The capital of Arelon, the home to people transformed into magic-using demigods by the Shaod.
But then the magic failed, Elantris started to rot, and its inhabitants turned into powerless wrecks.
And in the new capital, Kae, close enough to Elantris for everyone to be reminded of what they have lost, a princess arrives. Sarene is to be married to unite Teod and Arelon against the religious imperialists of Fjordell. But she is told that Raoden, her husband to be, is dead.
Determined to carry on the fight for Teod and Arelon’s freedom, Sarene clashes with the high priest Hrathen. If Hrathen can persuade the populace to convert, Fjordell will reign supreme.
But there are secrets in Elantris, the dead and the ruined may yet have a role to play in this new world. Magic lives.
Brandon Sanderson has earned his place as one of the most prolific fantasy writers of our time. Elantris served as his debut novel and it is clear from the very start that Sanderson shines in creating and exploring intricate worlds and character insights, meaning that readers are always treated to a complex and layered story.
Elantris refers to the fallen city located at the heart of the kingdom of Arelon. Once known as the city of gods, the magical power of the Dor would randomly select individuals worthy of harnessing this divine power. However, ten years have passed since the people of Arelon last saw the beauty of Elantris. Now, the city and those chosen by the Dor are cursed and there in the city, they are left to their suffering. It sounds complex, and to start it will be hard to familiarise yourself with the political, religious, and magical landscape of this world. The book starts slowly as it takes its time to establish the nations of this world, but when the pieces fall together you are in for a breathtaking and intense climax. The complexity of the magical system might be the toughest aspect for readers to grasp as there are many elements working together to create this system and not all of it made clear. However, once you get to grips with the extensive terminology, you get to see just how rich in depth this magical world is. Nothing is simple in this world, but unraveling the mysteries behind the magic and the downfall of Elantris further emphasises just how imaginative and complex this world is.
There is an extensive cast of characters in Elantris, but we have three predominant narratives, all of which are connected. We have Raoden, prince of Arelon, who finds himself cursed by the Dor and sent to Elantris. Here, we get to unravel the mysteries of this city and its potential to rise from the ruins of this curse. We also have Sarene, princess of the neighbouring land of Teod and Raoden’s fiancée. Arriving in Arelon to find that she is a widow before even meeting her husband, Sarene is thrown into the heart of the political mechanisms of the Arelon court. Her professed duty is to see that Arelon doesn’t fall to the pits of the corrupt instability its nobility has created. Her wits made her a formidable opponent to those that stood against her. Her independent, outspoken attitude had a striking impact on those around her and she holds her own against some of the most powerful men in this country.
Finally, we have Hrathen, a Fjorden priest tasked with the responsibility of converting the people of Arelon to his faith and ultimately fall to the rule of his people. Out of all the characters, he was possibly the most complex. To start, you’d think him as the enemy, but by the end, you’ll see that he is simply a man torn between his faith and his duty. He’s a complex character, and through him, we explore the relationship between religion and politics. The search for identity is the unifying factor between all three characters, but it is in Hrathen that we truly see him question his core values and with that, we explore the blurred lines between what is perceived as good and evil.
Elantris could easily be seen as a standalone novel. However, if Sanderson should ever return to this rich and imaginative world, then there is enough material and questions left open to be explored in a potential second book. There is plenty to love about this book and once you get used to the magical system, the depth of this unique universe is impressive.
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