Genre: Fantasy Age Range: Adult Star Rating: 4 stars Series: maybe?
Elantris was the capital of Arelon: gigantic, beautiful, literally radiant, filled with benevolent beings who used their powerful magical abilities for the benefit of all. Yet each of these demigods was once an ordinary person until touched by the mysterious transforming power of the Shaod. Ten years ago, without warning, the magic failed. Elantrians became wizened, leper-like, powerless creatures, and Elantris itself dark, filthy, and crumbling.
Arelon’s new capital, Kae, crouches in the shadow of Elantris. Princess Sarene of Teod arrives for a marriage of state with Crown Prince Raoden, hoping — based on their correspondence — to also find love. She finds instead that Raoden has died and she is considered his widow. Both Teod and Arelon are under threat as the last remaining holdouts against the imperial ambitions of the ruthless religious fanatics of Fjordell. So Sarene decides to use her new status to counter the machinations of Hrathen, a Fjordell high priest who has come to Kae to convert Arelon and claim it for his emperor and his god.
But neither Sarene nor Hrathen suspect the truth about Prince Raoden. Stricken by the same curse that ruined Elantris, Raoden was secretly exiled by his father to the dark city. His struggle to help the wretches trapped there begins a series of events that will bring hope to Arelon, and perhaps reveal the secret of Elantris itself.
Blurb taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
I read MISTBORN several years ago and was so-so about it. Since then, I’ve read and loved the SKYWAYRD series, so decided I would give Sanderson’s adult fantasy another go, particularly as I read MISTBORN back when I was not as much into adult fantasy as I am now. However, starting on MISTBORN seemed like a pretty daunting place to start, particularly given the seventh book is due out this year. So I decided to start on ELANTRIS, his debut.
I was so surprised by how much I enjoyed this, given I was so-so about MISTBORN (and I listene to it as an audiobook.) This is a sprawling story of a city under attack – from within and without – and the living ruin at its centre. There are layers upon layers of politics. Two of the main characters are intimately involved in the politics – Sarene and Hrathan – but on opposing sides (plus side characters are also involved in various plots.)
There are so many twists and turns to this story, reversals in fortune and unexpected directions the plot took. Every time the plot seemed to be settling down in any character’s favour, something then happened (and it didn’t feel like it came out of nowhere) that suddenly upended everything and left them scrambling to find their feet again. It kept things moving and interesting, and kept me engaged even over a very long listen spread over several months.
The “what happened to Elantris and can it be fixed” mystery was probably my favourite bit. There were several stages to solving it and it just felt so clever and subtle, using a (in some ways) highly familiar type of magic system and changing it to feel used very differently.
It is also a book about hope, through Raoden’s dogged determination to make something good out of a bad situation, create a little utopia in the midst of suffering. That felt so nice right now, reading about someone who refused to let himself despair despite everything conspiring against him.
It’s supposedly a standalone, though Goodreads says it’s part of a series, with two other books promised (plus two short stories already out.) Given this book was published in 2005 and it’s 2022 now, I am highly sceptical about those other books every arriving! (I would not object to a sequel, though – there is plenty of space for more books based on the ending.)
Read my reviews of other books by Brandon Sanderson:
- THE FINAL EMPIRE (#1)