Elantris (10th anniversary edition)
By: Brandon Sanderson
Format/Source: Paperback; was a birthday gift
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.
As Elantris was Brandon Sanderson’s first published novel, it his first novel that I’ve ever read. I remember exactly how I had picked it up: I was in the bookstore, circa 2007, having heard fantastic things about his Mistborn books but in the end opted to pick up Elantris first as it was a standalone. And omg did I enjoy it. It became one of my favourite books ever. And yet despite calling it that, strangely enough I never got around to re-reading it again. Too many books piled up on the TBR queue, other books pushed itself first on the re-read list. I was pleasantly surprised when I learned last year that Elantris was celebrating its tenth anniversary with a re-release of the novel with bonus material, which was not only very exciting but I also thought it was a good time to finally re-read it 🙂
I’m actually quite glad I didn’t remember much about the plot. I remembered the characters–Raoden, Sarene, Hrathen–and I remember Elantris and the affliction that came down upon its inhabitants 10 years prior to the start of the novel, but I didn’t remember specific details of the plot: how Sarene navigated through the politics of Kae and the region, how Hrathen plotted to convert the inhabitants of Kae before facing his own internal conflict, how Raoden went about dealing with the problems before him in Elantris. I forgt how this book petty much hits the ground running from the first page with Raoden waking up and learning he had been hit with the Shaod. And for a standalone (at least for now) it’s pretty complex, with the various regions with its own turmoils and upheavals, fragile economies and alliances, the Wyrn angling to take over the known world…Again I find myself astounded at how much depth and scope Brandon Sanderson has managed to convey in a single novel.
And the characters are absolutely wonderful. Raoden reminds me of Mistborn‘s Elend (review) in some ways with his vision of the future, how much he cares for the people and wishes to lead them to something better. I think he’s definitely up there as my favourite characters ever in a novel because he’s just such an optimistic person and so kind and dorky; he’s never disheartened–at least not for an extended period of time–he just keeps looking forward, figuring this out, using what’s in his means. He’s brilliant, but he always puts others before him. He’s just…so nice xD And Sarene is made of awesomeness, she’s smart and she’s not afraid to speak her mind but she also principled and loyal and brave. I also love her family and her seon Ashe. Hrathen was obviously harder to like because he was running counter to Sarene and everything Kae stood for but his followers were even more dangerous and scary. The secondary characters were also fantastic; the antagonists like Duke Telrii and Dilaf were a little less fleshed-out compared to the other characters, but it wasn’t a massive problem or anything.
Elantris itself is a curious place, from the transformation that elevates people living in Arelon to Elantrians to the magic system they have to their history and what they were all about before the Reod. The curse that hit those chosen those last ten years was absolutely brutal and scary and very sad, both with what they had to endure but also about the lives and people they left behind. I loved reading Raoden’s chapters as they explored the city, discovering halls and books and hidden passages out of the city. There’s obviously a lot of questions that were left unanswered by the end of the novel–Who created the Seons? What was up with the pool they found? How is it that the Fjordell were able to create their own AonDar?–which I’m guessing would be addressed when Brandon Sanderson goes back to write a sequel to this series. Despite of these questions, I love how interesting Elantris is as is its magic system.
Revisiting Elantris was a lot of fun. It was intriguing, it was funny, it was chilling, it was epic. The additional content that accompanied this tenth anniversary edition was interesting; of course it leaves me wanting more (always 😛 ) but it was nonetheless cool to read more from this world and this story. I will probably re-read The Emperor’s Soul (review) after this as it’s set in this world as well but yeah, if I haven’t recommended it enough, well, I highly recommend checking out Elantris! 😀