Oh, Elantris, why must you torture me so? Why must you force me into conflict with the library, my favorite supplier? They claim I owe them something, and they aren’t going to leave me alone. I’m afraid to go to the corner dropbox at night in case a librarian is lurking. I’ve stubbornly held onto their copy of Elantris hoping that I would become inspired to re-read and provide a more thorough review. Alas, no: you will have to read my generalized dislike instead of many specific examples. For no clear reason, I was completely unable to sustain interest in Elantris despite leaving the library copy on my physical ‘currently reading’ shelf for months. While there is an interesting vision of a magical system, magic isn’t enough to save the story, especially as the re-discovering of Elantrian magic is so slooow in the making.
Out of the triplicate storyline, the destroyed Elantrian city was the only plot that really sustained my focus. Perhaps part of it was a difficulty connecting with any of the characters who were mostly out of the Campbellian Mythical Archetype lineage. Prince Raoden has been declared dead, but has actually been thrown into slime-coated Elantris. He has undergone the random but incomplete transformation into an Elantrian. However, he brings his royal training, knowledge of various Arelon citizens and unflagging optimism to the destroyed city and starts gathering the hopeless citizens into a band of survivors. He has a vision–plans to forge them into a populace with pride. He is going to scrub the slime from the buildings and recognize that even the street-sweepers have value in society. He’s going to study, at least the books that haven’t been eaten by the starving populace. He’s going to make friends with a
Jamaican friend and adviser, Galladon. He’s going to fix things.
A second storyline is focused an an annoyingly plucky young heroine, Sarene (subtle much?)–saved from being a Mary Sue because, you know, she can’t draw. Or sing. I think. She’s been betrothed to the prince of Arelon as part of an alliance between her kingdom and his. She faces somewhat predictable kingdom politics, as well as–gasp–overt sexism from her father-in-law and the generally patriarchal Arelon society. But don’t worry–she’ll modernize them and teach them that real princess can fight using swords.
The final storyline is focused on Hrathen, a high priest from Fjordell who is in a mission to convert the godless in Arelon before his emperor invades. He’s actually one of the most layered characters because he has the zeal of a believer tempered with flawed insight. Though he thinks he knows the politics, he’s frequently outmaneuvered by everyone around him, from Sarene, to his recruit, to the emperor. However, the subtlety of his characterization is based on overly-fuzzy political details, so there is a tremendous amount of info-dumping whenever he is in a scene, likely one reason a number of readers label it their least favorite storyline.
I just didn’t feel the heart here, ultimately leading it to a two star read for me. It felt a little too self-conscious and ‘I’m-avoiding-formula-by-changing-two-things’ brainstorm on Sanderson’s part. There are a couple of unsolved questions, at least as far as my half-a-brain effort could tell, but I’m not sure there’s anything worth potential conflict with the library.
After all, I have to stay on the good side of my dealer.