Elantris was the capital of Arelon: gigantic, beautiful, literally radiant, filled with benevolent beings who used their powerful magical abilities for the benefit of all. Yet each of these demigods was once an ordinary person until touched by the mysterious transforming power of the Shaod. Ten years ago, without warning, the magic failed. Elantrians became wizened, leper-like, powerless creatures, and Elantris itself dark, filthy, and crumbling.
Arelon’s new capital, Kae, crouches in the shadow of Elantris. Princess Sarene of Teod arrives for a marriage of state with Crown Prince Raoden, hoping — based on their correspondence — to also find love. She finds instead that Raoden has died and she is considered his widow. Both Teod and Arelon are under threat as the last remaining holdouts against the imperial ambitions of the ruthless religious fanatics of Fjordell. So Sarene decides to use her new status to counter the machinations of Hrathen, a Fjordell high priest who has come to Kae to convert Arelon and claim it for his emperor and his god.
But neither Sarene nor Hrathen suspect the truth about Prince Raoden. Stricken by the same curse that ruined Elantris, Raoden was secretly exiled by his father to the dark city. His struggle to help the wretches trapped there begins a series of events that will bring hope to Arelon, and perhaps reveal the secret of Elantris itself.
I first heard of Brandon Sanderson when I started reading The Wheel of Time series. He wrote some of the later books in the series, but I hadn’t realized that he was a well-known fantasy author at that point. As I became more involved with the blogging community, I started to hear his name a lot more. And I mean a lot! Obviously, I had to go out and buy one of his books, and I went for Elantris. To any one who has not read this book, go and read it now. It’s one of the best fantasy books that I have read in a long time, and I would totally recommend it to any one who is a fan of fantasy.
One of the things I’d often heard people mention about Sanderson is his magic system, and he definitely deserves all the praise he gets. I fell in love with the way everything worked in Elantris, and I loved the way the reader discovers how magic works with Raoden, rather than it being explained to the main character/reader. It was also really nice seeing a character working toward something that he wanted, and not being handed everything on a plate. I mean, Raoden did so much to change things and he got on with it instead of complaining about things or contemplating his life and his situation. It was great seeing a character like that. I’m now a huge fan of Raoden and he has quickly risen to the top of a list of favourite characters.
To be honest, so has Sarene, his supposed widow. She was also ready to get her hands dirty and stood up for what she believed in no matter what was going on. She had strong beliefs and wanted to change the country that she lived, even though she had no ties to the place apart from an allegedly dead fiance/husband. Basically, Sarene is a really awesome character and even if you have no interest in fantasy or magic or whatever, you should read this book because of her. And also because of Raoden. Talking of the two of them, I wanted them to get together way before they met. This book was pretty frustrating at times just because she’d think of Raoden sometimes and wonder what her life would’ve been like, and I was basically shouting at her because he’s alive. Very frustrating. It was just as bad with Raoden’s friends too, because they kept reminiscing about the past.
The other thing I wanted to mention was the world building. It was awesome. The religions, the politics, the way countries were set up. Everything worked so well, and it was all so believable. Also, Elantris itself was such an interesting place to explore and I liked the way the characters slowly discovered things about the place. All in all, the world and the characters were amazing and I would definitely recommend it to all fantasy lovers.