Book Review: Elantris by Brandon Sanderson

Sharing some thoughts about my initial read this year.

The first book penned by an author carries a certain undeniable charm I feel. Elantris is the first book by Brandon Sanderson and has a unique appeal. It has characters that grow steadily with the story, and a narrative that flows well while weaving a tight and complex plot that retains the interest from the first to the last page. The world-building is decent though leaves one wondering about things like magic power source and the limits, seons, and the political, religious, and economic landscape and some aspects of the book are reminiscent of the more elaborate Stormlight Archives and Mistborn series. It is a compact but epic high fantasy novel that serves well as a standalone novel that has a satisfactory ending with no loose ends or cliff-hangers. More of my thoughts about the book below, if you are interested. 

Elantris was the capital of Arelon and a beautiful, marvelous home to radiant demi-gods who use their magical powers for the benefit of all.
The mysterious Shaod could come upon any ordinary human being unexpectedly, leading to the transformation of the human into a powerful Elantrian. A transformation that is seemingly a random occurrence.
But ten years ago an event referred to as Reod led to a chasm in the force that powers the realm leading to not only deterioration and loss of magic in Elantris, but also left the inhabitants to share the same fate of decay and rot. One that also reflects in their diseased appearance. A transformation that had once been regarded as a blessing is now looked down upon as a curse.
Where once beauty, harmony, contentment and radiance reigned, now filth, fights, disease, emptiness, raging hunger and darkness threaten to consume the place whole.
It is in this backdrop that Princess Sarene of Teod lands in Kae, the new capital of Arelon, looking forward to her marriage with betrothed and crown prince Raoden.
On her arrival she is dismayed to find out that Raoden has passed away owing to a sudden illness.
Little does she know about the true fate that has befallen Raoden, who has in fact undergone Shaod and has been transformed into an Elantrian and been secretly left in the ruins of Elantris to fend for himself, while this has been concealed by the royal family.
As Princess Sarene settles into her new home of Arelon, she begins to slowly and positively influence the kingdom’s decisions, navigating through the political and religious landscape and court intrigue, making alliances even as she tries to unravel the mystery that surrounds Elantris.
Meanwhile Prince Raoden, unwilling to give in to his fate, tries to keep alive the spirit and re-ignite the zest for life within himself and other Elantrians. He slowly rises as a empathetic leader who leads them away from a path of self-destruction to one of hope and new beginnings and tries to also re-ignite the magic that had powered the place and its inhabitants in the past.

The paths of Princess Sarene and Prince Raoden soon intersect, though the princess does not recognize Raoden owing to his wizened and diseased appearance.

Now both Teod and Arelon are in danger as they face the ruthless religious fanatics of Fjordell who intend to convert the two kingdoms with their sly machinations and bring them under their imperial rule.

What follows next, forms the crux of the story, that is refreshingly a standalone and compact high fantasy novel with a satisfying ending that leaves no threads hanging. The growth of the characters is natural and consistent, making them strong and memorable, while the plot build-up is steady with just the right amount of intensity, complexity and tension to retain the interest of the reader. Overall a light and engrossing read.

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