It’s been ten years since I first read Elantris by Brandon Sanderson. Ten years since first being drawn into the world of Aons and the fallen who live in the once beautiful city of Elantris. This edition promised “10,000 words of bonus content”, so how could I pass it up?
In the Elantris timeline, it has been ten years since the city of Elantris fell. It used to be a shining city (literally) whose glorious inhabitants carried great power—the ability to do great magic with a simple sketch in the air with a finger. Now, the city is filled with people who have succumbed to the Shaod—the sudden change into an Elantrian—but the change is now a curse. Instead of turning into a shining, glorious person, they turn into half-dead corpses who have an insatiable hunger (though not for brains) and an inability to naturally heal.
One of the main characters, Raoden, finds himself changed one night, and he is banished to Elantris. There, the Elantrians find themselves bereft of the magic they once possessed, and no one knows why. Relegated to a meager existence within their fallen city, many of them die or are killed due to fear or simply giving up. But the Shaod keeps happening, and more and more people are sent to exile in Elantris.
Elantris was the first of many where Sanderson shared his ability to create totally unique magical systems that all had an internal logic that worked really well. Raoden refuses to give up and begins gathering like-minded individuals who want to make things better. I really enjoyed how Sanderson made this change in attitude gradual, even for those who were with Raoden from the beginning.
I also enjoyed how strong a character Sarene was. Set to be the bride of Raoden, she arrived in Arelon to find Raoden supposedly dead. Her actions as she works to make a place for herself are fascinating, especially with how she tries and succeeds in filling the void left by Raoden (to the surprise and annoyance of many). Her character gains a lot more depth as the novel progresses. I found Sarene to be my favorite character in Elantris.
Hrathen was also an interesting character, and demonstrates another of Sanderson’s great abilities in storytelling: knowing how to discuss and show religion without alienating his audience. We are shown Hrathen’s internal struggle as he tries to find his own faith in the religion to which he has devoted his entire life. As he does this, we are shown his thoughts and how he comes to terms with his beliefs and what to do about them. This is not a common ability among writers, but Sanderson really knows how to show this in a way accessible to anyone.
This edition of Elantris has a bunch of new material: new maps have been created by Isaac Stewart (they are really good maps, too), Dan Wells tells us a secret in the new foreword, Sanderson shares a scene or two which were removed from the final draft of the novel, and we get a special scene with Hoid. Be sure to read it.
After ten years, this book still holds up. I can see some refinement of Sanderson’s methods since this one was released, but the storytelling strength is still clearly visible in this book. As there are no real sequels yet (though The Emperor’s Soul is set on the same world), Elantris is a good novel to begin with in order to see what his writing is like. I highly recommend it.
Release Date: October 6, 2015 (USA)
Original Release Date: April 21, 2005
ISBNs: 0765383101 (9780765383105)
Publisher: Tor Books
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (occasional social drinking)
Violence: 3 (fisticuffs, some brutal and briefly-graphic violence, death, war)