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Elantris by Brandon Sanderson

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.

Elantris was once a city of the gods, containing mysterious magics and lit from within with silvery fire. Its inhabitants were silver skinned, white haired and shone like the city itself. They healed quickly and were thought to be immortal, wielding mysterious rune magic called AonDor that could heal and provide food. The Shaod, the Transformation, was the only way to become one; it struck randomly and changed lives forever. The fortunate person would move to Elantris – where they could live in paradise for eternity. 

Eternity ended ten years ago.

Ten years after the fall of Elantris, the Shaod has become a horrifying curse that turns humans into monstrosities who are imprisoned in the city by those outside. When Crown Prince Raoden of Arelon is inflicted, he is thrown into Elantris and pronounced dead to the public. His fiance, Princess Sarene of Teod, arrives too late to marry him, and finds herself legally widowed due to a clause in their marriage contract in order to unite their two lands against Fjorden, an empire bent on controlling the world.

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!

About the book:

  • Pub. Date: 11 August 2011
  • Publisher: Gollancz
  • Format: Paperback, 656 pages
  • ISBN 13: 9780575097445 ISBN 10: 0575097442
  • Categories: Fantasy

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