Elantris was the first book published by now-prolifically successful author Brandon Sanderson. My first exposure to Sanderson’s work was The Emperor’s Soul, a novella which takes place in the same world as Elantris. Here are some of my thoughts about the book, spoiler-free:
First Book Published – After having read more recent Brandon Sanderson books, it is clear that Elantris is an early work. The characters aren’t quite as deep and the tone of the writing sometimes takes odd turns. That said, Elantris carries plenty of the brilliant Sanderson plotting and twisting that readers love from books like Mistborn.
Chapter Traids – One aspect of Elantris I thoroughly enjoyed was the structure of the novel. The story has three protagonists, each of whom get a viewpoint. Sanderson tells the story in triad chunks with roughly the same time period covered from each of the three main viewpoints. If you pay close attention to the artwork in the book, you will notice that chapters within the same triad cycle have the same symbol at the chapter head. It was a cool structure I had never come across before, and I think it made for some interesting storytelling moments.
Magic – Usually the magic system is a highlight of Brandon Sanderson’s work. However, Elantris was weaker in this aspect than in other works that I’ve read by him because the story is set in a time after the magic has stopped working. Therefore, the story, while it does have magic in it, tends to lean more heavily on political maneuvering and plotting than it does on the magic. For some people, this might be a plus, but I prefer to have a little bit more magic in my fantasy books. The magic is, after all, one of the main reasons I like to read fantasy.
Overall, I would give Elantris 3.7 stars out of 5. It was good, but I don’t plan on reading it again. The plot was fun, and I’m grateful to have read the book that started Sanderson on a publishing path, but I don’t think it will be in my list of top books by him in the end. I recommend the book for a readership of at least high school age. It does has some fairly violent scenes, which is why I would not recommend it for younger readers. I do recommend the book if you love Brandon Sanderson or if you are excited about the cosmere (Sanderson’s expanded universe), but I would not recommend it as an introduction to his work. Much like I would recommend The Hobbit to someone who wants to get into Tolkien, I would recommend another book, such as The Emperor’s Soul or Mistborn for someone who wants to test drive a Sanderson book.
Let me know what you think. How did you like Elantris?