Book Review: Elantris, by Brandon Sanderson

The beautiful Spanish Edition cover of Elantris

Growing up, I always had a book tucked away with me in my school bag, or violin case, or carry on, or simply stuck under an arm. The epic saga of the Wheel of Time filled in the gaps between classes at high school and during longer orchestra breaks when the second violins had to go fend for themselves.

While Robert Jordan’s vision of the Wheel of Time world and its characters is still a masterpiece in my mind – the tone of the story itself grew darker with each giant book to the point where it became harder to see if anyone would have a happy ending. Like the rest of the fans of the series, Jordan’s early death caused me a great deal of worry. Would whoever took the reins and finished the story be able to do it justice?

Knowing what I know now, I shouldn’t have worried. When Sanderson took up the story, he captured the story and its characters and breathed life and hope back into them. Readers could imagine the satisfying ending they’d been wishing for and then he delivered it.

But, this post isn’t about Wheel of Time. It’s about Brandon Sanderson’s first published book, Elantris.

The Story:

Elantris was once a city of magic and those with incredible power lived there. When the cataclysmic event of the Reod happened, the city and its inhabitants became cursed. The gates of Elantris were closed to the outside world. The inhabitants of the city couldn’t die or heal and were doomed to suffer continuous pain from any injury for the rest of their days.

When Prince Raoden shows signs of the curse, he’s thrown into the now closed city and is doomed to suffer with those living there. He’s not willing to accept that, however, and immediately goes about trying to make things better for those condemned in Elantris. While he does this he discovers vital clues that will help him solve the mystery of why the magic stopped working.

Against him are the gangs in Elantris who gang up on any new comer to steal what meager provisions they might carry and a high ranking priest mandated to convert the country to the Derethi religion. With him is the resourceful and determined Princess Sarene with whom which he was destined to wed if not for the curse.

My Review:

I love a strong fantasy with magic that feels real and makes sense, so this book already had a lot going in its favor before I even opened it. Prince Raoden is the kind of character that you want to root for. He genuinely wants to make things better despite his own problems and is willing to work. He knows how to organize people and inspire them to his cause. The situation he’s thrown into is a hard one. It would be way too easy to fall into despair, but he refuses. Of all that happens in the book, his character is what makes the story successful.

There is a fair amount of political maneuvering in the book and for the most part it serves its purpose, which is to raise the stakes for our heroes. But for me, it also ground the action to a halt.

That said, I loved how the big problem was solved (no spoilers!) and thought that the solution itself was nothing short of ingenious.

Recommendations:

This is a solid fantasy book that will clearly hold a lot of appeal with fantasy readers. I would recommend it for readers 12 and up for descriptions of injury and political intrigue. There is no offensive language or overly romantic situations. While this would be a good starter book for those who would like to familiarize themselves with the fantasy genre, I wouldn’t consider it a typical example of a fantasy novel.

I’d still give it five stars. 🙂


Psst! Jodi here. Did you enjoy today’s review? Did it help you decide if this book was for you? Cool, eh?

Guess what? You can do the same for me. If you’ve read Stonebearer’s Betrayal, head on over to AmazonGoodreads, or the book site of your choice and leave me a review.

It doesn’t have to be big and long like this one – a few sentences is perfect! Thanks in advance!


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Why Adults Should Read Fantasy with John M Olsen

I had so much fun featuring Candace J Thomas here on the blog last week that I invited another dear author friend to come join us this week. Be sure to stop by her blog to see her wonderful interview with yours truly. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, writer friends are the best.
Today we have John M Olsen with us. He is a fellow Immortal Works author who also has roots back at Xchyler Publishing. In fact, he and I met during the same event where I met Candace back in 2015. John is also currently president elect of the League of Utah Writers and just this summer released The Crystal Queen, the sequel to his first book The Crystal King. 
Crystal queen
My big question for John is:

Why should adults read fantasy?

John’s answer:

A man by the name of G. K. Chesterson said, “Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”

Adults also know dragons exist. We face them every day. Maybe your dragon is a mortgage or a boss with a personality disorder. Maybe your dragon is a disability or a dear friend who refuses to make good life choices. Many of us like to escape into fantasy worlds, but there is much more than escape going on as we march page by page through a fantasy world. These worlds of the imagination are fraught with peril and doom, and good storytelling puts us on the edge of our seat as we hope good overcomes evil, or that true love will conquer all.

I love themes that confirm my faith in the goodness of humanity and of the universe, especially when we see so much entropy and failure if not outright evil. The bad guys may take the upper hand as a story progresses, but in the end, they will lose. Fantasy, at least the sort I prefer, shines a beacon of success despite the odds and illuminates a path forward. If the hero of your story can achieve great things, then you as a reader can as well, no matter how dark the night.

This is why I write, too. I love to write about ordinary people doing extraordinary things, something all readers can relate to. I’m a regular guy. Most readers are regular folks, too. Few achieve great fame or fortune, and the world spins on its merry way oblivious to our existence. But history is filled with true stories of ordinary people who stepped up just like fantasy characters to do what nobody could expect. We have power we don’t recognize. Power we don’t understand, and power we don’t use. But we will recognize, understand, and use that power as we learn by example. As long as we immerse ourselves in stories of success and never give up on ourselves and those around us, we put ourselves on a path to change lives, and through that to change the world.

Fantasy gives us power over reality’s dragons.

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A huge thanks to John for joining us and for his insightful thoughts on why fantasy is so important for readers of all ages, not just kids.
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John M. Olsen 2

You can find John all over the place, here are some handy links:

Twitter: @john_m_olsen
Find his novels and short stories over on Amazon: http://amazon.com/author/johnmolsen

 

About John M. Olsen

Motivated by his lifelong love of reading, John M. Olsen writes about ordinary people doing extraordinary things and hopes to entertain and inspire others. His father’s library started him on this journey as a teenager, and he now owns and expands that library to pass his passion on to the next generation of avid readers.

He loves to create things, whether writing novels or short stories or working in his secret lair equipped with dangerous power tools. In all cases, he applies engineering principles and processes to the task at hand, often in unpredictable ways. He usually prefers “Renaissance Man” to “Mad Scientist” as a goal and aesthetic.

He lives in Utah with his lovely wife and a variable number of mostly grown children and a constantly changing subset of extended family.

Check out his ramblings on his blog. Safety goggles are optional but recommended.

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