Synopsis (from Amazon):
Elantris was the capital of Arelon: gigantic, beautiful, literally radiant, filled with benevolent beings who used their powerful magical abilities for the benefit of all. Yet each of these demigods was once an ordinary person until touched by the mysterious transforming power of the Shaod. Ten years ago, without warning, the magic failed. Elantrians became wizened, leper-like, powerless creatures, and Elantris itself dark, filthy, and crumbling.
Arelon’s new capital, Kae, crouches in the shadow of Elantris. Princess Sarene of Teod arrives for a marriage of state with Crown Prince Raoden, hoping — based on their correspondence — to also find love. She finds instead that Raoden has died and she is considered his widow. Both Teod and Arelon are under threat as the last remaining holdouts against the imperial ambitions of the ruthless religious fanatics of Fjordell. So Sarene decides to use her new status to counter the machinations of Hrathen, a Fjordell high priest who has come to Kae to convert Arelon and claim it for his emperor and his god.
But neither Sarene nor Hrathen suspect the truth about Prince Raoden. Stricken by the same curse that ruined Elantris, Raoden was secretly exiled by his father to the dark city. His struggle to help the wretches trapped there begins a series of events that will bring hope to Arelon, and perhaps reveal the secret of Elantris itself.
My rating: 4.5/5
Elantris is one of my favorite Sanderson books. It’s a great stand alone Fantasy if you are looking for a break in reading series. (He does have more books planned in this world when he gets around to it but Elantris stands on it’s own and no ends are left untied) It also has what Sanderson is famous for: a unique and intricate magic system.
It’s also the only book I’ve ever read where the magic system is broken.
Once upon a time, people were randomly chosen to become, basically, Gods. They would wake up and have glowing skin and be able to make things out of nothing, or heal with just their hands. And then, it seems, the magic turned on them. They became gray, their hair falling out and they were unable to sate their hunger. They were condemned to the city they had made-Elantris-and the people of the city below them-Arelon-tried to ignore them. But people still wake up as “Elantrians” But now that is a curse rather than a blessing.
Which is where the story opens. With our hero, Raoden, prince of Arelon, awaking to find that his skin has turned gray and rotting. But, this is Sanderson, so it gets much more complicated than that very quickly.
Of all the story lines, Raoden is my favorite. Watching as he copes with being an Elantrian, forsaken by the people he was going to save. In his story line you can see a lot of Kaladin from the Stormlight Archives being developed. Especially in how he deals with his fellow Elantrians. Having read Way of Kings first, it was fun to see a similar character. He is slightly cliche (the kind hearted prince who was going to save his people from his father, the evil king, but something gets in his way) but as he unites the previously divided and warring Elantrians (and how he does it) he shows a strength and subtle wit which was delightful to read.
But we also follow a few other characters.
The Princess Sarene from across the Ocean who comes to marry Raoden as part of a peace treaty only to find he has “died” and she is a widow as well as the High Priest Hrathen who has been given 3 months to convert all of Arelon to his religion or his God is going to destroy it.
Sarene has to adjust to a whole new land while finding herself widowed to a man she had never met but thought she might be able to love.
Hrathen is the character who shows the most growth, to me, throughout the story. He isn’t a bad guy, necessarily. He is, in his heart, doing what he thinks is best. He wants to save a continent of people from total destruction. No matter what that means. He may go about things in a bad way and it’s hard to condone all of his actions, but he is doing what is best. Which is a fascinating trait to have in a character. Normally I think other authors may have had him as a villain. Which he kind of is in Elantris but it also goes deeper than that. Sanderson once again proves his writing prowess with the detail he has put into the characters he has written.
The three stories start out separate. You hardly think they would touch at all (especially Raoden) but as the story goes on, the web is weaved and the three character arcs start to merge into one. Lines start connecting, holes start getting filled and the mystery of the broken magic starts to come alive.
Elantris is a great ride from the first page to the last and is one I know I will be re-reading a few times in the future.
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