Okay, I said I was only doing writing non-fiction for Cannonball 13, but this epic fantasy is related to learning how to write. I took his 13-hour BYU writing class (on YouTube) and found it very informative. I decided I probably should read one of his books. Turns out Elantris is his first published work, and a good example of his classroom lessons.
Elantris is an epic fantasy in every definition of the word. At over 600 pages, it follows the lives of three main characters: Raoden, the hero who is dead at the beginning (if that’s not a grabber, I don’t know what is!), Sarene, his mail-order bride, and Hrathen, a warrior priest who has been sent to overthrow Raoden’s country.
Elantris was a magical city within a city, a place where random individuals became semi-gods spontaneously and moved into Elantris where they became silver-skinned healers and sorcerers. Unfortunately, ten years earlier, the city became blighted, and the Elantrians turned into zombies, unable to heal from wounds and feeling every single one. Now, instead of celebrating when a family member is transformed, they are considered dead and sealed in the decaying city.
The author does a good job of following the hero as he tries to save the zombies and improve their quality of life. Raoden is a smart prince who sees the good in people.
Sarene, his foreign bride, arrives in her new country to be told her husband-to-be that she’s never met is dead. She has bigger problems. The warrior priest, Hrathen, has arrived to suborn Raoden’s father and bring the country under his monarch’s domain. She has other ideas. She is the real hero here. Mr. Sanderson says as a gamer nerd he had difficulty writing female characters (they are still rare in the gaming world), but I’d argue with that as Sarene is smart, brave, and always a couple steps ahead of the bad guy.
Hrathen is not a moustache-twirling villain though. He’s a smart man with doubts and struggles, including a subordinate priest who wants to take his place. Although Sarene thwarts him at every political move he tries to make (including destroying Elantris), he has affection for her.
Of the three, the hero is the least interesting, and it takes him a while to figure out how to restore Elantris to its former glory during the climax. He spends a lot of time in the library, but he gives the wild tribes of zombies within Elantris a leader to follow and a reason to stop hurting each other (since they can’t heal).
There are lots of planning sessions and political intrigue, but the three characters make the epic journey worthwhile.
Good work, Mr. Sanderson.