Reviews

Elantris, by Brandon Sanderson

ladydewinter's review

Go to review page

4.0

Elantris used to be the most beautiful city in the world, and the people who lived there were gods - until ten years ago, when something mysterious happened. Now the people who live in Elantris are cursed, not alive and not dead, perpetually hungry and in pain. When Crown Prince Raoden of Arelon becomes one of them, he is the first to refuse to simply surrender, and he does his best to change things for the better. On the outside, he is considered dead - in fact, no one knows he is in Elantris. When Princess Sarene arrives in Kae, the new capital of Arelon now that Elantris has fallen, in order to marry Raoden, she learns he is dead - but because of their marriage contract she is now considered a widow and daughter of the king. Sarene, a well-versed diplomat, proceeds to meddle in Kae's politics, especially when Hrathen arrives, a Fjordell high priest who has come to Arelon to convert its people to his faith -by force if necessary. So you have a mysterious city with people battling for their survival, lots of political intrigue and a tale of religious fanaticism.

There are a lot of things I really liked about this book, even loved. Some things really bothered me, however, and I am going to start with those.

First of all, the lack of cishet characters. The more books I read that actually reflect the diversity in our world, the more I get frustrated with books that don't do that. (And these books are typically written by white men, let's be real.) The one man who isn't masculine is derided by Sarene and her friends (who are all male, because Sarene isn't a Typical Woman, and all women in that country are apparently unable to look past that.) Femininity seems to be synonymous with weakness in this world. (And no, the fighting women don't really count - because they fight despite being feminine and still make a big deal about feminine appearances). Which brings me to my second point, gender roles. Yes, Sarene isn't weak - but then she is Not Like All The Other Girls - except when it comes to the point that she, too, needs a husband to feel valid. Her "every girl just wants to get married" comment made me actually angry. (I don't oppose female characters getting a partner, but the way her thoughts regarding marriage are repeated really bugged me.) And it's the little things, too, the way her parents' relationship is depicted - it couldn't be any more traditional. Now, why do I take issue with this? I just find it so frustrating when an author clearly has so much imagination, but when it comes to the things I mentioned above, that imagination is clearly limited. Now, at least the latter got a lot better in "The Way of Kings", so I am going to cut him some slack because it was his debut novel. I do wish there were more queer characters in his novels (since I have only read two of his so far feel free to correct me if there are any in his other books).

Anyway, what I really liked was basically every part of the plot that happened in Elantris. Especially the beginning was wonderfully creepy and disturbing. I also loved the way everyone's plans kept messing up each other's plans without meaning to. It was a bit frustrating at times, but that's it, isn't it? Maybe you could find a way to survive in a city like Elantris if all you have to do is fight the circumstances there, but if there are two more people who have different plans involving your city, things get messy.

The religious fanaticism plot isn't exactly subtle, but I could appreciate Hrathen and Dilaf's dynamic. I loved Sarene and her circle of friends (although why did it have to be just men?). I also liked Sarene and Raoden together.

The ending wasn't exactly surprising, but I did like how he tied it all together in the end. Overall, the story worked for me, but you can tell it's an earlier effort. Still, Sanderson not at his best is still better than a lot of other authors are, and I am glad I read it, despite my misgivings. The more I like an author, the more critical I can get, and that definitely is the case here.

One last thing: while I used the word "read" above I actually didn't read it, I listened to the audiobook version. And at least in my case I think that is the only way for me to consume that kind of novel. There were a few passages where I know I would have lost interest if I had been reading; something that often happens in fantasy novels for me. Audiobooks are ideal because it doesn't bother me as much if I am not 100% interested, and overall I am glad I listened to this. And Detlef Bierstedt, the German narrator of Sanderson's books, is amazing.

xphilphil's review against another edition

Go to review page

adventurous medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

4.0

brandur's review

Go to review page

2.0

Brandon Sanderson's first novel detailing the political intrigue surrounding a country that was foremost in the entire world until the unexpected collapse of their crown city. The story has many great ideas and absolutely fearful villains, but it isn't quite enough to save it from two lead characters who are too flawless to be relatable. Prose is generally a little contrived with filler dispersed throughout for the purpose of fleshing it out to 600 pages.

rattyratigan's review

Go to review page

3.0

The world building and writing style were fantastic. However, most of the characters were a little too stereotypical for me personally (though the savior's character was probably the most interesting/dynamic overall).

majaingrid's review against another edition

Go to review page

3.0

Not sure if I want to rate it 2 stars or 3 stars, but will put it at 3 so long because 2 feels a bit too harsh....

This is the second book by Sanderson I've read, the other one being The Rithmatist, which I wasn't the hugest fan of. Wasn't a huge fan of Elantris either. It wasn't that bad but not that good, but in overall a bit boring and I found myself not caring much about the characters or about the plot.

publius's review

Go to review page

3.0

The city of Elantris is peopled by beings of wondrous powers, god-like in their beauty, power, and magic. Their touch could heal, turn dirt to gold, and turn stone into bread. That was ten years ago.

Now, the city is fallen and in decay, it's inhabitants are decrepit outcasts. The world is threatened by a powerful enemy, the last allies are gathering, but with each failed effort, the threat seems to grow greater. As bad as it seems, however, the threat is hidden and closer than it appears.

A stand alone fantasy, Elantris takes a while to build. In Sanderson's style, however, and he takes the time to create depth, develop characters, and introduce the roots of a conflict that will not be resolved until the last pages of the book. Resolution in Sanderson's style the revelation of a mystery behind the conflict, and Sanderson hints at the mystery through out the story. Because of the mystery, the plot is more satisfying, the story more enjoyable. More than just enjoying a story, the reader guesses at the clues along with the protagonists.

In addition to a clever and well developed plot, Sanderson creates characters that are interesting and believable, not to mention colorful and diverse. His plots and characters live in a world of struggling religions, and though the names and doctrines are not the same, the conflicts between them are not unlike those in ours. All together, the world has a depth that brings it out of the flat pages of a book and give it depth and texture.

One last thought: one thing I liked most about this is that the characters were not black and white. Not all the characters were good and not all were evil, but even those who seemed on the antagonistic end of things was redeemable in the end. In our real world, people are rarely black and white, and I appreciated that Sanderson gives his characters the same depth.

I recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a good fantasy read.

jwest12's review

Go to review page

4.0

Elantris is definitely a slower story compared to most of the other Cosmere books. There really aren’t any big action scenes like in Mistborn or Stormlight. It’s really just a story about a boy put in the worst situation and trying to make it better for everyone around him. It’s a really good story with a really cool magic system I hope we see more of soon.

kathleenmc's review

Go to review page

3.75

Yet another interesting addition to my Cosmere read-through. You can tell this is Sanderson's first work. It's not bad per se but I feel his narrative voice and handling of complex plots has certainly solidified with time. In a way, I feel like the dynamic between Sarene, Raoden, and Hrathen's narratives is like an early version of Shallan, Kaladin, and Szeth's chapters in the Stormlight Archives. Does that make sense?

 
Spoiler I feel like Hrathen got WAY to much credit for doing one good thing at the end of his life. This man almost single-handedly brought down the governments of multiple countries. Just because he realized it was bad like an hour before he died doesn't make up for that, and I don't think it's fair to the people of Eralon or Duladel that Sarene declares him ultimately good at the end.
 

evieburrows's review against another edition

Go to review page

adventurous dark slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

5.0

silas_rnold's review

Go to review page

4.0

“One cannot separate truth from actions...Physically inevitable or not, truth stands above all things. It is independent of who has the best army, who can deliver the longest sermons, or even who has the most priests. It can be pushed down, but it will always surface. Truth is the one thing you can never intimidate.” - Brandon Sanderson, Elantris

In the fallen city of Elantris, people are not who they were before. Elantris hosts people who should have died from injury, hunger, dehydration, or anything else you care to name, but they don't die. They feel every hurt, but without the promise of death approaching.

Raoden, Sarene, and Hrathen are all tied to the fate of Elantris. Cycling through these characters in a somewhat untraditional way for epic fantasy, Sanderson lets us know about them more than giving us worldbuilding and battles to keep us interested. It reminded me a lot of The Blade Itself for its complete focus on character over plot and getting to know and appreciate the characters, even if they aren't great people.

The only other Sanderson I've read is Mistborn Era I, and this feels "younger" than that in terms of tone, pacing, and the mix of character with the plot. I'd still call this a good read. It feels like a solid jumping-off point than anything to make you ravenous for the next title. Nevertheless, I understand why it sells so consistently and is given as the gateway to Sanderson.