Elantris by Brandon Sanderson ★★★★
Elantris hooked me as thoroughly as Mistborn did. I found myself with ink-stains on my fingers reading far into the night. Elantris follows the drama of a kingdom next to the ruined and fabled city of Elantris, which used to be so full of magic that it’s inhabitants were viewed as gods. After Elantis fell, ten years prior to the story, the kingdom of Arelon suffered constant upheaval and distress. In addition, Arelon remains one of only two kingdoms that have yet to be conquered by a militant religion that serves as a vehicle for empire building. The story starts off with the introduction of it’s three POV characters: Raoden, crown prince of Arelon and new-found Elantrian; Sarene, the politically minded princess and betrothed of Raoden; and Hrathen, a priest of the militant religion who has been sent to convert Arelon or else.
I quickly found that Raoden’s story-line was the most interesting to me, or at least in the beginning. He’s been thrown into a city inhabited by what are basically sentient zombies who can never heal and thus accumulate pain from every injury they suffer. Raoden has to deal with the threats of violence and insanity, and he persists in trying to craft an orderly world out of this madness. While the other characters story lines start out slow, Raoden’s promises action and excitement from the beginning. And his story delivers. I didn’t have any problems with Raoden’s story line, or at least until he began to interact with Sarene (more on that later).
I was bored for Sarene’s section. In the early chapters at least, her political maneuvering doesn’t seem to consist of much. She deals with the fully obnoxious king, makes allies with the nobility, goes to balls, teaches the other noble ladies to fence for some reason, tries to find out what happened to Raoden (which we already know) and aghasts over not having a man in her life. It is repeatedly stated that she’s too intelligent and outspoken to find a husband and that no one wants to marry her (luckily for her, she’s destined to end up with Raoden. It’s obvious from the beginning).
Before I get to Hrathen, I want to talk about Sarene and Raoden’s relationship. Okay, so I find out that two of the protagonists and a prince and a princess, who are engaged. And the prince is presumed dead. With all my reading of the fantasy genera, it is immediately obvious how this is going to turn out. They are going to end up together. It is a fact, and Elantris follows through. It’s insta-love at it’s worst. They haven’t even met each other before insta-love kicks in. They’ve only exchanged letter’s and talked to each other through these magical devices. Sarene thinks, “Oh, here’s someone who will finally love me! Yay, I’ve found what I’ve always wanted more than anything else – true love!” Raoden thinks, “Finally, here’s a woman who is strong and intelligent – not like all those other women!” Truly, he thinks that she’s different from all the other women. It would be hard to say if his comparison is accurate, because there aren’t many other female characters to compare her to.
“Well,” I think, “at least Raoden’s some sort of thinking zombie. At least that’s different. It doesn’t nearly make up for the “destined for each other” trope, but at least it’s something unusual.” SPOILER WARNING! (Of course, by the end of the book, the magic problem has been solved and Raoden is transformed into a godlike Elantrian. And in my opinion, shining is nearly as bad as sparkling. So, at the end of the book we have shining, magical Raoden saving Sarene. Once again, the magical “other” guy ends up with the ordinary girl. At least she isn’t in high school.) END OF SPOILER.
On to Hrathen. At the beginning of the book, I wasn’t that interested in his sections for many of the same reasons that I didn’t like Sarene’s (supposed political maneuvering disguising nothing much happening). But by the end, I think he was my favorite of the three POV characters. I enjoyed seeing him struggle to decide what to do, and I rejoiced when he made the decision to prevent further bloodshed at all costs.SPOILER WARNING! For some random reason he fell in love with Sarene before dying in the end. No, I don’t get why he fell in love with her either. He never even really spoke with her. I get the dying part – authors never seem to know what to do with an antagonist who switches sides. These types of characters tend to die frequently. END SPOILER.
And now that I’ve discussed what’s actually in the book, I’ll move on to talking about the cover. The one above is the main cover art for the US and the one that I have. It’s okay, I guess. It does the job, even if it doesn’t scream “READ ME!” like a really good cover does. In terms of other cover versions, I’m partial to this design:
The cover artist’s Sam Green, and he has a whole series of these type of cover arts for Sanderson’s books. I think they work best with the Mistborn series – the smoke effect goes well with the “mist” aspect of the books. I also like this foreign addition:
It’s not completely accurate to the books, but it does look pretty darn interesting.
Other notable cover art:
This last one might be my favorite, but I still like the green smoke and bloody bride versions. Any of these three would beat out the first one.