Elantris

Title: Elantris

Author: Brandon Sanderson

Elantris was the city of the gods. The silver-skinned, white-haired Elantrians were a unique people drawn at random from the surrounding nation: anyone struck by the Shaod woke up the next morning as an Elantrian. But ten years ago, everything changed. Elantris changed from a city of wonders to a city of nightmares, and the Shaod is now a sentence of living death.

Raoden is the crown prince—but when the Shaod takes him, he is citizen of no city but Elantris. Sarene was his betrothed wife—now a widow without ever having met her husband. Hrathen is a religious leader sent to Arelon to convert the city before his leaders overthrow it by force and put every heathen to the sword. As their lives intertwine, the foundations of the kingdom will be shaken.

I am a bit sorry to be so late to the party—I have owned this book for several years but it wasn’t until I read Rithmatist that I was reminded to hunt down other works by Sanderson. Elantris was spectacular. The novelty of the city itself, the random nature of the chosen, and the way such a blessing could become such a terrible curse made for an interesting backdrop to the more traditional story of a weak kingdom with a stubborn king and a lot of trouble brewing.

The sheer depth of the world was a treat. The magic system was more the mystery of what the magic was and how it worked, and figuring out what broke everything ten years ago. I also enjoyed the detail about the various religious sects, their theologies, and debates. I love how the purists keep getting annoyed when sects like the Jeskeri Mysteries are continually confused with their mainstream religion (and no one else cares enough to remember the difference), or how Serene keeps Hrathen on his toes by asking all the wrong questions at the right times.

And the characters were just as strong as the worldbuilding. Raoden’s fall into a defiant optimism as a way to stave off hopeless despair. Galladon’s gallows humor (“[He] will stay like this forever. That is, after all, the typical length of eternal damnation.”). Serene’s determination not to be sidelined or trampled underfoot by a monarch who thinks women are useless and stupid. Hrathen’s struggle to win himself as much as the city to the faith he has spent his life serving. Hrathen in particular surprised me. He could so easily have been a stock character, stoic and villainous, but he has hidden depths that come to light as the story progresses. And the end was so utterly perfect for him.

All in all, though it took me several hours to pick through this one, it’s definitely a novel I would go back to again. There’s so much to like, and I’m sure I’ll notice even more the next time I go through. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

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