the Little Red Reviewer

Elantris, by Brandon Sanderson

Posted on: October 5, 2015

Elantris_coverElantris, by Brandon Sanderson

published in 2005

where I got it: purchased used








Hard to believe I haven’t read any Brandon Sanderson, isn’t it?  His name has been a buzzword for quite a while now, I’ve seen more than a few Sanderson read-alongs pop up, the dude is like, everywhere.   One afternoon at my local indie bookshop, I asked “got any Sanderson that isn’t in the middle of a series?”, and I came home with a copy of Elantris.


We open with some history of the world, where the god-like citizens of Elantris never wanted for anything, and kept everyone safe. Their magic suffused everything, allowing Elantrians to glow and magical creatures to wander the world. Then something horrible happened, there was a short war, and now the grand city of Elantris sits abandoned. Only those who have no one else to go, those who have been afflicted with the horrifying Shaod disease now live in Elantris.


In nearby Kae, Prince Raoden awaits the arrival of his fiance Sarene.   By the time she arrives, the King has already announced the Prince has died of a wasting disease. Sarene can’t go home, so she sticks around, and learns as much as she can about her new family. Also, when can she stop wearing black to mourn a husband she never met?  She’s not the only one new to the court. There’s a religious war brewing, and Hrathen, a high priest of Fjordell is on a mission to convert the citizens of Arelon before they can be viewed as heretics.

Told from multiple points of view, the secret that the reader is in on right from the beginning is that Prince Raoden is alive if not entirely well. Afflicted by the Shaod, he now lives in Elantris, among the mad and hopeless.  He slowly learns the horrible secrets of Elantris, that no one ever dies, that you don’t need food to stay alive, that injuries never heal – that he’s trapped somewhere between life and death. If  he can uncover the not as horrible secrets, he’ll need to do so before he goes crazy.


My favorite character was Hrathen. When I first met him, I pegged him as a religious zealot, an inflexible asshole. true dat. He’s the character that grows the most throughout the story, who pays the biggest price to understand what’s happening around him.  Hrathen thinks he’s so smart, and he often assumes he is outsmarting those around him. And well, none of that is true. I didn’t like him as a person, but I looked forward to his chapters, because he’s the one going through the worst emotional anguish.


The magic system in Elantris revolves around something called Aons – representational pictograms whose magical effects can be changed by the size and width of the lines drawn, and of the skill of the person drawing the Aon.  Magic is mostly dead in this world, and Aons don’t work anymore, but some people still learn how to draw them as a link to their past. I liked how the names of Aons completely suffused the language. For example, Sarene is from the aon “Ene”, which means clever; the Shaod disease is from the aon “Shao” which means transformation, Raoden is from the aon “Rao”, which means Spirit.  Most characters from the geographic region around Elantris have a name that is connected to an Aon, yet the knowledge of how and why Aons work has been lost. I really liked that touch, that we might forget, but language doesn’t.

The worldbuilding was great, the characters kept my attention, i liked the politics, the magic was really cool. I can’t find anything negative to say about this book. And yet, i kept putting it down. I’d read 10 pages, and put it down. I can’t explain why, but Elantris didn’t keep my attention.  The pacing was good, not great, I felt some of the intrigue and politics went on a little too long.  After the first few chapters, I had a lot of questions about the world, and characters, and plots that had been started, and hoped that those questions would be answered as I continued to read. Very few of them were. I got a lot of details, but I felt like I was getting very little useful information, because much of the magic that was hinted at wasn’t explained, or the details didn’t go anywhere. it was a just fine book! I don’t know why it didn’t work for me.  Elantris ends on a conclusionary note, but it screams for a sequel, if only to explain everything that happens in this book.

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8 Responses to "Elantris, by Brandon Sanderson"

When I finished this, I think Hrathen was my favorite character to read about. His arc was amazing, and not something I was expecting at all! (I did hate Dalif from the first moment we met him though). And I was totally looking in the back of the book each time an Aon was used, to try drawing it out 😛

Up until the end, I found the pacing to be fairly slow, but I still thought this was very compelling because of the magic, characters, and politics.

My one complaint about this were all those little plot holes. I didn’t think it was anything major to ruin the story, but like you said, after it was done, there were things left unanswered. I think I heard a while back that he might come back to do a sequel for this? Not sure. But I would like one too.


I haven’t read Elantris but I have read the first four Mistborn books which I liked and The Way of Kings which took me a month and a half to finish just because I liked it while reading it but everytime that I put it down, I wanted to read something else.


Really surprised you had never read Sanderson before!


my pants are on fire.

apparently I read The Emperor’s Soul by Sanderson back in 2012.

I remember reading this, I remember enjoying it, but I thought it was by someone else!

Liked by 1 person

I thought this one was interesting from a zombie perspective–the Shaod are essentially zombies, caught between life and death, shunned and feared by society, with the added stigma and fear that it could happen to anyone and means certain doom.


I read Elantris a while ago as a supplement to ease my craving for Words of Radiance (it hadn’t come out, yet, at the time). I really enjoyed the book for its creativity with world-building, and I was super impressed that he put this huge epic story into one stand-alone book. I didn’t give it a full 5/5 rating because, like you said, it still felt like something was missing for me. Ironically, I think it was because the epic scope of the book was crammed into one novel. I think the world and story would have had more time to blossom more naturally; with textures and shading added in with more subtlety as well as an improvement in pacing (felt the ending happened way too fast. It was like kaboom, this happens, kaboom, that happens…in typical Sanderson fashion). Also, Elantris was Sanderson’s first published book, so I guess it’s still awkward in its delivery, reflecting an earlier stage in his craft. He’s so much improved, now! I willingly devour his monster books with no problem!


I have also never read Sanderson, but not for a very good reason. He is, or was, associated with BYU, and I steadfastly refuse to support anything from that institution unless I absolutely must. (For example, my mom. She is a grad.) I realize this is a cheap excuse, but no loyal Utah State Aggie will fault me for it.


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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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