Author: Brandon SandersonEdition: Hardcover (Author's Preferred Edition)Rating: 5 Stars
I'm a pretty big fan of Brandon Sanderson, and incredibly in awe of his Cosmere. Elantris is the first novel he had published and the first piece of the Cosmere to fall into place. I finally picked this one up after owning this copy for half a year or so. If you're a fan of the Cosmere and don't already own the tenth anniversary edition, you're really missing out one some important information and need to get on that ASAP.
Elantris is about three people: a prince who becomes cursed and is locked within the walls of the city of Elantris, a foreign princess who was set to marry him but now will have to deal with being a widow in a land where women are nearly powerless, and a priest from a kingdom set on conquering the entire world. At it's heart, Elantris is about doing the right thing, and how the "right thing" changes depending on each person.
This is not my favorite Branson Sanderson novel, but I still loved it dearly. I think, what really did it for me in this book, was the characters. Brandon is a pro at writing intriguing and morally diverse characters, so these, in comparison, might seem very black and white in comparison. But I think it's that simplicity to them, without taking away from how real they feel, that makes it a piece of stand out fantasy. Raoden is a really good guy stuck in a bad situation, and he does what he does because of his own morals. His were probably my favorite chapters to read because I was most interested in what was happening in Elantris and the "magic" there. Sarene is an incredibly strong character and she's forced to compete with a society that will always see her as lesser because she's a woman. I loved seeing her play the court against itself and do what she wanted regardless of what it took, but I also liked being able to see her vulnerable side. She's sensitive but she's also strong and it's this duet of characteristics that really makes her a stand out. As for Hrathen, I have complicated feelings about him. He was at once the most interesting character and also the most annoying. I was often more interested in Sarene's and Raoden's chapters, yet his story is just as important if not more so. He's definitely not what I expected as a character, and he's the most morally gray of the three. He's an antagonist in the series and a really, really interesting one. I don't want to give much away because he's pretty awesome in his own right.
Now, most people know Sanderson for his fantastic magic systems that he writes. And, yes, Allomancy is just about the coolest thing in the world. But for the most part, Elantris is not about magic. It's a subtle thing that exists sparsely and seems rather poorly developed in comparison to his other works. I think the focus on court politics, though, is a strong point for the novel. The fact that a large chunk of the plot is figuring out what happened to the magic in this world, thus what happened to the city of Elantris, is an interesting mystery, and while I do look forward to sequels (eventually, he's said he'll write them eventually) where we get to explore the magic a bit more, I liked that we only got a taste of it so far.
World building is another one of his strong suits, and he doesn't disappoint. There are pretty diverse nations in this book, and while we don't really leave the cities of Kae or Elantris, there is a lot of talk about the other countries that really make this world feel quite large. Again, I look forward to seeing where eventual sequels take the characters because I honestly can't wait to explore! And it's a testament to Sanderson's writing that I feel as if I explored the two cities along with the main characters and they don't feel like they were just on the page. I wouldn't be surprised if one day I forget they're fictional for a moment (it has happened with characters before it's so weird).
TL;DR? Basically, it's gotten me back into the mood to read epic fantasy and helped fix the book slump I've been in lately. Rarely do I read a book this big this quickly and when I do it means it's super immersive and totally worth your time.