Elantris is Brandon Sanderson’s first published book. As a big fan of Sanderson, I can tell the difference between Elantris and his more recent work like the Mistborn series. Mistborn has more depth in general, but that does not mean Elantris isn’t a good book.
I give it a solid 4.5 stars. It’s a great stand alone book with hardly any loose ends. There’s room for sequels (which I think Sanderson is planning) but the story stays very self contained.
The story centers around the fallen city of Elantris. A city that was once home to god-like people, who, ten years before, contracted some kind of disease and lost all their magic powers. Now the city is akin to a leaper colony, full of the living dead, literally. The three main characters strive for power over the fallen city and it’s people in various ways.
Raoden, a prince who has been cursed with the Elantris disease, works to change the city from within by becoming a leader of the cursed people. Sarene, a foreign princess and Raoden’s fiancee, fights in the political arena for positive changes for all people in and out of Elantris. And finally, Hrathen, a priest and missionary of a harsh religion, seeks to convert the people to save them from destruction.
I love these three characters. They’re all engaging and different. Their goals and motivations often clash but it all works out in the end. I also love Sanderson’s explanation and descriptions of what it’s like to be a zombie, which the cursed people basically are.
*SPOILERS AHEAD* The people who contract the Elantris disease are literally the living dead. They have no heart beat, they don’t breathe, they don’t have to eat to survive. BUT they do feel hunger and every other pain, the difference is, the pain never goes away.
Just imagine stubbing your toe. You know that initial pain that hurts soooo bad? Now imagine that pain never going away, ever. The intensity and throbbing never fades, never gets better. Now add hunger pains, and a paper cut on top of all that and you’re pretty much in hell.
Sanderson did such a good job of describing all of this and making you feel it along with the characters. It’s a brilliant look at what it might really be like to be a zombie.
Now we get to the reason why I knocked off a half star for the book. The ending was a little confusing and the magic wasn’t well explained. At least, not compared to some of his other stories that work so hard to help the reader understand how the story world works. Of course, this was his first book, I can only assume he learned his lesson and has since gotten better in that department.
The ending is one big deus ex machina, partly because the magic isn’t explained as well as it could have been. So Raoden suddenly becomes god-like and is able to do anything, including teleporting across the ocean to save Sarene. Really, the big Ex Machina is one character who you only briefly see a few times and who suddenly isn’t crazy anymore and is able to judge and calculate impossible numbers. Real convenient there.
Also, I’m becoming pretty good at figuring mysteries out in books before the characters do. That isn’t always a bad thing, I like to be proven right, and wrong. What bugs me is when it takes forever for the characters to solve the puzzle.
For instance, I knew how to fix the Elantris magic a while before Raoden did. As soon as they mentioned that the magic symbols are based on the geography of the country, I thought, “Oh yeah, that big chasm thing opened up over ten years ago and messed up the magic system. Just add a line for the chasm and everything should work.” It took the characters a few more chapters to figure that out. *END SPOILERS*
As I said, this is a great book and a good one to start with if you haven’t read Brandon Sanderson before.
Question time! Have you read Elantris or any other Brandon Sanderson book? What are you reading this week end? Leave a comment or talk to me on Twitter.
Thanks for dropping by and have a great weekend!