By Brandon Sanderson
Elantris was beautiful, once. It was called the city of the gods: a place of power, radiance, and magic. Visitors say that the very stones glowed with an inner light, and that the city contained wondrous arcane marvels. At night, Elantris shone like a great silvery fire, visible even from a great distance.
Yet, as magnificent as Elantris had been its inhabitants had been more so. Their hair a brilliant white, their skin an almost metallic silver, the Elantrians seemed to shine like the city itself. Legend claimed that they were blessed with great strength, insight, and speed. They could perform magics with a bare wave of the hand; men visited Elantris from all across Opelon to receive Elantrian healings, food, or wisdom. They were divinities.
And anyone could become one.
The Shaod, it was called. The Transformation. It struck randomly—usually at night, during the mysterious hours when life slowed to rest. The Shaod could take beggar, craftsman, nobleman, or warrior. When it came, the fortunate person’s life ended and began anew; he would discard his old, mundane existence and move to Elantris. Elantris, where he could live in bliss, rule in wisdom, and be worshiped for eternity.
Eternity ended ten years ago.
It has been a long time since I have been so all-consumed with a book. This was amazing writing and world-crafting. I really liked Mistborn and thought it was fantastic and inventive, but Elantris just came at me from every angle and had me from the very first line. I was floored by the concept and even more so by the in-depth characters that became complex and incredibly real. I was so invested in certain characters that (no exaggeration) I was in the throes of anxiety about whether they would survive. I had moments where I was so afraid of their demise that I would just stare at the cover and cringe, not wanting to read in case the worst happened, but ultimately I had to keep reading because I loved the world and people too much to stop! I was sick, I was ecstatic, I was teary, I was exultant, and that was just in the first half of the book! Raoden was amazing, not because he was a warrior or prince, but because of his endless optimism and courage. Sarene was the most amazing female character I have EVER read, because she is intelligent and witty, forceful and yet still feminine. She is a woman. Not a stereotype. Holy cow Brandon Sanderson, I love you for writing Sarene so well. Hrathen I can’t even begin to explain my feelings about, he is so complex and interesting. These are the three main characters, but each character that is introduced is so well fleshed out and individual that you just know that they’re real. Nobody is left feeling like a ‘filler’ character. That in itself is astounding. I cannot say enough good about this novel, I’ve already read it twice since discovering it a few months ago and it’s one of those transporting reads that just leaves you feeling good and like you were there with them every step of the way. This book, for me personally, hit every mark perfectly with precision and innovation. It just makes me happy to go to Arelon, like it makes me happy to go to Middle Earth or Hogwarts.
I am very frugal with a 5 star vote, only a handful of books have done that for me, but none-to my mind-deserve it more than Elantris. To me 5 stars means it touched something intangible as I read and had me, without any choice, drawn into the pages and living alongside the characters. In other words, this was something special.
5 out of 5
P.S. if you read Elantris and love it like I did, be sure to go to Brandon Sanderson’s web site and read his short story “The Hope of Elantris” as well as his deleted scenes and chapter annotations. They are all amazing and fun for fans.