Book Review: ‘Elantris’ by Brandon Sanderson

Are you considering whether to read Elantris by Brandon Sanderson? I read the book and absolutely loved it! Read this review to help you decide!

Book Review: ‘Elantris’ by Brandon Sanderson
Image: Made by the author in Canva.

Author's Note: This review was originally written in April 2020. It has been edited and republished. This book review will also include spoilers for up to the middle of the book.

Brandon Sanderson is the only author I read who can make me commit to finishing a book after the first chapter.

Now, full disclosure: I read many of Sanderson's books. Reading Elantris never seemed too pressing, but now I'm waiting for Stormlight 4. There are still many other books of his that I haven't read!

Brandon Sanderson is the king of magic systems. As with any of his works, I was also curious to see what magic existed in this world.

So, without further adieu, let's review the main characters and the main story!


The book's main idea is that Elantris was once the city of the gods. Something happened — a cataclysmic event they named The Reod — and they lost their power. Some say Elantris was doomed, and others made religious excuses as to why this was happening.

Ten years after the Reod, Prince Raoden transforms into an Elantrian by the Shaod. Besides being described as a mysterious power, we don't know much about the Shaod. The first chapter in the book is about him waking up and discovering it.

In the glory days of Elantris, this would have been a joyous event, but instead, Raoden becomes like a leper. His wounds don't heal, and his skin is saggy and old. Raoden is Immortal. Yet, in this state, it's more of a curse than a blessing - especially when all Elantrians are locked away in Elantris. The people around the city consider them dead.

Although we meet Raoden only after The Shaod transforms him, he still feels like a real person. That's one of my favorite parts of the story. His past shines through, and his personality is very much intact.

Raoden is curious and decides to understand what happened to Elantris. Through his journey, we illuminate the great city's halls, books, and people.

By the middle of the book, he introduces himself to his now-widow, whom he had never met before the Shaod: Sarene. She has no idea who he is.

The rest of the book beyond that point is fantastic. Quite literally, in fact.


I don't know how female readers feel about Sarene, but I thought she was genuine. There's something very brave about her.

Sarene is the daughter of the king of a neighboring kingdom called Teod. The religious takeover from the Derethi forced the two nations to join forces. The fall of Elantris was the only thing that allowed rulers even to consider such a takeover. Now, ten years after the Reod, people think the land around Elantris is cursed.

Sarene doesn't care about all that. Sarene cares about marrying someone who she thinks might be her equal. In her world, marrying at 25 was considered old. If Prince Raoden died before the marriage, she would be his widow. That's what the political contract said, at least. She became his widow the moment she arrived in Arelon and learned of his death.

When Sarene comes to Kae, the capital of Arelon, she faces more injustice than anything else. The king, Raoden's father, treats her like a stupid girl, and she needs to find her place in court.

Eventually, she teams up with some nobles to oppose the king and Gyorn Hrathen. The latter is a Derethi priest who wants to convert the country. We'll talk about him later.

Sarene is such a compelling character, and she doesn't even have magical powers. I loved reading her. Her relationship with her father is also charming — Daddy's little girl.

When she arrives in Kae, she has no idea that her prince Raoden is just beyond the walls of Elantris. A few minutes walk away. The king secretly banished him. Everyone told Sarene that Raoden was killed in an accident.

Sarene was not convinced.

From there, we see her struggle to discover the truth. What happened to her prince? I'll let you read the book to discover her journey.


Hrathen is a priest of the Derethi religion. He receives a mandate from his superior to come and convert Arelon to the Derethi religion. This mission will spell their god's return — once all the people in all corners of the world will convert. The line between religion and cult is pretty vague there.

The Derethi believe that conversion by force is also an option. Or, if you don't convert, you can die. Then their god will return when all the people that oppose that god are either gone or turned.

It's not hard to stop for a minute and think about a religious sect in our world that inspired this behavior. I'll keep that up to you, dear reader, to figure this one out.

In any case, Hrathen is a very complex character. He isn't a zealot. Hrathen is logical and analytical. His mission is to convert Arelon in three months. Whatever the result, the armies will come and exterminate any non-believers by then.

But, something is not sitting well with Hrathen about this. Besides, the "stupid" princess, Sarene, is a worthy foe in the royal court he needs to win over in Arelon.

Could she become more than that for Hrathen? Read the book to know more.

The Worldbuilding of Elantris

This world doesn't feel like Brandon's first attempt at writing a book. In interviews, he said he wrote many books he didn't publish. But Elantris was his first published one. When reading through, I felt like I lived in Arelon. Brandon's experience in writing shines through the pages - even in this "old" book.

It's easy to connect to the world from the digestible descriptions. Brandon is doing a great job in making sure everything is clear. He doesn't use fancy words to describe people, places, and even magic.

Elantris is also the first book in the Cosmere – Brandon's fantasy universe. Seeing how everything fits together when Brandon publishes Elantris's sequel will be interesting.

The Threads Are Coming Together

Brandon weaved the story together beautifully. In the beginning, each of these characters starts their journey separately. It seems there is no connection whatsoever between them.

Raoden is inside Elantris and trying to survive, Sarene is at court, and Hrathen is in his church.

Each one gets accustomed to their new reality as the story progresses. Also, they illuminate the world around them with their interactions. We get to know more about Elantris, Arelon, and the world as a result.

What I love about Sanderson's writing is that these characters feel independent. They drive the story forward. They are the reason behind the story's turning points, ups and downs.

These characters make me laugh, shed a tear, or hold my breath. And yes, these reactions all happened in this one book.

I wholeheartedly recommend Elantris if you like fantasy with hard rules. They make for exceptional storytelling.

I loved it very much. If you read it, please comment below and tell me what you liked!

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