Book Review: Elantris by Brandon Sanderson

Elantris (Elantris, #1)

I have been wanting to read any of Brandon Sanderson’s books for months, since I watched his lecture series on writing (if you are a writer, I highly recommend you check it out on Youtube). My sister likes his books and kindly lent me this one and the Mistborn series. Months later, I finally got to this one.

It’s a massive book, clocking in at over 600 pages, and I can honestly say I feel like this book is a new favorite of mine, and I rarely read or like fantasy.

Release: 2005

Synopsis: Elantris was once the magnificent capital of Arelon filled with powerful beings, until a horrible disease hit and Elantris became decayed. Princess Sarene of Teod comes to Arelon on the eve of her wedding, to find that her betrothed Prince Raoden is dead. Except he isn’t dead, having been hit by the horrible disease and cast into the walls of Elantris. Into this conflicted world comes the high priest Hrathen, determined to convert Arelon, no matter the cost.

Non-Spoiler Review

Where do I start with this review? This book is absolutely amazing! I was not expecting such a tightly constructed, insightful novel, especially being the first one Sanderson wrote and tried to publish. The characters are brilliantly constructed, feeling like real people with complex motivations and realistic adaption. The world felt fleshed out and yet never overwhelming to the reader. New concepts were introduced organically. The plot left little to be desired either, weaving from perspective to perspective seamlessly, balancing action with character and plot progression with world-building. I found myself enjoying every aspect of this book, and that is a compliment I rarely give.

The book jumps mostly from three perspectives: Raoden among the diseased in Elantris, Sarene outside the city trying to figure out what is going on, and Hrathen trying to seize power and being the main antagonist. I sometimes have trouble with multiple perspectives, but because these characters were experiencing different sides of the same story, I felt like part of the story would be missing without one of the sides.

The magic system in the world was interesting, based on drawing ruins to create magic. However, I liked how much of the magic system didn’t matter to the story itself (like it wasn’t a crutch to excuse bad writing or ridiculous plot progression), and only really came into play near the end of the book.

There are a pretty expansive cast, and I honestly could not remember who was who, especially among the nobles of Arelon. But I also understand there isn’t enough time to develop every background character, and the ones in the forefront were brilliantly constructed.

One thing I enjoyed Sanderson’s writing the best for was defying expectations. It’s so easy to set up a villain as a villain and make them stay that way. But it’s hard to make a villain becoming not a villain seem so rational. It’s so easy to make a problem, but it’s hard to make you assume the problem is one thing when it’s really another. I really appreciated how Sanderson’s twists had a perfect balance of being reasonable (so not being pulled out of thin air with no foreshadowing), but also so subtly done I never expected them coming.

I am honestly hard-pressed to find things to talk about that does not include spoilers, but I really want to also save the spoilers for anyone who reads the book. If it was a worse book, I wouldn’t feel bad for spoiling it, but I really can’t knowing how exceptional it was.

Have you read this book? Or any other by Brandon Sanderson? I know I’ll be reading more of his as soon as possible. Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more musings and, as always,

Best wishes in your life full of adventure,

Madame Writer

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