NOTE: My review below is utterly filled with spoilers, so I suggest you do not read it unless you have already read the book. If you want to read a good impression of the book that is essentially spoiler free, check out Orson Scott Card’s review.
Elantris is a rarity in modern fantasy writing: a stand alone. The book managed to tell the story of the resurrection of the city of the gods in a mere single novel. I have to say it does a better job than many series.
The book has three protagnoists: Raoden, the prince spends more of his time half transformed into one of the supernatural Elantrians. Sarene, who is Raoden’s wife, although they never met. And, Hrathen, a high ranking priest of Shu-Dereth charged with converting the nation or Arelon within three months. The books alternates between characters quite evening in the first part of the book (which is kind of weird to read), and then begins melding the characters’ chapters together as their lives intertwine and evens come to a boil in the end.
The magic system seems to have some kind of rational basis, but it isn’t developed completely in the book. Essentially, there is a “force” known as Dor that can be tapped by drawing different pictographs (called Aons). Modifiers on the pictographs determine the specifics of the “spell.” Towards the end of the book it is revealed that there are other ways to access Dor other than Aons, such as the mysterious arts used to create the Derethi monks. And, the martial kata of the Jindo merchant.
I did enjoy the book quite a bit. I think that Brandon Sanderson is quickly becoming my favorite contemporary author. I picked up the first Mistborn book because I heard it was largely influential in the decision to have him finish up the Wheel of Time series. But, I will go into that more in my Mistborn post later.
It is pretty clear that Elantris was his first novel, as it is a little rough, and there are some pacing issues. The character are generally good, but there are some incongruities that are a little off putting. But, none of the technical issues detract from the overall experience. And, while not as good as the Mistborn series, I whole heartily recommend the book to anyone interested in the fantasy genre. I give it a 3 on my undecim scale.