Elantris was once the capitol of Arelon. It was called the city of the gods, for its shining walls and workers of wonders. A magical force known as the Shaod would, seemingly at random, transform people into nearly-immortal Elantrians overnight, granting them extraordinary powers, while turning their hair white and their skin an almost-metallic silver. They could heal quickly, move with great strength and speed, and perform magic by simply sketching symbols in the air. The Elantrians healed the injured and created food from nothing, distributing it to the people of the surrounding country of Arelon. There were no kings, just the wise inhabitants of Elantris.

That ended ten years ago. In a cataclysmic event, the arcane energy of the Elantrians changed. They became powerless and sickly, their hearts stopping and their bodies no longer healing from even minor wounds. The once great city of Elantris became a miserable place of grime and tormented denizens. The Shaod, continued to select new Elantrians. Instead of turning those picked into divine beings, however, it cursed them.

In the ten years the followed, Elantris become something to be ignored. The merchants of Arelon formed an aristocracy and placed a despotic king on the throne in the neighboring city of Kae.

The story follows two main characters: Raoden, the king’s son, who is taken by the Shaod and cast into Elantris within the first chapter, and Sarene, a princess from the neighboring country of Teod, who came to Arelon to marry the prince, and perhaps shake-up Arelon politics a little with her forward-thinking ideals. Raoden seeks to improve the state of living in Elantris with his hope-inspiring leadership, while Sarene attempts to dethrone the king and simultaneously save Arelon from impending destruction by the empire centered around the Derethi religion. The solution to many of their problems is linked to one question: what caused the fall of Elantris?

Brandon Sanderson‘s Elantris is a complex story full of twists, intrigue, politics, and none of the traditional fantasy clichés. It’s difficult to describe the story in a way that shows the depth and uniqueness of the book. I think it suffices to say that Elantris is a very enjoyable read and highly recommended.

Also see BookAdvice.net’s take on Elantris.