Saturday, 3 January 2015

Review: Elantris

 My rating: 4 of 5 stars 

I've been on a bit of a Brandon Sanderson binge lately. I couldn't put down the Mistborn series and spent about a week trying to find a PDF of the fourth book, The Alloy of Law, online. Eventually got to read it! So after I was done with that series I looked up more books to read by the same author, and ended up going for Elantris.

Surprisingly, after enjoying the Mistborn series so much, I was kind of annoyed whilst reading this one; I still enjoyed it and couldn't put it down, but I guess I started noticing things about Sanderson's style. His weak points became more obvious when they were repeated in more than one universe. Most notably his weird aversion to sex or crude language. He will describe gruesome battles in explicit detail but will just "fade to black" rather than show any real passion in any of his characters. This leaves his romances feeling very bland and two-dimensional and cuts out a huge driving force that would have helped greatly in making his characters more human and believable, and their internal thoughts less like blandly oblivious eunuchs.

What I do love about Sanderson's books, though, is his world-building. His systems of magic always feel more like areas of science than the usual "anything goes, especially deus-ex-machina", which I can't stand. When little is understood of the mythos of the universe in the story, fantasy novels so often come to rely on contrived and far too convenient last minute rescues of magical origin. What I like about Sanderson is that his magic is just another system, a system that makes sense. It's a good rule to follow for good writing; in order to avoid cliché in a genre that is absolutely riddled with it, you have to make the rules clear and then follow the shit out of them.

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