This novel had been staring at me every time I entered a bookstore. I would pick it up, read the blurb, and think that it sounded pretty interesting. I posted about it on numerous message boards. Like me, most people had seen Elantris but had not bought it. After a while, readers' reviews began to surface and the consensus was definitely good.
I contacted Brandon Sanderson via his website to see if he could possibly get me a review copy. By the way, the author is very nice and quite accessible. You can check him out at www.brandonsanderson.com. And between the two of us, we managed to get Tor Books to hook me up with a copy.
Having finished Elantris, I can now tell you that it is indeed a good novel. There is a lot to enjoy, and only a little not to love about this fine tale.
Sanderson reminds me a lot of David Eddings and J. V. Jones, at least in terms of style and for the dialogues. Steering clear from the now popular "darker" fantasy tales which are rapidly becoming the norm in today's market, Elantris is a relatively "light" fantasy.
Let's begin with all that is good about this book. For those of us who can still appreciate this sort of thing, the prose is above and beyond what I have come to expect nowadays. The novel is truly well-written. The narrative flows extremely well, and the pace is brisk enough to keep you turning those pages.
Elantris being a stand-alone novel, the story is more or less self-contained. This will indubitably please all those readers who have grown tired of long, unending series. But Sanderson leaves enough things up in the air, hence leaving the door open for a possible sequel.
I found the worldbuilding to be quite interesting, and the city of Elantris itself to be fascinating. Too bad we don't learn more about it. This novel may not resound with as much depth as Guy Gavriel Kay's stand-alone books. Yet there is still a richness of details that we don't often see in stand-alone works. I think that Sanderson did a great job with the limitations associated with any self-contained story. The religious aspect are well-defined and so are the different societies, if a little less. . .
I have to admit that the ending packs a powerful punch, bringing this book to a very satisfying end. It was nice to see the different storylines converge to a climax like this. It proves that Brandon Sanderson not only knows how to spin a good yarn, but how to end it with an exclamation point.
Elantris is a character-driven book. There is no question about that. And although I enjoyed it, I found that the characterizations at times left some things to be desired. Like many Eddings and Jones' characters, the main characters were always to quick to catch on on some secrets, etc. It's all a little too easy for my taste at times, and that made me grit my teeth. Sarene, especially, who singlehandedly puts the king in his place, alters the way the aristocracy views the world, and defies a man bent on toppling a kingdom and a religion. Don't get me wrong. The characters are fun, witty, and there is a lot of humour in this book. It's just that I believe that a little darker, grittier aspect would have been more appropriate in some instances.
In the end, what makes Elantris so special is the fact that it's so accessible. This is a book that basically anyone who likes a good fantasy epic can enjoy. And the fact that it is a stand-alone novel makes it even more appealing. This book was more popular than expected in hardcover. And I'm persuaded that it will be a huge success when it is released in paperback.
Keep an eye on Brandon Sanderson, for he just might be one of the bright new voices in the fantasy genre. And if it's not too late, you can also add Elantris on your Christmas present list!:-)
The final verdict: 7,5/10