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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Review: Elantris by Brandon Sanderson

"Remember, the past need not become our future as well."
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Mass Market Paperback: 656 pages
Publisher: Tor Fantasy (2005)
Format: Hardcover, Paperback, Ebook

       Elantris is a hard novel to review; it is filled to the brim with all of the things that I love about Brandon Sanderon’s work, the riveting premise, creative magic system, and compelling characters. The issue is that Elantris also has all of the things I hate about Sanderson’s work: the choppy writing and what I call a Sanderson ending (more on that later). 

     There was once a beautiful city known as Elantris, a city of power, grace and beauty. More importantly, the city contained beings known as Elantrians. Elantrian’s beauty could not be described in simple terms. Maybe it was their ivory-white hair or the way their skin glowed when night fell. The true wonder of Elantris, was that anybody could become a Elantrian. The Shaod it was called, striking in the middle of the night and turning whomever it wanted into a living god. Sadly, like all good things, Elantris prosperity did not last. For some reason, the shaod became a curse, turning people into living corpse with dark patches, and weakened muscles. Raoden,prince of the nearby city Kae, is taken by the Shaod and is forced into the squalid remains of Elantris. While this occurred, his wife Sarene tries to negate the advancement of the religious empire of Fjordell.

     One of the more notable things about Elantris, and the rest of Sanderson’s work, is the interesting magic system he creates. AonDor, which can only be used by Elantrians, was activated by using their fingers to trace certain images in the air. Though you don’t get to see much of the magic system until much later in the novel, it is interesting, although overpowered, once it arrives.

     I personally enjoyed most of the characters in Elantris. Raoden was a bit too much of a optimist for my taste, but he was characterized correctly. Sarene was a breath of fresh air because of her intelligence and cunning which is severely lacking in most female characters. My personal favorite character was the Fjorden priest, Hrathen. Hrathen was interesting because of his logical approach to religion and how he teeters on the edge of anti-hero and villain throughout the novel.  The side characters in Elantris are fairly interesting, but are not fleshed out correctly because of a large influx of information towards the end of the novel that leads to many unanswered questions.

      A Sanderson ending is kind of like a Michael Bay film, it is filled with pure and thrilling action, but there is enough plot holes to make a piece of Swiss cheese jealous. For example, a character is introduced early in the novel that can count the number of steps to a certain location. Raoden needs to teleport to a far off land, but cannot because he doesn’t know the exact location. Luckily, the aforementioned step counter knows the exact distance so Raoden can teleport. The last 150 pages of Elantris are plagued by examples of this.

     Though it may seem I am very harsh on this novel, it is because I have seen how Sanderson has improved since this novel. All in all, Elantris deserves to be read because of its interesting premise, magic system and well developed characters. 

Elantris review score: 33/50

World Building- 6/10
Writing- 5/10


TylerHughes said...

"you don’t get to see much of the magic system until much later in the novel, it is interesting, although overpowered, once it arrives" how can magic NOT be overpowered? I think in all books that use magic, the only limiting factor in the use of magic is stamina and knowledge of how to perform the magic. What do you mean by over-powered i mean?

CameronHarris1 said...

overpowered in the sense that the opposition does not have the magic so the good guys are overpowered. A better example would be how the jedi are overpowered compared compared to clone troopers, but not compared to other jedi

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