Elantris is a (blessedly) stand alone fantasy novel, centering around the mystery of the fall of Elantris and three main characters, Prince Raoden, Princess Sarene and Gyorn Hrathen.
Elantris itself is a walled city, once grand in scale and filled with people who travelled from neighbouring lands after having undergone a seemingly random mythical transformation to become Elantrians. Elantrians were white haired and silver skinned god-like beings who could do magic based on mystical runes. Ten years ago; however, all Elantrians (and the city itself) became cursed by the Shaod and transformed its inhabitants into blotchy, bald, suffering waifs. Similarly, the city of Elantris began to rapidly degrade, covering the city in slime and rot.
Prince Raoden lives in Arelon, the city neighboring Elantris. At the start of the novel he succumbs to the Shaod and is swiftly sent to live out his miserable days in the dying city of Elantris.
Princess Sarene is his betrothed, who arrives in Arelon from the neighboring Teo nation shortly after Raoden’s transformation and is told he has died. Sarene then sets her sights on helping the ailing city of Arelon – her new home – to reach greater political and social stability.
And finally, Gyorn Hrathen is the high priest of the Fjorden religion, who has been sent to the weakened city of Arelon to seek the conversion of its people, with a refusal to convert promised to result in destruction by his church leader.
Sanderson has created a rich world in Elantris, with complex political motivations and nuanced characters. Almost everything about this novel felt fully realised, which is a remarkable achievement for a stand-alone fantasy novel.
I really enjoyed watching the lives of the three central characters clash and maneuver until the impressively tense final conflict. I have only one minor quibble with the storyline, which I won’t outline here for fear of spoilers. Overall though, a compelling and well-plotted fantasy novel.
4 boxes of bent nails out of 5.