Book: Elantris

Title: Elantris
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Genre: Fantasy, Science-Fiction
Length: 496 pgs

What happens when the city of the gods becomes the city of the damned?

If you liked Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire, then you will adore this book. (It’s also loved by Orson Scott Card, Simon Green, and Publisher’s Weekly.) Elantris is brilliant fantasy-science-fiction, combining a cleverly thought-out world with intriguing politics, mysterious religions, and surprisingly real characters.

Summary: Ten years ago, the great city of Elantris fell. With it went any semblance of democratic government, though this isn’t to say that Elantris led a democratic example. A paranoid and stingy king rules Kae now, the city feeling the brunt of Elantris’ fall. The kingdom of Fjordell is trying to invade with their demanding and regimented religion, Shu-Dereth, by sending its high-ranking gyorn, Hrathen. The Teoish princess, Sarene, is on her way to Kae to marry the crown prince, Raoden, only to hear once leaving the ship that her fiancé has very mysteriously died/disappeared. No one knows how it happened, but the situation is profitable for Hrathen and potentially disastrous for Sarene.

pg 16: Before, Raoden had been able to see a few of the city’s inhabitants. Now he could hear them as well. A dozen or so Elantrians lay scattered across the courtyard’s fetid cobblestones. Many sat uncaringly, or unknowingly, in pools of dark water, the remains of the night’s rainstorm. And they were moaning. Most of them were quiet about it, mumbling to themselves or whimpering with some unseen pain. One woman at the far end of the courtyard, however, screaming with a sound of raw anguish. She fell silent after a moment, her breath or her strength giving out.

pg 200: Yet, Teod also reminded her of pain and loneliness. It represented her exclusion from society and her humiliation before men. Sarene had established early in life that she had a quick wit and an even quicker tongue. Both things had set her apart from the other women–not that some of them weren’t intelligent; they just had the wisdom to hide it until they were married.
Not all men wanted a stupid wife–but there also weren’t a lot of men who felt comfortable around a woman they assumed was their intellectual superior. By the time Sarene had realized what she was doing to herself, she had found that the few men who might have accepted her were already married. Desperate, she had ferreted out the masculine opinion of her in court, and had been mortified to learn just how much they mocked her. After that, it had only grown worse–and she had only grown older. In a land where nearly every woman was at least engaged by the age of eighteen, she was an old maid at twenty-five. A very tall, gangly, argumentative old maid.

Why should you read this book?
Sanderson has become one of my new favorite authors. I started this book a little wary, thinking there was no way he would be able to keep my attention for the thickness of this book (496 pgs hardcover). Not only did he keep my attention, I was riveted. Sanderson’s characters are the main motivation behind that: these are true heroes we are reading about. People who are certain they don’t have the strength to deal with what’s been laid before them, and yet, finding themselves facing tragedy, horrors, and more.

Elantris is one of those few books where, as you’re reading it, you can see it happening. You believe the magic, the science, and the internal struggle between politics, religion, love, and morality. Yes, there is love in this story, but its presence is something needed between the characters, and a great plot device. If anything, it’s natural and takes nothing away from the story. The writing is tight and concise; nothing is lacking and nothing is oversaid. And, though this book is close to 500pgs, it doesn’t have a dull moment: beauty and atrocity are tackled with the same deft hand. And get this! A fantasy/sci-fi that isn’t volume one of twenty! I find that incredibly refreshing.

Give it a try. Especially if your preferred genre is historical fiction. There is nothing better than reading something outside your comfort zone to bring an edge to your writing. And Brandon Sanderson, you get props and snaps for this. I’m really looking forward to your next book, Mistborn.