Elantris | Review
Rating - ⭐⭐⭐1/2
"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."
Elantris is the first book in Elantris, a fantasy series by Brandon Sanderson.
I have been putting off reading this for a while now because I am using this book as the entry point into the Cosmere, and the Cosmere intimidates me. If you are new to Brandon Sander, the Cosmere is a shared universe that consists of several series, including popular titles like the Mistborn series and The Stormlight Archive.
So, needless to say, there are a lot of books to get through, but I finally decided to commit to it and here I am. I was unsure whether or not this is the right entry point since many recommend Mistborn instead. Having now finished the book, I think it was indeed the right spot for me, and that is because this was only just an okay book.
Let's get into the details.
Descriptions were a bit repetitive at times, reiterating things that were already stated only a paragraph ago. Other than that though the writing was fine. I liked that the paragraphs were on the shorter side so that I didn't get overwhelmed with descriptions.
This story didn't end up blowing my mind by any means, but there were concepts that I thought were intriguing. There are multiple plotlines told from three perspectives, and I ended up preferring one more than the others.
While the plotlines did end up coming together rather seamlessly, what intrigued me the most was Raoden's subplot. I found Raoden's journey to rebuild the fallen Elantris while simultaneously rediscovering it to be the most interesting aspect of the story. That being said, I did wish it focused more on that because I wanted to know more about Elantris.
As for the plot point that was a major focus of the story, I am talking about the religious conversion and invasion of Arelon by the Fjorden. I am not a fan of religious extremism in books, no matter how the book is, so that is a bit reason why I didn't enjoy this as much as I could have. There is also a lot of political intrigue in this which is a hit or miss for me.
While the overall story was fine, it did get a bit dicey as it reached its climax. I wasn't too crazy about the direction it took, and I felt like it happened a bit too suddenly. The story thus far was more slowly paced, and then suddenly towards the end it was kicked into overdrive and everything was chaotic. The resolution was also a bit obvious because there was only really one way things were going to be resolved.
I said earlier on in the last section that I wanted to know more about Elantris because I found that to be the most intriguing aspect of the story. As you go on in the story more about Elantris is revealed, but I wanted the author to dig a bit deeper. Maybe more will be revealed in other installments, but for now, it was a bit disappointing. It was also a shame that we only get to see the remnants of Elantris and its people, rather than trying to incorporate more of the city in its prime into the story.
As I have also already stated, there is a big part of this world that I wasn't a big fan of which was religion. That is especially because whenever religion is included in a book, for the most part, it is also used as an excuse to pursue a wrongful agenda. While this does hit the mark for how religion was used historically in terms of forced conversion, I still don't like reading about it.
As for the magic system, well, it wasn't the most complex or prominent one. I liked how at the end of the book there were a couple of pages with drawings describing the different Aon's. While it worked well enough for a first book, I would have liked for it to be more, well, more.
We predominantly follow three characters in this story, whom we each get a perspective from. Raoden, the Prince of Kae, was the best out of the three, probably because I generally enjoyed his subplot the most. Hrathen was frustrating to read from due to his motivations, but his character arc was done well.
Sarene, on the other hand, I wasn't the biggest fan of. I liked her subplot the least, and I found her character to be lacking. As someone who is tall, I appreciate a female character who is also tall, but I don't know how much I like that being a defining feature of hers. It just took up too much of her personality and how people viewed her that it took away from her character.
Her motivations, especially compared to Raoden and Hrathen who were more fleshed out, were not explained very well. She is more of an altruistic kind of character, but I don't get why she is so determined to help Elantris and Kae. We just didn't get enough of a backstory to fully flesh out her personality and motivations. She is described as tall and assertive...and that's pretty much all her character is.
I think starting off with his first book worked out for me because it can only go up from here. There were just elements in here that I personally don't like which resulted in me enjoying myself well enough, but not enough to rate it above 3.5 stars.