As you can probably guess from the title of this post, I'm reading Elantris right now - and what's more, it's one of the first books I ever reviewed (right back here, if you're interested). So, now I've read more of Sanderson (and for that matter, more of everything), what can I say of Elantris? (Ie. now I am a cynical veteran of fantastika, how can I criticize it?)
The first thing to note is the cover - which I love, especially put against the US version! The new art direction on Sanderson's covers is gloriously minimalistic compared to a lot of fantasy, and it's nicely... stark. Well, that's personal taste for you.
Onto the book itself. And it stands up surprisingly well! You can immediately spot the hallmarks of Sanderson's later novels: the magic system, AonDor, first among them. Today, Sanderson is known for his magic systems (and his advice regarding them - just google 'Sanderson's First Law' and you'll see!), and AonDor likewise is key to the novel's plot. Although not used regularly in the same way as Allomancy or Awakening, it's nevertheless significant, and working out how it went wrong is a fun exercise in the same way that Allomancy's mysteries are. It's scientific magic - and it shows.
So, what about characters? Well, we can spot what could even be a proto-Kelsier: a 'leader of the downtrodden'-type figure. Raoden, who attempts to resurrect society within the fallen city of Elantris, though less obviously flawed than Kelsier, nevertheless gives some of the same overtones: he's charismatic, intelligent, and inspires loyalty. And again, there's one of Sanderson's strong female protagonists - Sarene, who intervenes in the failing politics of Arelon. Nevertheless, there are some areas where |Elantris doesn't stand up as well: it is a first novel, after all.
It's easy to see that Brandon Sanderson has grown immensely in writing and building character since Elantris. Though in some cases acceptable, the character reactions in Elantris are frequently over-optimistic epiphanies at best, and I much preferred it in Mistborn, where we got a more realistic level of cynicism... Though maybe I'm just too used to being gloomy. :P Blame the weather!
The author has suggested a possible Elantris sequel - and since I'm enjoying my reread so much, I'm finding myself looking forward to it! All in all, Elantris was a fun debut that promised even better things to come: and now Sanderson's delivered, why not give his earliest novel a go?
So, now it's your turn - have you read this book, or been pleasantly surprised by a reread? Comment below and tell me!