Book Review: Elantris


Published: 5/1/2005

Author: Brandon Sanderson

Democracy is the worst form of government, especially this election.  Wait, sorry the actual quote is “democracy is the worst form of government, except all the others that have been tried.”  I think what is interesting about Elantris is its exploration of different forms of government.  Most fantasy novels are pretty much monarchies.  In Elantris, however, the main forms of government are a theocracy and a corporatocracy.  There is a third – a scientocracy, for lack of a better word.  Though it isn’t really, it is a system that is ruled by magicians, but the magic has died.  Or is mostly dead.

Elantris was once a proud city – it was literally magic.  Some would even say it glowed (like a light bulb).  Its inhabitants were godlike – they could heal the sick and feed the poor.  Then the magic stopped, but no one knows why.  The city was covered in slime and those that had magical abilities became diseased.  When Elantris fell, the merchant class rose in its place – the “king” (the richest man) structured the new society based on who made the most money.  Those who made more money were given more land and better titles.  The employees who did all the work were little more than slaves [those who are cynical might draw parallels to our society].  Seeing an opportunity after the fall of Elantris, the religion of Shu-Dureth is determined to spread its faith to every country on the planet.

The king’s son, Raoden, succumbs to the disease of Elantris.  Raoden, like all who contract the disease, is locked in the city with no food.  The disease doesn’t allow the body to heal itself, so every cut and scrape is agony for eternity.  Elantrians don’t need to eat, but they are practically consumed by hunger.  Raoden is determined to give the people of Elantris hope, to feed them, to give them a purpose and maybe, just maybe he can cure them all.

Elantris is a fascinating war of science (or magic, since any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic) and religion.  The only downside was that the ending was a bit too well foreshadowed (i.e. predictable), not entirely original, and unexplainable – no really, the characters didn’t have an explanation for what happened.  It was a bit disappointing for a book this good, otherwise.

WWYT Rating: 8.3/10

Goodreads: 4.2/5


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