Book Review: Elantris by Brandon Sanderson

elantrisElantris
by Brandon Sanderson
492 pages
Published 2005
Fantasy

I’ve enjoyed every Brandon Sanderson book I’ve read, and Elantris was certainly no exception. This was a beautiful mix of religious and political intrigue, magical mystery, and just a touch of romance. The ultimate answer to the mystery was so elegantly simple, but discovered so late, that consequences still had to be faced even when the main problem was fixed. (I’m trying to be vague so I don’t spoil it!) I loved both Raoden and Sarene, and in a way, Hrathen too. He was a wonderfully written villain – one of those villains whose motivations you get to see and understand, so you end up sympathizing with him even as you don’t want to see him succeed. Sanderson definitely has a talent for unusual fantasy novels, with elaborate plots and complex, well thought-out worlds.

In short, yet another amazing book from Brandon Sanderson.

From the back of Elantris:

Elantris: gigantic, beautiful, literally radiant, filled with benevolent beings who used their powerful magical abilities to benefit all the people of Arelon. Yet each of these godlike beings had been an ordinary person until touched by the mysterious transforming power of the Shaod. Then, ten years ago, without warning, the magic failed. Elantrians became wizened, feeble, leper-like creatures, and Elantris itself dark, filthy, and crumbling. The Shaod became a curse.

Arelon’s new capital city, Kae, crouches in the shadow of Elantris, which its people do their best to ignore. Princess Sarene of Teod has come to Kae for a marriage of state with Crown Prince Raoden, hoping – based on their correspondence – also to find love. She finds instead that Raoden has died, and she is considered his widow. Both Teod and Arelon are under threat as the last remaining holdouts against the imperial ambitions of the ruthless religious fanatics of Fjordell. Sarene decides to make the best of a sad situation and use her position to oppose the machinations of Hrathen, a Fjordell High priest who has come to convert Arelon and claim it for his emperor and his god.

But neither Sarene nor Hrathen suspects the truth about Prince Raoden’s disappearance. Taken by the same strange malady that struck the fallen gods of Elantris, Raoden was secretly imprisoned within the dark city. His struggle to create a society for the wretches trapped there begins a series of events that will bring hope to Arelon, and perhaps even reveal the secret of Elantris itself.

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The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson

The Alloy of Law
by Brandon Sanderson
Published: 2012
Pages: 416
Series: Mistborn #4
Fantasy

The Alloy of Law is a fun romp in the world of Sanderson’s earlier Mistborn trilogy. The world has advanced three hundred years, from medieval technology levels to about Victorian levels. Electricity is just starting to be found in homes, though people are suspicious of it, and trains and guns are fairly widespread. Think Victorian England meets the Wild West and you’ll be in the ballpark. The main characters of the Mistborn trilogy have faded into legend by the time The Alloy of Law takes place, and it’s really interesting to see how they are revered (or not) by the characters in this book.

The Mistborn series has a well-developed system of magic that I found unique, creative, and complex but easy to follow. Allomancy is the art of burning ingested metals to do particular effects; different metals (and the ability to burn them) allow you to do different things. Tin, for example, lets you enhance your senses, leading to the nickname “Tin-eyes.” Burning steel lets a Coinshot “push” on metals, telekinetically moving the metal away from themselves. (Or themselves away from the metal, if the metal too secure to be moved!) On the flipside of the coin (Ha!) is Feruchemy – a feruchemist uses metal accessories, often in the form of armbands or other jewelry, to “store up” his resources – he can become deaf and blind for a time, in order to use that resource later and have super-hearing and eagle-eyes, for example. Nothing is ultimately gained or lost, just stored until it’s needed.

The writing in Alloy was certainly not as deep as the Mistborn trilogy, but Sanderson has said in interviews that this was supposed to be a fun break between books. If you’re looking for a quick, fun adventure story, this is definitely a good book to pick up. From the witty banter between characters to the surprising choice of romance, this book kept my attention from start to finish. Sanderson is a very skilled author and I am eagerly looking forward to the sequel, as the book ends on a cliffhanger!

From the back of The Alloy of Law:
Three hundred years after the events of the Mistborn trilogy, Scadrial is now on the verge of modernity, with railroads to supplement the canals, electric lighting in the streets and the homes of the wealthy, and the first steel-framed skyscrapers racing for the clouds. 

Kelsier, Vin, Elend, Sazed, Spook, and the rest are now part of history – or religion. Yet even as science and technology are reaching new heights, the old magics of Allomancy and Feruchemy continue to play a role in this reborn world. Out in the frontier lands known as the Roughs, they are crucial tools for the brave men and women attempting to establish order and justice.

One such is Waxillium Ladrian, a rare Twinborn who can Push on metals with his Allomancy and use Feruchemy to become lighter or heavier at will.

After twenty years in the Roughs, Wax has been forced by family tragedy to return to the metropolis of Elendel. Now he must reluctantly put away his guns and assume the duties and dignity incumbent upon the head of a noble house. Or so he thinks, until he learns the hard way that the mansions and elegant tree-lined streets of the city can be even more dangerous than the dusty plains of the Roughs.