By Brandon Sanderson
Epic Fantasy – Expect heroes and villains, a complicated magic system, and the patent pending Sanderson “Holy shit! That’s genius!” climax where every single seemingly unrelated Chekov’s Gun introduced in the book is fired off in a massive volley of awesome.
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Synopsis: Ten years have passed since the calamity that turned the city of Elantris from a city of the gods ruling over a peaceful kingdom to a decaying urban hellscape haunted by immortal wretches who feel the constant pain of hunger and every injury. Prince Raoden of Arelon is taken by the shaod and thrown into the city where he attempts to unlock its secrets rather than give in to despair. Princess Sarene of Kae arrives for her wedding only to discover her betrothed has died of a mysterious disease, and that she is now legally married to a man she will never meet. Desperate to maintain the alliance, she throws herself into court politics and quickly finds herself in a battle for the soul of her new kingdom against Hrathen, a priest of Jaddeth from the nation of Fjordell who has arrived with the impossible deadline of converting Arelon to his religion before the armies of Fjordell descend to convert them at the tip of a sword.
In A Nutshell:
Like many long time Wheel of Time fans, I picked up Elantris to get an idea of just what sort of writer this Brandon Sanderson guy was. I figured if he was picked to finish out Robert Jordan’s masterwork then he had to have some pretty impressive writing chops, and Elantris didn’t disappoint.
Elantris is a delight both for longtime fantasy readers and those who are new to the genre. Longtime readers will delight in the clever ways that Sanderson plays with familiar tropes and cliches, gleefully misdirecting, subverting, and then playing them straight when you least expect it. Newer readers will simply love it for the great story and the unique characters that provide a solid grounding for all of the meta fun.
The characterization is what ultimately sold Elantris for me. Sure this is a novel where GREAT WORLD MOVING EVENTS are afoot, but it’s also a novel where the characters are acting through the lens of their changing understanding of the world. Their actions influence those events rather than falling into the classic fantasy trap of being mere spectators on a one-track tour of fantasyland with stops at setup, confrontation, resolution, and denouement. That’s the mark of a great fantasy book.
If you like high fantasy, fantasy, The Wheel of Time, the zombie genre, and character driven tales of clever people staving off the end of the world as we know it vis a vis their cleverness then chances are you’ll enjoy Elantris.
Elantris is self-contained at one book. I consider that to be a good thing and the mark of an author who’s more interested in telling a good story than setting up a doorstopper series. I also know there are readers who only take their fantasy books in trilogy or larger form who won’t like a standalone title. Make of that what you will based on your personal tastes.
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