Archive for March, 2013

#15 Elantris – Brandon Sanderson

Elantris UK

Recently (as in the last two months kind of recently), I’ve been reading Brandon Sanderson novels. I picked up Warbreaker a couple of months ago when it was on offer in Waterstones, and actually really enjoyed it. Both Warbreaker and Elantris are stand-alone novels, though I actually wish there were, if not sequels, then at least other novels set in the same ‘verse. Post Warbreaker, my mother and I both bought the three Mistborn books between us and devoured them pretty quickly. There’s a fourth Mistborn book already published (though not related to the characters from the original trilogy) and a fifth apparently in the pipelines. However, the Mistborn series isn’t my main focus today.

Elantris is a beautifully written book. I actually have very few qualms with it for once. The lore of the universe Sanderson has created is, for the most part, in-depth and detailed. It’s easy to read parallels with cultures of our own world in some aspects too, which doesn’t alienate a reader entirely by thrusting them into a world so strange and different from their own. Perhaps more could have been written about the religious sects, particularly the Derethi, though this would have been detrimental to the pacing of the book. The pacing of the novel itself is actually one of my biggest faults with Elantris, and this stems from the fact that it feels almost too well-paced. It is a little slow throughout the main body of the text, but during the last few chapters it seems to speed up significantly – again, almost too much. Elantris draws to a rapid-fire ending, covering the basics but not really lingering on details or the poignant emotional culminations of the events of the novel.

The magic of the world of Elantris is probably one of the most beautiful things about this creation; it is logical, it is intricate but understandable, it has its limits… Though Elantrians are talented in their magical art, they are not invulnerable or unlimited. The mystical Aons are incorporated throughout the book, and one wonders of the significance of each chapter being titled with a specific Aon (given more time, I hope to go back through and compare the meaning of the Aons with the events in each chapter). Admittedly, there is no explanation behind the existence of Aonic power, or how it came to be, but such things aren’t of utmost importance within the book; the reader is more concerned with the livelihood of their unfortunate Prince and the Princess who should have been his wife.

It has to be noted that Sanderson writes his female protagonists particularly well; they don’t entirely depend on their male counterparts, their focus is not on finding love (though they always struggle to balance their relationships with their duties because they cannot seem to find a balance between the two). The women are strong and they act with the best interests of the many, rather than themselves or those within their immediate circle. It is refreshing to see female characters who don’t simply fall at the ‘hero’s’ feet, simpering and swooning.

Elantris (2005) was Sanderson’s first novel and, despite the few faults I have picked out above, his writing has improved greatly since then. Taking into consideration the Mistborn series, the pacing of the novels can hardly be faulted. He crafts his fantasy worlds with the utmost care and precision; what is left outside of the reader’s knowledge has no place there anyway. Mysteries in the books that the characters are attempting to solve can also be followed easily by the reader – there is no exclusion, and sometimes there is even the satisfaction of working out the truth before the protagonist realises it themselves.

Brandon Sanderson’s work is definitely worth a read if you enjoy fantasy/high-fantasy that’s a little easier to swallow than Tolkien, but less tongue-in-cheek than Pratchett.