meilufay’s #CBR4 review #57 Elantris by Brandon Sanderson
Elantris is the first novel by acclaimed fantasy writer Brandon Sanderson I’ve read that I didn’t find to be a page turner. It’s not that it’s a bad book, it’s just that I wasn’t all that interested in the storyline or characters. There are interesting moments and ideas, but nothing really gripped me. I kept picking it up and putting it down again. I just couldn’t get into it. It’s Sanderson’s first book, so perhaps I had higher expectations than I ought to have had.
The novel is about the mysteries of Arelon, whose capital city, Kae, is shadowed by another city, Elantris. On the eve of his wedding, Prince Raoden is stricken with an ailment called the Shaod. It’s not really a disease, it’s more of a process of metamorphosis from human to something more than human. Once upon a time those hit with the Shaod became radiant, god-like beings, and ruled Arelon from the city of Elantris. Anyone could become a Shaod. They would literally wake up one day as Shaod. Something has gone wrong with the transformational process and now the Shaod are in some ways like the living dead. Raoden is mourned as dead and exiled to Elantris, which is where the Shaod live. Raoden’s bride-to-be, Princess Sarene, arrives in Arelon to discover that her husband is supposedly dead and, according to the terms of their marriage treaty, she must live out her days in Arelon as Raoden’s widow. Meanwhile, a religious empire is plotting to invade and subjugate Arelon is the country does not convert to their religion. Hrathen, a priest, has been sent to Arelon to ensure the country’s conversion. All three point of view characters (Raoden, Sarene and Hrathen) are intelligent and active and in their individual attempts to pursue their own goals, they become entangled in events that will determine Arelon’s future.
I found it a struggle to get through this book. The plot is interesting, but the characters feel very two-dimensional. There’s not much difference, in characterization, between Raoden and Sarene and the typical fairy tale prince and princess. Sure, they’re living in a more complicated storyline, but they’re everything you’d expect a modern version of a fairy tale prince and princess to be. They’re wise and virtuous and active and are clearly destined to be together. The priest, Hrathen, is slightly more interesting in that he’s villainous and yet sympathetic but, again, that’s a fairly standard trope in modern interpretations of fairy tale stories. The very best thing about this book is that it’s a stand alone fantasy. Of the Brandon Sanderson books I’ve read, it’s the only one that hasn’t ended in a cliffhanger (or at least a coda which implies future books). I’ve gotten really tired of reading 700 page books and then feeling dissatisfied at the end of them (George RR Martin, I’m looking at you), so there’s that. Not exactly a ringing endorsement, I’m afraid. But your results may vary. A glance at the reviews for this novel show that I am far in the minority for not loving this novel.