Elantris by Brandon Sanderson (2005)

October 27, 2011 at 9:32 pm (fantasy, negativity)

I’m not going to finish reading this book.

It’s really a fascinating setting, and I’ve been trying to finish it, but there’s been one too many Dramatic Reversals, the whole thing has been prolonged by one of the main characters not talking to the other one (I really dislike that), and – forgive me – a book is getting too politically complicated when the antagonist’s struggle to stay on top of his power structure takes up a fourth or so of the wordage.

Plus, it has a Princess ex machina.  I dislike those, too.   Especially when they’re convinced they’re too smart and abrasive for any man (except the Prince!) to be interested in them.   And they’re good at everything except one nonessential thing (art).   And they think deceiving an authority figure (and only that authority figure) by pretending to be a hopeless ditz is good strategy.  And they just happen to be the one to accidentally discover the vile crime going on.   And … well, you get the idea.

Probably, if Sarene wasn’t so irritating, I’d like this book as much as everybody from Locus to Library Journal apparently did.  The reviews are why I picked it up in the first place.  The whole conceit about the highly localized power in Arelon and how it went horribly wrong is quite fascinating.

The conceit about how Arelon’s society and economy might go straight to perdition if it were taken over by merchants and legislated via the profit motive (sort of) is, on the other hand … a bit much.  Not that real people haven’t been at least as dumb, but as somebody (Twain?) once said, fiction has to be more believable than reality.   And it doesn’t help that the Prince, Raoden, turns out to be the one who figures out how to fix things (I think … it’s hard to say since I haven’t finished it).

There was real opportunity here to explore the theology of the antagonist, Hrathen, versus the one common to Arelon and some other nations, but most of the religious matters are handled in exclusively political terms.  Not attractive.   (Actually, Hrathen’s brief crisis of faith is the most interesting religious moment in the book, as far as I’ve read.  And he’s the antagonist, remember!)

I think that covers most of the major issues I have with the book.  Most of the other characters are distinct and interesting, and there’s nothing wrong with Sanderson’s prose.  I just could not connect with the major characters or the plot or substantial segments of the worldbuilding. Very frustrating, and I’m going to clear it out of my reading pile.



  1. Paul (@princejvstin) said,

    To be fair, it was his first novel. I didn’t see the same problems in Warbreaker.

    • diaryofatextaddict said,

      I’ll keep that in mind, thanks. But I’ve read plenty of first novels that didn’t have these problems, so that really only serves as an explanation.

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