43. Elantris by Brandon Sanderson. 492 p. Published May 2005.
Having read Sanderson’s latest works (The Mistborn Series), I really wanted to read his first published foray into fantasy.
Elantris is a city like no other: majestic buildings dwarf any other structure while its citizens use their magic to benefit all the people of the land. The few selected by the mysterious Shoad are transformed into Elantrians, moving to the city and sharing in the godlike splendor of its majesty. But 10 years ago Elantris fell, struck down by a change in the Shoad. The city and people alike are transformed into horrible shadows of their past, and the people rise up in fear to overthrow their fallen gods.
Now Kae, Arelon’s new capital, sits in the shadow of Elantris’s massive walls. Led by it’s merchant king, Kae hopes to prosper while managing their shameful past. Those few still struck by the Shoad become the walking dead, with hearts gone silent and flesh turning gray, and are quietly and quickly quarantined in the ruins of Elantris.
Yet the Shoad has taken someone the people cannot afford to lose – Crown Prince Raoden. Now ‘dead’, the prince is severed from the world, the people believing his sudden demise the sad effect of sudden illness. And Princess Sarene, coming across the sea from Toed, finds that her political marriage to Raoden has turned her into a widow before the wedding had even commenced.
Both Raoden and Sarene are consumed by their new missions. Raoden must come to terms with his new life of pain and savage hunger. Sarene must prepare Arelon for the coming war, for the church of Fjordell has finally grow powerful enough to make a move on Arelon and Toed. As Raoden comes to grips with his existence and seeks to change Elantris for the better, Sarene entangles herself with layers of political intrigue in an effort to outdo Hrathen, a Fjordell priest come to convert Arelon. As the story progresses, the twisting fates of these three protagonists weave together to cast an intricate destiny for Elantris, Arelon, and the world at large.
As with Mistborn, Sanderson has developed a world both beautiful and sad. As the loss of Elantris and its wonders overshadow all their actions, the characters of Elantris dance majestically to his hypnotic prose. Even the side characters, some of which only appear for a few pages, are so intricate and deep, that the reader is helplessly enveloped in Sanderson’s vision.
Honestly, Elantris has it all – touching character development, suspenseful plot, and magnificent detail. Coupled with a bracing ending that still leaves plenty of room for a sequel, this novel heralds the arrival of a truly great author.
Rating: 5 out of 5