In my continued quest to read books from authors I've never read before, I decided I should start on some of Brandon Sanderson's works. This is the first of his books and the first that I've read. And I can see why he's become popular.
Premise: The city of Elantris was the city of the gods--when random people were transformed into shining white near-immortals with the power to wield the magic called Dor, they were sent to the city to live out the life of gods. But something has gone wrong. Now, instead of becoming gods, those chosen are sent to the decaying city of Elantris and shunned and ridiculed, believed to be cursed.
Raoden, prince of Arelon, is struck from the curse and thrown into Elantris, where he discovers that the Elantrians are indeed cursed, their bodies dead, their pains never-ending. Sarene, princess of Teod, arrives in Kae outside the city of Elantris to marry Raoden, only to discover he has supposedly died. But she suspects something else has happened and she intends to find out what. Hrathen, high priest of Fjordell, arrives in Kae with one purpose: convert the entire country to his own religion . . . or see them destroyed. All three of them collide both inside and outside the walls of Elantris, each seeking to find what they have lost.
This was an interesting fantasy novel, with all of the best trappings of fantasy brought together in a unique and interesting way. The idea behind the city of Elantris is intriguing and that alone keeps you reading. What exactly happened to cause it to be "cursed" and will Raoden be able to figure out how to fix it? Add in the political intrigue that's swirling around Sarene and Hrathen and I was hooked. All three of the characters were interesting and real and the situations into which they were thrust drove the plot forward. And the plot . . . well, it takes enough twists and turns toward the end to keep even roller-coaster enthusiasts satisfied.
I'd have to say this is the best fantasy novel I've read in a long time. It had cool concepts, interesting magic (even if that magic didn't work for most of the novel), and characters that I liked and wanted to follow. The world had some of the standard trappings of a fantasy novel--a ruthless king, the medieval time period for a setting, etc.--but it didn't feel like your standard fantasy. The city of Elantris and what it represented gave it a more modern feel. This is what I've been searching for in my fantasy reading--something different but still obviously fantasy.
My only criticism of the book has to do with pacing. The beginning of the book and the end of the book have two different paces to them. At the beginning, we're introduced to the world and the three main characters in a leisurely pace that may have been a touch slow and drawn out, but not overly so. But then, forward the end, as the twists in plot start occurring, the pace becomes too rushed. In essence, the turning plot happens too fast. I think there could have been more of a balance achieved here--where words were cut from the beginning to speed up the pace, but then added back in toward the end to slow the action there down slightly.
Other than that, I had no complaints about this book and highly recommend it to fantasy readers everywhere. Good plot, non-standard setting, interesting concepts, and above all characters that you want to read about. I'll definitely be reading more Brandon Sanderson. I've been told that Mistborn will blow me away. I guess we'll see!
Joshua Palmatier/Benjamin Tate