In 2019 I discovered Brandon Sanderson when I read Skyward and completely loved it!
I discussed with my bestie – Georgi, and we decided that in 2020 we would buddy read the Cosmere series starting with Elantris.
This is my review for Elantris.
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Publication date: May 2005
Genre: High Fantasy
My rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Elantris was the capital of Arelon: gigantic, beautiful, literally radiant, filled with benevolent beings who used their powerful magical abilities for the benefit of all. Yet each of these demigods was once an ordinary person until touched by the mysterious transforming power of the Shaod. Ten years ago, without warning, the magic failed. Elantrians became wizened, leper-like, powerless creatures, and Elantris itself dark, filthy, and crumbling.
Arelon’s new capital, Kae, crouches in the shadow of Elantris. Princess Sarene of Teod arrives for a marriage of state with Crown Prince Raoden, hoping — based on their correspondence — to also find love. She finds instead that Raoden has died and she is considered his widow. Both Teod and Arelon are under threat as the last remaining holdouts against the imperial ambitions of the ruthless religious fanatics of Fjordell. So Sarene decides to use her new status to counter the machinations of Hrathen, a Fjordell high priest who has come to Kae to convert Arelon and claim it for his emperor and his god.
But neither Sarene nor Hrathen suspect the truth about Prince Raoden. Stricken by the same curse that ruined Elantris, Raoden was secretly exiled by his father to the dark city. His struggle to help the wretches trapped there begins a series of events that will bring hope to Arelon, and perhaps reveal the secret of Elantris itself.
Towards the end of 2019 I read Skyward which was my first ever Brandon Sanderson book and I fell so in love with it I decided to try out his Cosmere series in 2020 along with my best friend, Georgi. We made a deal to buddy read them all starting with Elantris then moving on to the original Mistborn trilogy.
Elantris is one of the most unique, original and completely gripping books I’ve ever read. I can’t for the life of me understand why I waited so long to pick up a Sanderson book and I honestly cannot wait to start The Final Empire.
‘Elantris was beautiful, once. It was called the city of the gods: a place of power, radiance, and magic.’
Elantris starts with a completely gripping prologue – infact, I had to tab the very first 2 sentences because they instantly drew me in. In the prologue we learn that Elantris was once a beautiful city home to power and the most stunning buildings, until 10 years ago when it lost all of its power and beauty and became home to those taken by the Shaod – a curse which falls randomly upon the citizens of Arelon.
> In the first chapter after the prologue we see the beloved Prince Raoden get taken by the Shaod and exiled to the city of Elantris. Raoden is one of our main characters, due to be married to Princess Sarene just before the curse takes him. Raoden goes into Elantris and after seeing how feral and animal like everyone behaves, he decides to try and make it a better place with the help of his Dula friend, Galladon. I really loved Raoden’s chapters and the insight they gave into life in Elantris.
> Then we meet our second main character, Princess Sarene. Princess Sarene is witty and perhaps one of the strongest female characters I’ve ever read about. She agreed to marry Prince Raoden purely for political reasons but when she arrives in the city to find out he has died, she believes he was murdered. No one told her he was taken by the Shaod.
> And lastly, our third main character and the character I disliked the most – Hrathen. Hrathen is a high priest and is on a mission to try and get everyone to convert to a new faith by any means necessary.
Usually when there are multiple POV’s, unless indicated, I struggle to decipher who’s chapter I’m reading but I had no trouble with this book. Each of the 3 main characters had their own voices which I really appreciate, especially in a fantasy as long as this one. I never got bored even though I found some of Hrathen’s chapters to be a little slow, they were still highly intriguing for me.
‘I have often found that no matter the circumstance, it is most useful to be oneself. The more faces we try to wear, the more confused the become.’
I will say that the majority of this book is centred heavily around politics and religion and whilst I don’t usually like political fantasy, I fell head over heels in love with this one. It was completely captivating and highly intriguing for me, I just couldn’t stop thinking about it.
For me, what made this book unique was the world building and also the magic system. I have heard that both of these are underwhelming in Elantris compared to his Mistborn trilogy but since this is the first book in the Cosmere that I’ve read, I cannot compare. But if that is the case, then I am definitely holding high expectations for the rest of the series!