Elantris by Brandon Sanderson – This gets a wholehearted five stars out of five!
Reader thoughts: Wow just doesn’t cover it. After reading this book (and the Alcatraz series), I became a Brandon Sanderson fan. All of his books feature characters who are clever and always try their best to do what’s right, not just do what’s easy. So, Elantris. Where do I start?
Characters. Fantastic. None were cliche, and all impacted the story, and the three MCs kept surprising me. Raoden’s optimism was so neat, calculated, rare, and endearing. Serene was clever through and through, and she never backed down from a challenge and had plenty of faults. Although I kept expecting her to turn into a lovesick princess, she never did. Hrathen really moved things along and stirred up so much trouble. I kept expecting to hate him, but I felt almost sorry for him each time Serene or someone messed up his carefully managed plans. Dilaf . . . was scary.
Plot. I have seen few books planned as well as this one. Each event impacted the others, and readers constantly learned new and amazing information, whether it had to do with the Shaod or someone’s background. Characters acted believably and with complex, conflicting motivations. Danger built, tension increased, and the ending was superb.
Romance. This rarely happens, but I loved it (I usually avoid books with much or any romance present). In Elantris, the relationship grew slowly, was important, and was super clean. The magic had appropriate limitations and just enough explanation. Nearly every character had secrets and a disguise. Lots of violence, but only small amounts of blood or gore.
Writer thoughts: This was Sanderson’s first published novel, and I’m just astonished every time I remember that. Also, he removed an extra bad guy from this book, and it makes sense why. The extra bad guy started pulling the plot off track in the last third of the book (and added an extra 10 pages). Now if only I could figure out how to slim my own novels down so neatly . . . . Anyway, one of the big realizations I had after reading this novel was that Sanderson can write women better that some women. Too often, female characters are very one-dimensional. They think about boys all the time, their main connection to the plot is that they’re falling in love with the hero, and their dialogue only has one flavor the entire book. Not so with Serene! She could have moped about the castle bawling that she became a widow before she even met her prince, but she doesn’t. She gets right to work and doesn’t let her widowhood define her. Yes! This is what a strong female character looks like. I don’t care if she can punch someone’s lights out; I want to know that she can make decisions and act with responsibility and maturity on her own.
In 2005, Brandon Sanderson debuted with Elantris, an epic fantasy unlike any other then on the market. To celebrate its tenth anniversary, Tor is reissuing Elantris in a special edition, a fresh chance to introduce it to the myriad readers who have since become Sanderson fans.
This new edition begins with a preface by author Dan Wells, the first person to read the completed novel, and a new afterword by Sanderson explaining how he came to write the book and its place in the Cosmere, the unified universe of all his Tor novels.
Also included is an expanded version of the “Ars Arcanum” appendix, with more of the technical details of the book’s magic that fans can never get enough of.
Elantris was truly a milestone both for Sanderson and for the genre of epic fantasy. It deserves this special treatment, something Tor has done only once before, with Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game. Sanderson fans old and new will be excited to discover it.
This guest post was written by Denae Christine. She is a Bible-believing Christian who lives in Colorado and teaches math at an alternative high school. She has a brown belt in karate and listens to audiobooks at double speed. She spends her energy volunteering with her local church’s children’s ministry. Denae has written the Royal Deception trilogy, which is an epic fantasy retelling of the Lion King featuring a world with blade shifters and animal shifters. She also published a companion novella that follows the adventures of the trilogy main character, who is a prince who can shift his arms into swords. Denae is an avid reader and reviewer. Find her on Goodreads here.