Saturday, June 22, 2019

Review: ELANTRIS by Brandon Sanderson

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

I was a little worried when starting this book that I wouldn’t like it. I’ve read a lot of reviews that say Elantris is Sanderson’s worst work, that it’s slow and rough and less polished than his other books, but I didn’t find that to be the case at all. Even though I’m biased toward Brandon Sanderson and therefore predisposed to like anything by him, I still thought this was a fantastic book, despite the amount of criticism I’d heard beforehand. In fact, I liked Elantris more than Legion, so this isn’t even my least favorite book of his.

Elantris is different from Sanderson’s other books, I will say that. But it’s by no means bad. We follow three repeating perspectives of Raoden, the prince of Arelon, who just was thrown into Elantris; Sarene, the princess of Teod, who arrives in Kae to marry Raoden and finds him dead; and then Hrathen, the high priest of the Derethi church in Kae, whose goal is to convert all of Arelon to Derethi.

The story is very unique and very political. It has a classic Sanderson-original magic system and a highly developed world and fleshed out characters, and the plot, although mostly politics, isn’t one I’ve read before. Almost this entire book is about politics, but it’s all interesting. I never found the story to be dragging or the narrative to be dry. The magic system develops slowly and it isn’t until the end that we fully understand its depth and vast implications. There’s also very little action until the very end, but I didn’t mind at all (I actually prefer scenes about political intrigue to action scenes anyway when I’m reading fantasy).

I listened to the audiobook for most of the story and that made it a little hard to keep track of what was going on because there are lots of fabricated colloquial words in this book, many unusual names for both people and places, many of which are very similar to each other, and also the magic system involves Aons, which involves a lot of other terminologies that get confusing when you aren’t able to see the words written out. Keeping track of the main characters and plot is no problem but it’s the side characters that I got mixed up. So I would definitely recommend reading this book with your eyes if given the chance because it will make the story much easier to understand. I had to read along to the audiobook during most of the story to keep all the characters and locations straight, and I also was constantly referencing the maps and the Ars Arcanum, which I would also recommend heavily utilizing.

Speaking of, I’m so glad I have the tenth-anniversary edition that has the three maps because I can’t imagine reading this book without the maps for reference. I was constantly looking at them to familiarize myself with the lay of the land and where everything was located. The same goes for the Ars Arcanum at the back. I can’t imagine reading this book without that critical reference either. It was very helpful to see the list of Aons and their symbols and meanings, and especially being able to reference the list when they’re described in the story is a big help.

There is lots of room to expand on this world in a sequel, so I hope it does eventually get written. I know Sanderson has a plan for it way down the road, so we’ll see. Like what will Wyrn do next? What else can we learn about AonDor? The drama between Kiin and Eventeowho will be the true ruler of Teod? Raoden and Sarene both voice some questions at the end that could be the basis for the sequel as well. I’m very curious to see where the story goes next.

Overall I thought this was a solid book from Brandon Sanderson, and it makes me wonder what other early stories of his exist that haven’t been published. I bet they’re all just as good, and I hope we get the chance to read them someday. I would highly recommend this book, especially if you’re trying to read all the cosmere books, and don’t let the heavy political intrigue, general lack of action, or large amount of new words turn you away. This book is one to be savored.
Elantris proves that a book can be magical, yet not show magic itself until the last few chapters” (from the postscript).

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