Monday, 7 April 2014

Review: Elantris

Elantris by Brandon Sanderson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've seen complaints that Brandon Sanderson writes generic epic fantasy, and I've never understood them. Take this book, for example.

A magical city has malfunctioned for unknown reasons, and instead of being like demigods, its inhabitants are now undead lepers. Anyone in the country can be taken by the transformation that makes them an Elantrian, and near the beginning of the book the Crown Prince is so afflicted. Refusing to lie down and degenerate into mindlessness, he rallies the hopeless inhabitants of the city and gives them pride and a purpose. (I particularly liked the way in which he recruited an old cleaner and treated him with dignity, as a man who could transform the filthy city into a more pleasant place to live.)

Meanwhile, his fiancee (who has never met him; it's a political marriage, but with some hope of love) arrives from the allied country where she is a princess, to find that her betrothed is reported as dead and a third country is about to launch an invasion, spearheaded by their fanatical religion. Highly intelligent and competent, she determines to improve the lot of the local peasantry, rally the fading resistance that was started by the Crown Prince to his father's misrule, and keep the fanatics from taking over.

Oh, and they can talk over long distances using magical floating spheres, which appear to be AIs.

From there, we get plot twist after plot twist, plenty of dramatic irony, many, many things that aren't as they seem, love, loyalty, devotion, shifting allegiances, betrayal, tension, last-minute escapes, the slow reveal of a remarkable magic system... This is what I've come to expect from a Brandon Sanderson story, having read the first two Mistborn books.

Now, right at the end there were a couple of twists and shifts that I wasn't totally convinced by. Avoiding spoilers, let's say that the motivation of a couple of characters boiled down to love, and I didn't really buy it given everything else we'd seen from those characters. I thought that their belief systems would have been adequate motivation by themselves. Anyway, apart from that minor quibble, I thoroughly enjoyed this.

The editing had a few glitches, mainly that italics were applied to whole paragraphs where they should have only been used for the characters' thoughts, not the dialog tags and description as well. There were the usual minor typos that creep in, but nothing major or dramatic.


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