was pretty meh for me. 3
The plot was a meh for me as well, good for a debut book though… 3
The worldbuilding was delightful. 5