“Year of Sanderson”: “Elantris”

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“Year of Sanderson” is an on-going, monthly series that will post on the last Friday of each month in which I will cover various Brandon Sanderson-related things. This will largely be comprised of book reviews (some from his back catalog and some from the books being released this year), as well as assorted other topics like reviews of the items in the swag boxes that will be coming out as part of Sanderson’s Kickstarted campaign. Frankly, we’ll just have to see what we get from this series, very much like the Kickstarter itself!

Book: “Elantris” by Brandon Sanderson

Publishing Info: Tor Fantasy, 2006

Where Did I Get this Book:

Where Can You Get this Book: Amazon | IndieBound | WorldCat

Book Description: Elantris was the capital of Arelon: gigantic, beautiful, literally radiant, filled with benevolent beings who used their powerful magical abilities for the benefit of all. Yet each of these demigods was once an ordinary person until touched by the mysterious transforming power of the Shaod. Ten years ago, without warning, the magic failed. Elantrians became wizened, leper-like, powerless creatures, and Elantris itself dark, filthy, and crumbling.

Arelon’s new capital, Kae, crouches in the shadow of Elantris. Princess Sarene of Teod arrives for a marriage of state with Crown Prince Raoden, hoping—based on their correspondence—to also 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. So Sarene decides to use her new status to counter the machinations of Hrathen, a Fjordell high priest who has come to Kae to convert Arelon and claim it for his emperor and his god.

But neither Sarene nor Hrathen suspect the truth about Prince Raoden. Stricken by the same curse that ruined Elantris, Raoden was secretly exiled by his father to the dark city. His struggle to help the wretches trapped there begins a series of events that will bring hope to Arelon, and perhaps reveal the secret of Elantris itself.

Review: It is only fitting to start out this year’s series on Brandon Sanderson by reviewing his first book, “Elantris.” Like many people, “Elantris” wasn’t the first book I read by Sanderson. Instead, I got on the Sanderson train after reading his “Mistorborn” trilogy as it was released. Then I finished it and, feeling suddenly bereft, I checked out his writing history and low and behold, there was this little stand-alone novel that had been quietly waiting in the background. After reading it, I knew that Sanderson was going to be a “go-to” author for me going forward: not only did I like it as much as the “Mistborn” trilogy, I might have even liked it more!

Elantris was once the golden light of Arelon, not only a beautiful city in and of itself, but populated by the Elantrians, a powerful group of magical individuals who grace those around them with the benefits of their abilities. But then disaster strikes: the city, and its people, crumbles and in the city’s ruined shadow clings the remnants of this once great people. Into this outskirts city, Princess Sarene arrives to marry a prince, only to find he has died, and she has been left a widow. But as she tries to navigate her new existence, she never suspects the truth: the prince is not dead, but banished having become cursed with the same cruel plague that struck down the Elantrians.

While this wasn’t my first experience with Sanderson, I do think that had I read this one first, I would have been even more on-board with his writing than I was after reading the “Mistborn” trilogy. There, Sanderson had three entire books to lay out a complex world, construct multi-layered characters, and depict all the intricate ins and outs of a very complicated magic system. But in “Elantris,” he shows all of these same skills but contained within one novel. Yes, it’s a very long novel, but it’s still one book as compared to three.

As compared to some of his later works, this one has been dinged by other reviewers for lacking the polish of his more recent books. However, in re-reading it for this series, and looking at it purely on its own merits, I don’t think there’s much I can say to that. To me, this book is a pretty perfect example of a solid, stand-alone epic fantasy. It checks off so many boxes without stumbling in any of the three major areas: world-building, characterization, and magic system. Instead, all three come through with flying colors.

In this book, the world-building and the magic system are very closely intertwined. Much of the story surrounds the mystery behind the sudden downfall of the Elantrians and the remaining curse that still randomly strikes individuals in the present day. The curse itself is quite unique, and we explore the lives of those living with it through the eyes of the Crown Prince, Raoden. We learn alongside him of the strange society that now exists within the crumbling city of Elantris where those who are cursed cannot die, but any injury they sustain will never heal, leaving them fragile and susceptible to a never-ending pain that will, eventually, drive them mad.

Outside Elantris’s walls, readers can begin to piece together more of this world-gone-wrong through the eyes of Sarene, a princess who has just arrived in this land only to find her one source of contact, the prince she had been writing, has “died” and she is now widowed and alone. Sarene is exactly the sort of heroic female character I love reading. She’s set up into a situation that is as disempowering as it can get, but she rises against these limitations and plays an integral role in the ultimate solution.

Readers who picked up this book when it was first released probably didn’t realize that they were getting a sneak peak into a toolkit that Sanderson would go on to perfect over the years. Other than his unworldly writing speed, the author is probably best known for his creative magic systems. And here we get a small peak into the beginnings of his abilities in this regard. Not only is the curse that struck the Elantrians incredibly interesting and unique, but the ultimate explanation and solution are as surprising as they are creative. It’s fantasy at its best: fun, exciting, and pushing the boundaries of our expectations.

Overall, “Elantris” is a magnificent novel. And regardless of how others may compare it to Sanderson’s incredible catalog of works, I believe it stands on its own as a near-perfect epic fantasy.

Rating 10: If an alien species came to earth and wanted an example of what “epic fantasy” is all about, “Elantris” would be the go-to pick.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Elantris” can be found on these Goodreads lists: Fantasy Books Written for Adults and Best Stand-Alone Fantasy Book.

A Brief History of Brandon Sanderson and the Introduction of My “Year of Sanderson” Series

This post may contain affiliate links for books we recommend.  Read the full disclosure here.

“Year of Sanderson” is an on-going, monthly series that will post on the last Friday of each month in which I will cover various Brandon Sanderson-related things. This will largely be comprised of book reviews (some from his back catalog and some from the books being released this year), as well as assorted other topics like reviews of the items in the swag boxes that will be coming out as part of Sanderson’s Kickstarted campaign. Frankly, we’ll just have to see what we get from this series, very much like the Kickstarter itself!

General History

Brandon Sanderson first popped up on the fantasy book scene back in 2003 when he published his first novel “Elantris” through Tor publishing. He went on to write the “Mistborn” trilogy, which is his earliest best known work. From there he continued to pump out books at a prodigious rate, especially as an author who lived up to the stereotype of fantasy writers producing massive, multiple hundreds of pages long tomes. While most of his work has been for adult readers, he’s also ventured into middle grade and YA fantasy as well with series like “Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians” (middle grade) and “Steelheart” (YA).

His name likely first became known to general readers outside of the fantasy genre in 2007 when he was selected to complete Robert Jordan’s massively popular “Wheel of Time” series. He wrote the final three novels in this series, which were well-received by fans and cemented his place as a powerhouse in the modern fantasy genre.

He has won numerous awards over the years, including the Hugo Award in 2013 for his novella “The Emperor’s Soul.” His books have also been on the New York Times Best-Seller list 15 times, speaking to the long-lasting popularity of his writing across several series. While “Wheel of Time” has been produced as a streaming show on Amazon Prime, it is still early in its run and nowhere near the seasons that would depict Sanderson’s entries to the series. However, DMG Entertainment has optioned his entire Cosmere universe for potential future projects. Speaking of the Cosmere…


Brandon Sanderon is also known for his unique approach to many of his fantasy books, both stand-alones and series. Like the Marcel Cinematic Universe, Sanderson has created a larger “universe” in which many of his books take place. Currently, none of his books from other series need to be read before jumping into a different, unconnected book or series, but there are many Easter Eggs left for the devoted fan who has read much of his work. Particularly, there are a few sort of “god level” characters who world-jump and will appear in multiple different books and series.

Sanderson is also well known for creating detailed and interesting magic systems. While all of the magic systems presented in his many fantasy novels are unique to themselves, books that take place within the Cosmere do feature systems that seem to operate on similar principles and are organized in similar fashions. Beyond this, Sanderson has mentioned that all worlds within the Cosmere feature the same creation myth.

The books that currently make up the Cosmere are “Elantris,” “Mistborn,” “Warbreaker,” “The Stormlight Archive,” “White Sand,” and anything from “Arcanum Unbounded.” While books like “Elantris” and “Warbreaker” are currently standalones (there is a “Warbreaker” sequel in the works), “Mistborn” and “The Stormlight Archive” are each long works that add hundreds upon thousands of pages to the ever-growing Cosmere. “The Stormlight Archives” is Sanderson’s current signature epic fantasy, comprised of four massive books (the most recent book, “Rhythm of War,” topped out at 1232 pages.)

Kickstarter Campaign

Back in the spring of 2022, Brandon Sanderson surprised fans by starting up a Kickstarter campaign. Per the usual for the fast-writing author, while other authors expressed struggles with writers block during the Covid pandemic, Sanderson managed to whip together four entirely new novels, and it was these four novels that comprised the heart of the campaign. However, the author didn’t stop there. While the four books would ship out on a quarterly basis starting in January of 2023, funders could also back the project further to receive monthly swag boxes over the entire 12 month period of 2023.

While this particular type of campaign (swag boxes, etc.) was a first for Sanderson, the author already had a foot firmly in the self-publishing field. Indeed, Sanderson already had his own publishing company, Dragonsteel Entertainment; previous to the Kickstarter, Dragonsteel was largely used to publish collector versions of Sanderson’s previously published works.

When the Kickstarter first went up, Sanderson’s goal was to hit $1 million, the amount estimated to produce and distribute the four books he wrote during the pandemic. He ended up breaking all of the records, ultimately topping out at $41 million dollars. According to an article by USA Today, “The campaign is the biggest project in Kickstarter history by pledge volume and is more than double the previous record holder. It also set a record for both the most money raised in the first 24 hours ($15.4 million) as well as the most funding and backers for the same time period.” Sanderson went on to pay it forward, donating to almost every other Kickstarter with a publishing focus that was currently running while his own was live.

My Fandom

I’ve been a fan of Brandon Sanderson almost from the beginning. While I didn’t catch “Elantris” when it was first published, I read the original “Mistborn” trilogy as it released. I’ve read almost everything else by the author to date (though I haven’ read all of his middle grade or YA fantasy). I own copies of most of his books, including said massive “Stormlight Archives” tomes, and even a few of the leather bound collector versions that were produced by Dragonsteel Entertainment. To this day, I point my husband in this direction if he’s looking for a last minute gift idea for me.

I got to meet Sanderson at an author event at the St. Paul children’s bookstore, “The Red Balloon.” It is a small space, but it was absolutely jam packed for this event, and for good reason. When listening to him speak, it’s impossible not to catch the infectious joy that he has not only for reading and writing, but for fantasy and fandom as well. After seeing that level of energy on display, it’s less difficult to understand his rate of publication.

When I saw that Sanderson had a Kickstarter up and running, I knew that I would have to join. I dithered for about a day over the kind of insane price of going the “swag box” route, but in the end, I decided “hey, what are credit card points for if not off-setting the ridiculous price of things you’d never ordinarily buy??” As I don’t know exactly what is coming in these swag boxes or much about the four books either (there are details out there for the books, but I’d rather just be surprised), I can’t say exactly what this post series will contain over the next year. Instead, it will be a fun surprise for us all! I hope you enjoy the ride with me!


Brandon Sanderon Website

Stormlight Archive

Kickstarter Campaign

Brandon Sanderson YouTube Channel


USA Today article about the Kickstarter campaign

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