I finished this book about a week ago, but I’ve been pretty busy and hadn’t gotten around to writing a review for it yet. I decided it’s time to take a few minutes to procrastinate, because this book was awesome and I want to talk about it.
“Elantris” is a standalone fantasy novel by Brandon Sanderson. I started reading it because I love Sanderson’s writing and to distract myself from the urge to read ahead with Mistborn.
The city of Elantris was once a pinnacle of greatness. Random individuals from the kingdom of Arelon would wake up to find themselves transformed into Elantrians, white-haired god-like beings who could harness the power of the Aons and achieve near-immortality. However, ten years before the book takes place place, Elantris was cursed. Now the people of Arelon sometimes wake up turned into leprous zombie-creatures and are cast into the decaying remnants of Elantris to rot.
The story focuses on three major characters. Raoden was the heir to the throne of Arelon, until he woke up one morning as an Elantrian zombie. He is cast into Elantris and tries to make the most of his situation, uniting the street gangs and trying to instill hope for the first time since Elantris’ fall. Raoden is determined to figure out the secrets of the Aons and to restore Elantris to its former glory.
Sarene is a princess from a neighboring country who was betrothed to Raoden. She traveled to her wedding to find that Raoden had died (because nobody would tell her he was a zombie), but the betrothal contract was worded in such a way that she would technically be married to him if he died so that the political union between the two countries would be preserved. Sarene finds it hard to adjust to life in Arelon, especially because women aren’t taken seriously there, but finds herself playing an increasingly crucial role in preserving Arelon’s future.
The third major character, Hrathen, could technically be considered a villain. He is a priest/warrior-monk who has been sent to convert Arelon to the Fjordell religion. If Arelon isn’t converted within three months, his superiors will destroy it. However, conversion to the Fjordell religion would mean a loss of Arelon’s autonomy, as the religion is based on hierarchy and obedience. I thought that it was a very interesting choice to use a villain as a major protagonist. It definitely made the book more interesting, especially as we came to understand Hrathen’s motives and his own misgivings.
As per usual, Brandon Sanderson creates a scientific system of magic that takes its form through natural processes. I’m not going to get into how the magic works because that would be a major spoiler; suffice to say that certain rules must be obeyed or it won’t work. Magic is treated like something that isn’t so much supernatural as a part of the world that isn’t fully understood.
I knew that Sanderson’s works are all interrelated, but I was a bit surprised whenever Hoid turned up! I had first encountered this particular character while reading “The Way of Kings.” After browsing around a bit on the internet, I read that Sanderson’s books are all set within the same universe called the Cosmere, but on different planets. Hoid is one of the characters who is able to travel between worlds, hence the fact that he keeps showing up in different Sanderson novels. It makes me want to read more, as well as to go back to “Way of Kings” and see if there are any more clues about him.
“Elantris” was a fun and well-written tale of magic, politics, and zombie society. I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a unique fantasy read, especially as it’s a single book rather than a part of a series.
“Elantris” won the Romantic Times award for best epic fantasy of 2005, so I’m including it in the Award Winning Books Challenge. It also counts toward the Once Upon a Time Challenge and the Speculative Fiction Challenge.