Elantris, Brandon Sanderson 09/16/2005 * * * * *
"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.
A rare epic fantasy that doesn't recycle the classics and that is a complete and satisfying story in one volume, Elantris is fleet and fun, full of surprises and characters to care about. It's also the wonderful debut of a welcome new star in the constellation of fantasy."
Wow - it has been almost seven years since I first read Elantris, the debut fantasy novel written by Brandon Sanderson, and I still count it as one of the best Fantasy novels I've ever read. This is where Sanderson showed the world for the first time his amazing ability to create new and exciting worlds and characters, an ability that has only gotten better with time. The magic system in this novel is unique and creative, and the story balances nicely between action and political intrigue.
Princess Sarene herself is a fascinating character. Sanderson writes strong female leads quite well; Sarene is sharp, quick-witted, and not afraid to get her hands dirty when the need arises. I thoroughly enjoyed discovering Elantris through her eyes as she and Prince Raoden search for the truth and try to save their kingdoms.
Overall I've given Elantris five stars, which might seem like a lot for a debut novel, but it's just that good. If you haven't read anything by Brandon Sanderson, there's no better place to start than with Elantris.
If you have read Elantris, or plan to, leave a comment below and let me know what you think!