“Elantris” by Brandon Sanderson

“Elantris” by Brandon SandersonElantris by Brandon Sanderson
Published: 2006 by Tor
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 638
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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I finished this book about a week ago, but I’ve been pretty busy and hadn’t gotten around to writing a review for it yet.  I decided it’s time to take a few minutes to procrastinate, because this book was awesome and I want to talk about it.

“Elantris” is a standalone fantasy novel by Brandon Sanderson.  I started reading it because I love Sanderson’s writing and to distract myself from the urge to read ahead with Mistborn.

The city of Elantris was once a pinnacle of greatness.  Random individuals from the kingdom of Arelon would wake up to find themselves transformed into Elantrians, white-haired god-like beings who could harness the power of the Aons and achieve near-immortality.  However, ten years before the book takes place place, Elantris was cursed.  Now the people of Arelon sometimes wake up turned into leprous zombie-creatures and are cast into the decaying remnants of Elantris to rot.

The story focuses on three major characters.  Raoden was the heir to the throne of Arelon, until he woke up one morning as an Elantrian zombie.  He is cast into Elantris and tries to make the most of his situation, uniting the street gangs and trying to instill hope for the first time since Elantris’ fall.  Raoden is determined to figure out the secrets of the Aons and to restore Elantris to its former glory.

Sarene is a princess from a neighboring country who was betrothed to Raoden.  She traveled to her wedding to find that Raoden had died (because nobody would tell her he was a zombie), but the betrothal contract was worded in such a way that she would technically be married to him if he died so that the political union between the two countries would be preserved.  Sarene finds it hard to adjust to life in Arelon, especially because women aren’t taken seriously there, but finds herself playing an increasingly crucial role in preserving Arelon’s future.

The third major character, Hrathen, could technically be considered a villain.  He is a priest/warrior-monk who has been sent to convert Arelon to the Fjordell religion.  If Arelon isn’t converted within three months, his superiors will destroy it.  However, conversion to the Fjordell religion would mean a loss of Arelon’s autonomy, as the religion is based on hierarchy and obedience.  I thought that it was a very interesting choice to use a villain as a major protagonist.  It definitely made the book more interesting, especially as we came to understand Hrathen’s motives and his own misgivings.

As per usual, Brandon Sanderson creates a scientific system of magic that takes its form through natural processes.  I’m not going to get into how the magic works because that would be a major spoiler;  suffice to say that certain rules must be obeyed or it won’t work.  Magic is treated like something that isn’t so much supernatural as a part of the world that isn’t fully understood.

I knew that Sanderson’s works are all interrelated, but I was a bit surprised whenever Hoid turned up!  I had first encountered this particular character while reading “The Way of Kings.”  After browsing around a bit on the internet, I read that Sanderson’s books are all set within the same universe called the Cosmere, but on different planets.  Hoid is one of the characters who is able to travel between worlds, hence the fact that he keeps showing up in different Sanderson novels.  It makes me want to read more, as well as to go back to “Way of Kings” and see if there are any more clues about him.

“Elantris” was a fun and well-written tale of magic, politics, and zombie society.  I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a unique fantasy read, especially as it’s a single book rather than a part of a series.


“Elantris” won the Romantic Times award for best epic fantasy of 2005, so I’m including it in the Award Winning Books Challenge.  It also counts toward the Once Upon a Time Challenge and the Speculative Fiction Challenge.

24 thoughts on ““Elantris” by Brandon Sanderson

  1. When I heard that Sanderson was picked to finish The Wheel of Time I went out and bought Elantris. Halfway through the book I was sold on him as a writer and went out and bought the Mistborn trilogy (which is also fantastic, as you’re finding out). He is a wonderful writer who really understands how people work.

    Hrathen is fantastic in this book, and he really has one of the best conflicts that I’ve seen in any book. One of the best parts in this book is when Hrathen and the other priest (I can’t remember his name offhand) are discussing religion and Hrathen’s faith. It really rounds out Hrathen as a character and shows a lot about Sanderson that he is willing to go into a deep topic and explore it from every side imaginable.

    I don’t remember where Hoid shows up in this book, but I know where he is in Way of Kings as well as Warbreaker and Mistborn, it’s kind of neat to think about how all of his books are interrelated.

    1. Hoid popped up near the end and was used to deliver some weapons. It was a relatively minor role compared to WoK, but still neat to see him. I also just got to the point in Mistborn where he popped up.

      I didn’t care for Hrathen at all at first, but then he just got so damn interesting, especially as he began to realize that he was the one being manipulated… I didn’t expect his character to turn out that way at all, and it was really neat to see how the Fjorell threat was looming over Arelon even when the other protagonists couldn’t see it coming.

  2. Thanks for your review. I just got a notice from my local public library that I can pick up The way of kings. Other books by Sanderson don’t seem to be available through the library. I’ll have to buy them on Kobo or paperback. I finished Mistborn last weekend. It’s a real page turner, I just couldn’t put it down. So I am a bit concerned the same thing may happen with other books by Sanderson and it will interfere with important aspects of my life – like work and my fiction writing course.

    1. Haha, I know the feeling… I couldn’t put down Elantris for the last two hundred pages, which meant that I was a bit delirious the next morning, lol. Way of Kings is such a great book. I hope you enjoy it! Oh, and if you are at all interested in Warbreaker (which I haven’t read yet), Sanderson has a .pdf of it for free on his website. I’m waiting to start that one till after the end of the semester because I know I won’t be able to put it down.

  3. This sounds good. I downloaded Mistborn but now I think this would be a better starting point. I’m normally not a series fan at all.
    Interesting that he reuses characters. I’m not sure I like it though.

    1. This is his first novel, so it’s interesting to see how he progressed as a writer. Once I read one of Sanderson’s books I came to the conclusion that I have to read all of them.

  4. Ah you are killing me. I have so many books on my TBR and then you introduce a new Sanderson…Sounds good. Next time I’m in a used book shop I’ll keep an eye out. I’m pretty excited that they are connected.

  5. I read this last year and enjoyed it so much. It is a really fun book to read and just plain enjoyable. I’m reading Mistborn now – and I find myself completely trusting Sanderson as a writer. I love that when you can just relax into a book that way.

    1. I’m about halfway through Mistborn and loving it. A bunch of us are doing it as a groupread (and you’re welcome to join), and we’ve had some great discussions about it thus far. Sanderson is interesting because he’s both a good writer and a good storyteller. I find it very difficult to put his books down. 🙂

  6. Great stuff. The more your read, the deeper you’ll get into the Hoid mystery. Makes you wonder about the epic story Sanderson is telling. Like he’s doing an epic-epic story or something.

    Glad you enjoyed the book. I read it after I finished the Mistborn Trilogy. It wasn’t as good as Mistborn, in my opinion, but it was still pretty cool. Next you’ll be checking out Warbreaker.

    1. I really want to go back to Way of Kings now and see if there are any clues as to Hoid’s role in the universe at large. Sanderson needs to write the second Stormlight Archive novel soon!

  7. Another beautiful review, Grace! I am so glad you joined the Reading Challenge, otherwise I would never have known about Brandon Sanderson’s works and now my interest is just piqued! I should find at least one of Sanderson’s books and readreadread. My husband and I are fascinated with the tv series The Walking Dead, I was thinking that this would be a good companion book as we await the next season.

    1. It’s a great challenge, and I think it’s working really well with my plans to read more sci-fi and fantasy. I’m discovering books that I wouldn’t have otherwise noticed while looking at different book awards, and my TBR list is rapidly expanding! 🙂

  8. Now you have made me want to go back and re-read Way of Kings! I am not that far into Elantris, but am enjoying the hell out of it! I love how Sanderson trapped me into a zombie book before I even knew it.

  9. I adore Elantris like whoa. 🙂 I didn’t have nearly as good a time with the first Mistborn book, but I might go after The Way of Kings if there’s interconnectedness to be had!

    1. I love the interconnectedness, and it was something that I didn’t expect to see. It makes me want to read everything that Sanderson ever wrote just to find clues about how everything fits together.

      “The Way of Kings” was an awesome book. I read it as a part of a readalong last summer and loved it. It’s very long, which looks a bit intimidating, but once you start it it’s hard to put down.

  10. OMG a standalone novel – even without your review waxing lyrical about the brilliance of Sanderson, and even without enjoying his brilliant Mistborn book – I think that would be enough to tempt me! It’s virtually unheard of! (a standalone! *shakes head in stunned disbelief*) (What is the world coming to. Next thing you know there’ll be no love triangles in YA fiction) 😀

    1. Haha, standalone novels are quite rare in fantasy. 🙂

      I might have to pick up “Warbreaker” after finals because I’m already going through Sanderson withdrawal.

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