The first question a person might ask of me when seeing the title of this book is: “Hey, Elan? Did you only read this book because your name is in the title?”
Partially, yes. There’s more to it than that, though.
Brandon Sanderson is a pretty well-thought-of fantasy author who is currently finishing a series I am particularly passionate about: The Wheel of Time. Book 14 is scheduled for release 1/8/13, and I’m somewhat eager to get my hands on it. Since Robert Jordan–the author of the series–passed away in 2007, Brandon Sanderson has been working toward finishing the series using Jordan’s notes and the editing help of Jordan’s wife, Harriet. It’s incredible that, after releasing his first novel (this one) in 2005, by 2007 he had enough notoriety within the fantasy community to be tasked with this demanding responsibility. He is, in my opinion, doing the series justice. He’s able to emulate, in his own way and with his own flair, Jordan’s writing in a most admirable way. That’s neither here nor there, though. This post is about Elantris.
Elantris is a great book. It’s a fast reader, and coalesces at the end in a wholly unexpected and spectacular way. While magic is an important feature of the novel, the book is focused primarily on power struggles through political and religious maneuvering. Elantris is the name of a city which was once magical, in which immortal beings (Elantrians) dwell, hanging out, being luminous, divine, using magic, etcetera. Something happens (we’re unsure until later in the book, I won’t spoil it,) and Elantris is plunged into darkness, its denizens becoming half-corpses, their magic no longer working.
The story focuses on three characters; Sarene, a woman who, betrothed to the prince of Arelon (the kingdom in Elantris’ shadow) is widowed when Raoden (the prince) becomes an Elantrian. (She doesn’t know this, and thinks he’s dead. It’s complicated.) Meanwhile, Hrathen, a priest from a faraway kingdom (whose religion is working toward global domination,) is working at chipping away at the mystique of Elantris and the political power of the recently raised king of Arelon.
The plots seems largely to run alongside one another, and I found myself wondering when they’d intersect. When they did, it was awesome. Explosive, even. The book’s latter third is action packed, when solving the mystery of Elantris’ downfall is a matter of saving the world from the religious zealots lead by Hrathen. Several plot twists later, I put the book down, thoroughly satisfied, wishing there was a sequel.
If you like fantasy, go ahead and give this one a read. It’s worth it.