Published: August 11th 2011 by Gollancz
Format: Paperback, 615 pages
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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.
Reading Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy spurred me to read his earlier works. Elantris is his debut novel (released in 2005), and I found it to be every bit as engaging and wonderful as I expected.
High Priest Hrathen of Shu Derethi, the militaristic religion underlying the power of Fjorden, is the most engaging character in the book. Despite following orders to convert the heathen Arelon with focus, Hrathen experiences a crisis of faith, recognising he has lost his passion and relishes, instead, intellectual challenge of converting unbelievers. In contrast, Prince Raoden is the most unbelievable character; idealistic to a fault and eternally optimistic, with no discernible character flaws. His views are never tested and the ease with which he solves social problems is irksome. Sanderson later uses this trope with a lot more success in the Mistborn trilogy with Elend.
As expected in a Sanderson novel, the magic system in Elantris is skillfully executed. The runes (Aons) used to wield a mysterious force called Dor are intricate in detail, and Raoden’s discovery of their use engrossed me. The magic’s link to the land itself was an fascinating development, and the potential exists for the magic system to be much more complex in future works set in this world.
Which brings me to the matter of a sequel: Sanderson says that he plans to write more novels set in this world – focussed on the children of one of the minor characters. I look forward to this eagerly, as Elantris is a wonderful work of fantasy by a talented author. If you love high fantasy, or have never read Brandon Sanderson, this novel will be great for you. If you have lost your faith in the fantasy genre, I encourage you to pick up any Sanderson book!