The once shining city of Elantris, home to men worshiped as gods, has gone dark. With its light went the resources of Arelon. Ten years later after the holy city’s fall, Arelon’s prince disappears just as his bride arrives at port. Princess Sarene is left widowed and alone in the new capital city of Kae, which sits in the shadow of its predecessor. Also new to the kingdom is Hrathen, high priest of Shu-Dereth, tasked with converting the people of Arelon or condemning them to death. Will Hrathen fulfill his duties? Will Sarene make a home in a strange land? And what really happened to Prince Raoden?
Brandon Sanderson is probably most well known for his Mistborn series, but less known is this, his first published work. Elantris is stunning in its inventive worldbuilding, driven characters, and ever-twisting plot. While some parts are anticipated, the roads to those moments are filled with treachery, intrigue, and surprises around every turn, and even along the straightaways. Every twist caught me by surprise, even when I was positive of where the story was going. The characters are deep and complex in ways rarely seen, and all of this is contained in one book. This is not a series, though Sanderson has expressed interest in writing more of it and there is room for growth. This is, for the moment at least, a stand-alone fantasy novel. A unicorn of the literary world. Boy oh boy, does it live up to that standard.
Unsurprisingly, I came across this book via the internet. I was planning my book reviews for the year and I didn’t have space for another series, but I still wanted to fit in more fantasy, so I looked up stand-alone fantasy novels and pounced when I saw Elantris. I have a couple of The Stormlight Archives books in a digital format to read, but I always seem to get distracted by something else or I’m not ready to commit to a long series (as in big books, not many books, though it’s that also). My brother has read The Stormlight Archives as well as Mistborn and loved them, and my brother, mother and I are all Wheel of Time obsessed. I decided Elantris was my perfect gateway into Sanderson’s works, and immediately went to Barnes & Noble to hunt it down. Luckily for me, they had 10 copies. That’s pretty rare for a book at B&N, so I took it as another sign that I was making a wise decision.
The book started out slow for me, as I figured out how the world worked, but that’s pretty universal of good fantasy. The chapters in the second half were much shorter, and as the climax neared I began reading furiously, unable to read fast enough to keep up with my excitement, even as every new plot twist was revealed. Reading the last third of the book was rather like running down a trail as trees are falling to block your path and forcing you to leap over them, except every tree was a plot twist I had to digest before I could continue reading. It may be the most exhilarating book I have ever read. As I always say, it is extremely rare that I find a book I would like to read more than once. This is one that I just want to read over and over and over again. Definitely adding this to my list of all-time favorites.
HHC Rating: 5 Stars