Elantris - Brandon Sanderson

Do not dash if you only have the strength to walk, and do not waste your time pushing on the walls that will not give. More importantly, don't shove where a pat would be sufficient.

Elantris is a fantasy novel by Brandon Sanderson first published in 2005. It tells the story of Elantris, a once beautiful and magical city of Arelon roamed by the divine Elantrians, ordinary individuals that were chosen and transformed by an unknown force named Shaod. But then an event called the Reod happened and Elantris and its citizens mysteriously lost all their magic and rot into mindless and horrifying entities that are the opposite of what they were once before. Ten years after the Reod, the crown prince of Arelon, Raoden, is supposed to be preparing his marriage with Sarene, the princess of Teod, when he was tragically transformed into a cursed Elantrian himself. The prince, thrown into the rotten city of Elantris, determined to survive despite his transformation and discover the true reason why Elantris lost its magic. While at the same time, Sarene finds it her duty to protect her new home, Arelon, from the hostile kingdom of Fjordell that wants to take over Arelon.

I have to say, this is one strange fantasy book. For a book that sets its entire premise around magic, you won't find much of it until very later in the book or on the occasional points in the story. Instead, the book leans heavily on political battles as its major narrative tool. And it's not disappointing at all. I'm surprised by how interesting the conflicts in the story are, that rely more on things like economical decisions, political scheming, societal dynamics, and religious power struggle, rather than clashing swords or flashy spells.

The characters, Raoden, Sarene, and Hrathen (and more) are very interesting and well-written. They're charming and capable in their own way but also riddled with their own insecurities and weaknesses. The chess play between these three major players is what fires up the story most of the time, how they try to outsmart each other to achieve their own goal, relying not on some powerful magic, but their own thoughts and actions.

Overall, it's a surprisingly refreshing fantasy book. One that depends more on its well-rounded characters and novel ideas rather than the convenient cliches of its genre. I'm eager to read more about the series in the future.

Brandon Sanderson
First Published
May 2005