Saturday, February 15, 2014

Elantris, by Brandon Sanderson

Elantris, by Brandon Sanderson

I like Sanderson so much I might have to finally get around to reading the end of the Wheel of Time series. When Robert Jordan died Sanderson was hand-picked by Jordan's family to write the last book (which turned into the last three books) of the epic, but I never did get around to reading them. Sanderson is an engaging author, showing such a talent for dialog, plot, and characterization that even though I haven't had good luck with posthumous stories I think I'll give The Gathering Storm a chance. None of which has anything to do with Elantris other than my fanboy ravings, of course.

Elantris follows three main characters; Raoden, a prince afflicted with a magical disease, Sarene, a political whirlwind determined to save a country, and Hrathen, a priest determined to convert the world to his religion. All three are fully fleshed out characters, but Hrathen was my favorite despite being the villain of the piece. I really enjoyed Sanderson's approach to religion here, depicting Hrathen as being a zealot with a lack of faith. Hrathen is motivated by the mental challenge of converting an unwilling populate to his religion, but without the mindless zeal and fervor of his peers. Priests and monks are normally depicted as either heroic and perfect or wild-eyed and cruel in fantasies (true here as well other than Hrathen); seeing a thoughtful friar facing a crisis of faith made for a refreshing change.

As with his other books, the system of magic Sanderson creates in Elantris is unique. AorDor is a power that allows its practitioners to sketch symbols in the air that can heal, transport, and create illusions among other things. The twist here is that the magic is broken somehow, and Raoden's quest to figure out why drives a third of the novel. Towards the end Raoden gains a deep understanding and starts to realize there may be many other forms of magic that can channel the underlying power of AorDor, which alludes to the overarching universe Sanderson is creating that houses all of his books called the Cosmere. I hope this growing awareness of an inhabitant of this ecosystem points at stronger contacts between worlds in the future and more hints towards the mysterious backstory linking it all together.

Fantastic effort, and I look forward the inevitable sequels.

First Sentence:
Prince Raoden of Arelon awoke early that morning, completely unaware that he had been damned for all eternity.

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