Monday, January 09, 2006

Book Review

One of the best books I read in 2005 was Elantris by Brandon Sanderson. A high fantasy, it avoids many cliches that plague the genre today, such as being set in a medieval society.

The book centers on the city of Elantris that was once great and whose inhabitants were worshiped like gods. However, whatever gave the Elantrans their power ceased to work some ten years before the story unfolds, so that to become an Elantrian was to be cursed rather than blessed. The story follows Raoden, prince of the neighboring city of Kae, as he awakes one morning to find himself an Elantrian. He is thrown into the city where he must fight to keep his sanity and eventually make friends and allies. The story is also about Raoden's fiancée Sarene who arrives in Kae a week before her wedding only to find that her betrothed is considered dead. Sarene sticks around and her talent for getting herself into political situations makes her an enemy: Hrathen, the leader of a dangerous religious sect that seeks to impose their ways upon the people of Kae. Can bloodshed be avoided? Will Raoden find a cure to whatever is causing the Elantrians to be sick?

The book’s set up rather interesting; the viewpoint character alternatively rotates every chapter so that we start off with Raoden’s viewpoint, then Sarene’s, then Hrathen’s, and then back to Raoden’s.

Sanderson has interesting things to say about welfare, euthanasia, and religious fundamentalism. I also appreciated that characters’ motivations were well-explained. Sanderson isn't afraid to show is that things aren't necassarily as they seem, so this was very important.

The book is isn’t perfect; there were a few times when it seemed like things fell in to place a little too easily, and also there was one character's viewpoint that I didn't enjoy as much, so when the viewpoint rotation would get back to them I would inwardly sigh. However, those flaws do not stop the book from being both important and highly entertaining. This is Sanderson’s debut novel and I look forward to his future works.

Sanderson has a website packed with information and resources about Elantris, including commentary of every chapter (and more) of Elantris. Check it out here.


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