Elantris

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Overview

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, ...

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Overview

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.

A rare epic fantasy that doesn't recycle the classics and that is a complete and satisfying story in one volume, Elantris is fleet and fun, full of surprises and characters to care about. It's also the wonderful debut of a welcome new star in the constellation of fantasy.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Brandon Sanderson's debut novel, Elantris -- an instant fantasy classic about a fallen city of the gods and its inexplicable rise from its own ruins -- is a singular storytelling tour de force that is absolutely beyond compare.

The city of Elantris was once the most beautiful in the world. Inhabited by a godlike populace and home to innumerable wonders, it attracted people from far and wide. But then something happened. The magic that powered Elantris suddenly disappeared. The once-radiant Elantrians became leprous creatures, and the city fell into shadow.

Ten years after the Punishment, Elantris is a ghost town, a "land of sludge, insanity, and eternal perdition," inhabited by those few who become afflicted with the Shaod, a dread disease that blackens the skin, stops the heart, and suspends those ill-fated souls in a state of nightmarish half death. Raoden, the beloved crown prince of Arelon, contracts the ailment just as he prepares for his wedding to Princess Sarene of Teod. He is secretly whisked away to Elantris, where King Iadon informs his people that his son has died of an "unexpected disease." Sarene arrives shortly thereafter, finding a kingdom on the verge of collapse. In the shadow of the ghostly city, Sarene vows to do what she can to stop the religious and political upheaval. Raoden, meanwhile, uncovers the jaw-dropping secrets of Elantris.

In a genre where mainstream success regularly leads to mind-numbing repetition (unnecessarily prolonged series that recycle predictable plotlines) and shameless mass imitation, true creative genius is often hard to find. Fantasy fans need not look any further for such genius -- Brandon Sanderson is his name, and Elantris is his calling card. Paul Goat Allen

David Farland
"Brandon Sanderson is the real thing—Elantris is one of the finest debuts I've seen in years."
Kevin J. Anderson
"Elantris is a new Ben Hur for the fantasy genre, with a sweeping, epic storyline and well-drawn and sympathetic characters."
L.E. Modesitt
"A unique, different, and well-thought-out fantasy world, with a few nifty twists as well."
Orson Scott Card
"Elantris is the finest novel of fantasy to be written in many years. . . . a truly original world."
From the Publisher
"Elantris is the finest novel of fantasy to be written in many years. Brandon Sanderson has created a truly original world of magic and intrigue, and with the rigor of the best science fiction writers he has made it real at every level.”—Orson Scott Card

Elantris . . . is marked by vivid and strongly drawn characters and ingenious plot twists that will keep the reader turning pages. Don’t miss it!”—Katherine Kurtz, New York Times bestselling author of the Deryni series

“Outstanding fantasy debut . . . . The intrigue and excitement grow steadily in this smoothly written, perfectly balanced narrative; by the end readers won’t want to put it down.” –Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

“A completely unique world that enfolds the reader in mystery and wonder right through till the last page.”–Romantic Times BookClub Magazine

 

"Brandon Sanderson is the real thing—an exciting storyteller with a unique and powerful vision. Elantris is one of the finest debuts I've seen in years."—David Farland

"Elantris is a new Ben Hur for the fantasy genre, with a sweeping, epic storyline and well-drawn and sympathetic characters."—Kevin J. Anderson

 

"While every new fantasy author is hailed as unique, new, and different, Brandon Sanderson's Elantris does indeed provide an absorbing adventure in a unique, different, and well-thought-out fantasy world, with a few nifty twists as well."-L. E. Modesitt, Jr.

 

“Sanderson’s fantasy debut offers a vibrant cast of characters and a story of faith and determination set against a vividly portrayed world . . . filled with surprising twists and turns and a conclusion both satisfying and original.” –Library Journal, Starred Review

Katherine Kurtz
"Vivid and strongly drawn characters and ingenious plot twists that will keep the reader turning pages. Don't miss it!"
Orson Scott Card
"Elantris is the finest novel of fantasy to be written in many years. . . . a truly original world."
Romantic Time Bookclub Magazine
"A completely unique world that enfolds the reader in mystery and wonder right through till the last page."
Katherine Kurtz
"Vivid and strongly drawn characters and ingenious plot twists that will keep the reader turning pages. Don't miss it!"
Romantic Time Bookclub Magazine
"A completely unique world that enfolds the reader in mystery and wonder right through till the last page."
From The Critics
"Elantris is the finest novel of fantasy to be written in many years. Brandon Sanderson has created a truly original world of magic and intrigue, and with the rigor of the best science fiction writers he has made it real at every level.”—Orson Scott Card

“Elantris . . . is marked by vivid and strongly drawn characters and ingenious plot twists that will keep the reader turning pages. Don’t miss it!”—Katherine Kurtz, New York Times bestselling author of the Deryni series

“Outstanding fantasy debut . . . . The intrigue and excitement grow steadily in this smoothly written, perfectly balanced narrative; by the end readers won’t want to put it down.” –Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

“A completely unique world that enfolds the reader in mystery and wonder right through till the last page.”–Romantic Times BookClub Magazine "Brandon Sanderson is the real thing—an exciting storyteller with a unique and powerful vision. Elantris is one of the finest debuts I've seen in years."—David Farland

"Elantris is a new Ben Hur for the fantasy genre, with a sweeping, epic storyline and well-drawn and sympathetic characters."—Kevin J. Anderson "While every new fantasy author is hailed as unique, new, and different, Brandon Sanderson's Elantris does indeed provide an absorbing adventure in a unique, different, and well-thought-out fantasy world, with a few nifty twists as well."-L. E. Modesitt, Jr. “Sanderson’s fantasy debut offers a vibrant cast of characters and a story of faith and determination set against a vividly portrayed world . . . filled with surprising twists and turns and a conclusion both satisfying and original.” –Library Journal, Starred Review

Orson Scott Card
"Elantris is the finest novel of fantasy to be written in many years. . . . a truly original world.
Kevin J. Anderson
"Elantris is a new Ben Hur for the fantasy genre, with a sweeping, epic storyline and well-drawn and sympathetic characters.
David Farland
"Brandon Sanderson is the real thing—Elantris is one of the finest debuts I've seen in years.
Katherine Kurtz
"Vivid and strongly drawn characters and ingenious plot twists that will keep the reader turning pages. Don't miss it!
Romantic Time Bookclub Magazine
"A completely unique world that enfolds the reader in mystery and wonder right through till the last page.
L.E. Modesitt
"A unique, different, and well-thought-out fantasy world, with a few nifty twists as well.
Orson Scott Card
"Elantris is the finest novel of fantasy to be written in many years. . . . a truly original world."
Katherine Kurtz
"Vivid and strongly drawn characters and ingenious plot twists that will keep the reader turning pages. Don't miss it!"
Romantic Time Bookclub Magazine
"A completely unique world that enfolds the reader in mystery and wonder right through till the last page."
L.E. Modesitt
"A unique, different, and well-thought-out fantasy world, with a few nifty twists as well."
From the Publisher

"Elantris is the finest novel of fantasy to be written in many years. Brandon Sanderson has created a truly original world of magic and intrigue, and with the rigor of the best science fiction writers he has made it real at every level.”—Orson Scott Card

Elantris . . . is marked by vivid and strongly drawn characters and ingenious plot twists that will keep the reader turning pages. Don’t miss it!”—Katherine Kurtz, New York Times bestselling author of the Deryni series

“Outstanding fantasy debut . . . . The intrigue and excitement grow steadily in this smoothly written, perfectly balanced narrative; by the end readers won’t want to put it down.” –Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

“A completely unique world that enfolds the reader in mystery and wonder right through till the last page.”–Romantic Times BookClub Magazine
 

"Brandon Sanderson is the real thing--an exciting storyteller with a unique and powerful vision. Elantris is one of the finest debuts I've seen in years."--David Farland

"Elantris is a new Ben Hur for the fantasy genre, with a sweeping, epic storyline and well-drawn and sympathetic characters."--Kevin J. Anderson

 

"While every new fantasy author is hailed as unique, new, and different, Brandon Sanderson's Elantris does indeed provide an absorbing adventure in a unique, different, and well-thought-out fantasy world, with a few nifty twists as well."-L. E. Modesitt, Jr.
 

“Sanderson’s fantasy debut offers a vibrant cast of characters and a story of faith and determination set against a vividly portrayed world . . . filled with surprising twists and turns and a conclusion both satisfying and original.” –Library Journal, Starred Review

Orson Scott Card

"Elantris is the finest novel of fantasy to be written in many years. . . . a truly original world."
Kevin J. Anderson

"Elantris is a new Ben Hur for the fantasy genre, with a sweeping, epic storyline and well-drawn and sympathetic characters."
David Farland

"Brandon Sanderson is the real thing--Elantris is one of the finest debuts I've seen in years."
Katherine Kurtz

"Vivid and strongly drawn characters and ingenious plot twists that will keep the reader turning pages. Don't miss it!"
Romantic Time Bookclub Magazine

"A completely unique world that enfolds the reader in mystery and wonder right through till the last page."
L.E. Modesitt

"A unique, different, and well-thought-out fantasy world, with a few nifty twists as well."
Publishers Weekly
Sanderson's outstanding fantasy debut, refreshingly complete unto itself and free of the usual genre cliches, offers something for everyone: mystery, magic, romance, political wrangling, religious conflict, fights for equality, sharp writing and wonderful, robust characters. The godlike inhabitants of Elantris, once the capital of the land of Arelon, have degenerated into powerless, tortured souls, unable to die, after the city's magic inexplicably broke 10 years earlier. When the same curse strikes Prince Raoden of Arelon and he's imprisoned in Elantris, he refuses to surrender to his grim fate and instead strives to create a society out of the fallen and to unlock the secret that will restore the city's glory. Meanwhile, Princess Sarene of Kae (Arelon's new capital), who was betrothed to Raoden sight unseen, believes her intended has died. Officially declared his widow, she must use her political savvy and wit to protect Kae from malevolent forces without and within the city, chiefly Hrathen, a leader of the creepy Shu-Dereth faith, who aims to either convert Kae or destroy it within three months. The intrigue and excitement grow steadily in this smoothly written, perfectly balanced narrative; by the end readers won't want to put it down. As the blurb from Orson Scott Card suggests, Sanderson is a writer to watch. Agent, Joshua Bilmes. (May 10) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
KLIATT - Cara Chancellor
The city of Elantris used to be the dwelling of magical inhabitants whose luminescent silvery skin and AonDor enchantments gave them the status of gods. Ten years ago, though, the city and its inhabitants underwent a drastic change. Now, those who are transformed into Elantrians, via a mystical process known as the Shaod, turn into living corpses who are forcibly locked in the now-rotting city. Elantris is a high-fantasy novel that follows three spectacular characters. Raoden is the crown prince of Arelon, the land that houses Elantris, who wakes up to find himself transformed, ostracized, and thrown into the barbaric Elantris either to discover its secrets or to go mad in the process. Sarene is the clever princess of Teod, the land across the sea from Arelon and its one remaining ally against Fjordell. She has arrived in Arelon to wed Raoden, only to find her prince suspiciously missing. Hrathen is a high priest of Fjordell who believes he was sent to Arelon to convert its citizens, but who soon discovers his role is more deadly than he knew. Although Elantris will be enjoyed immensely by those dedicated, advanced fantasy readers who appreciate a complex plot and who read quickly enough to get through the first third of the book, which is consistently tragic and even disturbing, those not already convinced of fantasy's merits will find Elantris a tough sell. Sanderson leads his readers through a long and difficult puzzle, but the freshness and inventiveness of the conclusion make the ending well worth the wait for a reader who finds delight in serious fantasy lore.
Library Journal
Ten years have passed since the benevolent, godlike beings who ruled Arelon from their city of Elantris suffered a sudden, catastrophic change that left them little better than the walking dead and their glorious capital city little more than a slime-covered tomb. Now faced with the possibility of an invasion by the religious fanatics of neighboring Fjordell, the rulers of Arelon and the independent land of Teod plan a marriage between Arelon's Prince Raoden and Teod's Princess Sarene, a union meant to join their countries in mutual defense. When the prince falls prey to the Elantrian curse and is exiled to the dead city, the stranded Sarene finds herself faced with an aging king who doesn't want her and the growing threat of a Fjordell takeover led by charismatic priest Hrathen. Sanderson's fantasy debut offers a vibrant cast of characters and a story of faith and determination set against a vividly portrayed world where magic is based on channeling power through the depiction of runes. The author's skill at turning conventional fantasy on its head produces a tale filled with surprising twists and turns and a conclusion both satisfying and original. Libraries of all sizes should add this to their fantasy collections. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Debut author Sanderson serves up an epic fantasy novel that is (startlingly) not Volume One of a Neverending Sequence. Ten years ago, the magical city of Elantris fell under a curse, and the land of Arelon it once ruled has hit hard times. The mysterious transformation known as the Shaod, which falls on Arelenes at random and used to turn them into spell-wielding Elantrians, now leaves its victims half-dead husks, exiled to live in the ruined city. Even Prince Raoden, transformed overnight, finds himself imprisoned with the others-but he's soon rallying the downtrodden and seeking out the source of the curse. Meanwhile, his betrothed, Princess Sarene of Teod (Sanderson's got a tin ear for names), sets about modernizing the backward Arelish court, and thwarting the schemes of the spy-priest Hrathen of Fjorden, who plots to convert Arelon to his harsh Derethi faith. Sanderson offers an unusually well-conceived system of magic, but he cuts his characters from very simple cloth: only the Derethi agent Hrathen develops any intriguing depth or complexity. Still, the pages turn agreeably, the story has some grip and it's a tremendous relief to have fruition in a single volume. (Not that sequels won't be coming.)A cut above the same-old, but hardly a classic.
Simon R. Green
A marvelous, magic monster of a book, packed full of intrigue and daring, based around a killer high concept. All this and a genuinely touching love story too."
L. E. Modesitt
While every new fantasy author is hailed as unique, new, and different, Brandon Sanderson's Elantris does indeed provide an absorbing adventure in a unique, different, and well-thought-out fantasy world, with a few nifty twists as well
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780765350374
  • Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
  • Publication date: 5/30/2006
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 656
  • Sales rank: 52,008
  • Product dimensions: 4.22 (w) x 6.65 (h) x 1.08 (d)

Meet the Author

Brandon Sanderson

BRANDON SANDERSON grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska. He lives in Utah with his wife and children and teaches creative writing at Brigham Young University. In addition to completing Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time®, he is the author of such bestsellers as the Mistborn trilogy, Warbreaker, The Alloy of Law, The Way of Kings, Rithmatist, and Steelheart. He won the 2013 Hugo Award for “The Emperor’s Soul,” a novella set in the world of his acclaimed first novel, Elantris.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

PRINCE Raoden of Arelon awoke early that morning, completely unaware that he had been damned for all eternity. Still drowsy, Raoden sat up, blinking in the soft morning light. Just outside his open balcony windows he could see the enormous city of Elantris in the distance, its stark walls casting a deep shadow over the smaller city of Kae, where Raoden lived. Elantris’s walls were incredibly high, but Raoden could see the tops of black towers rising behind them, their broken spires a clue to the fallen majesty hidden within.

The abandoned city seemed darker than usual. Raoden stared at it for a moment, then glanced away. The huge Elantrian walls were impossible to ignore, but people of Kae tried very hard to do just that. It was painful to remember the city’s beauty, to wonder how ten years ago the blessing of the Shaod had become a curse instead....

Raoden shook his head, climbing out of bed. It was unusually warm for such an early hour; he didn’t feel even a bit chilly as he threw on his robe, then pulled the servant’s cord beside his bed, indicating that he wanted breakfast.

That was another odd thing. He was hungry—very hungry. Almost ravenous. He had never liked large breakfasts, but this morning he found himself waiting impatiently for his meal to arrive. Finally, he decided to send someone to see what was taking so long.

"Ien?" he called in the unlit chambers.

There was no response. Raoden frowned slightly at the Seon’s absence. Where could Ien be?

Raoden stood, and as he did, his eyes fell on Elantris again. Resting in the great city’s shadow, Kae seemed like an insignificant village by comparison. Elantris. An enormous, ebony block—not really a city anymore, just the corpse of one. Raoden shivered slightly.

A knock came at his door.

"Finally," Raoden said, walking over to pull open the door. Old Elao stood outside with a tray of fruit and warm bread.

The tray dropped to the ground with a crash, slipping from the stunned maid’s fingers even as Raoden reached out to accept it. Raoden froze, the tray’s metallic ring echoing through the silent morning hallway.

"Merciful Domi!" Elao whispered, her eyes horrified and her hand trembling as she reached up to grab the Korathi pendant at her neck.

Raoden reached out, but the maid took a quivering step away, stumbling on a small melon in her haste to escape.

"What?" Raoden asked. Then he saw his hand. What had been hidden in the shadows of his darkened room was now illuminated by the hallway’s flickering lantern.

Raoden turned, throwing furniture out of his way as he stumbled to the tall mirror at the side of his chambers. The dawn’s light had grown just strong enough for him to see the reflection that stared back at him. A stranger’s reflection.

His blue eyes were the same, though they were wide with terror. His hair, however, had changed from sandy brown to limp gray. The skin was the worst. The mirrored face was covered with sickly black patches, like dark bruises. The splotches could mean only one thing.

The Shaod had come upon him.

THE Elantris city gate boomed shut behind him with a shocking sound of finality. Raoden slumped against it, thoughts numbed by the day’s events.

It was as if his memories belonged to another person. His father, King Iadon, hadn’t met Raoden’s gaze as he ordered the priests to prepare his son and throw him into Elantris. It had been done swiftly and quietly; Iadon couldn’t afford to let it be known that the crown prince was an Elantrian. Ten years ago, the Shaod would have made Raoden a god. Now, instead of making people into silver-skinned deities, it changed them into sickly monstrosities.

Raoden shook his head in disbelief. The Shaod was a thing that happened to other people—distant people. People who deserved to be cursed. Not the crown prince of Arelon. Not Raoden.

The city of Elantris stretched out before him. Its high walls were lined with guardhouses and soldiers—men intended not to keep enemies out of the city, but to keep its inhabitants from escaping. Since the Reod, every person taken by the Shaod had been thrown into Elantris to rot; the fallen city had become an expansive tomb for those whose bodies had forgotten how to die.

Raoden could remember standing on those walls, looking down on Elantris’s dread inhabitants, just as the guards now looked down on him. The city had seemed far away then, even though he had been standing just outside of it. He had wondered, philosophically, what it would be like to walk those blackened streets.

Now he was going to find out.

Raoden pushed against the gate for a moment, as if to force his body through, to cleanse his flesh of its taint. He lowered his head, releasing a quiet moan. He felt like curling into a ball on the grimy stones and waiting until he woke from this dream. Except, he knew he would never awaken. The priests said that this nightmare would never end.

But, somewhere, something within urged him forward. He knew he had to keep moving—for if he stopped, he feared he’d simply give up. The Shaod had taken his body. He couldn’t let it take his mind as well.

So, using his pride like a shield against despair, dejection, and—most important—self-pity, Raoden raised his head to stare damnation in the eyes.

BEFORE, when Raoden had stood on the walls of Elantris to look down—both literally and figuratively—on its inhabitants, he had seen the filth that covered the city. Now he stood in it.

Every surface—from the walls of the buildings to the numerous cracks in the cobblestones—was coated with a patina of grime. The slick, oily substance had an equalizing effect on Elantris’s colors, blending them all into a single, depressing hue—a color that mixed the pessimism of black with the polluted greens and browns of sewage.

Before, Raoden had been able to see a few of the city’s inhabitants. Now he could hear them as well. A dozen or so Elantrians lay scattered across the court-yard’s fetid cobblestones. Many sat uncaringly, or unknowingly, in pools of dark water, the remains of the night’s rainstorm. And they were moaning. Most of them were quiet about it, mumbling to themselves or whimpering with some unseen pain. One woman at the far end of the courtyard, however, screamed with a sound of raw anguish. She fell silent after a moment, her breath or her strength giving out.

Most of them wore what looked like rags—dark, loose-fitting garments that were as soiled as the streets. Looking closely, however, Raoden recognized the clothing. He glanced down at his own white burial cloths. They were long and flowing, like ribbons sewn together into a loose robe. The linen on his arms and legs was already stained with grime from brushing up against the city gate and stone pillars. Raoden suspected they would soon be indistinguishable from the other Elantrians’ garb.

This is what I will become, Raoden thought. It has already begun. In a few weeks I will be nothing more than a dejected body, a corpse whimpering in the corner.

A slight motion on the other side of the courtyard brought Raoden out of his self-pity. Some Elantrians were crouching in a shadowed doorway across from him. He couldn’t make out much from their silhouetted forms, but they seemed to be waiting for something. He could feel their eyes on him.

Raoden raised an arm to shade his eyes, and only then did he remember the small thatch basket in his hands. It held the ritual Korathi sacrifice sent with the dead into the next life—or, in this case, into Elantris. The basket contained a loaf of bread, a few thin vegetables, a handful of grain, and a small flask of wine. Normal death sacrifices were far more extensive, but even a victim of the Shaod had to be given something.

Raoden glanced back at the figures in the doorway, his mind flashing to rumors he’d heard on the outside—stories of Elantrian brutality. The shadowed figures had yet to move, but their study of him was unnerving.

Taking a deep breath, Raoden took a step to the side, moving along the city wall toward the east side of the courtyard. The forms still seemed to be watching him, but they didn’t follow. In a moment, he could no longer see through the doorway, and a second later he had safely passed into one of the side streets.

Raoden released his breath, feeling that he had escaped something, though he didn’t know what. After a few moments, he was certain that no one followed, and he began to feel foolish for his alarm. So far, he had yet to see anything that corroborated the rumors about Elantris. Raoden shook his head and continued moving.

The stench was almost overwhelming. The omnipresent sludge had a musty, rotten scent, like that of dying fungus. Raoden was so bothered by the smell that he nearly stepped directly on the gnarled form of an old man huddled next to a building’s wall. The man moaned piteously, reaching up with a thin arm. Raoden looked down, and felt a sudden chill. The "old man" was no more than sixteen years old. The creature’s soot-covered skin was dark and spotted, but his face was that of a child, not a man. Raoden took an involuntary step backward.

The boy, as if realizing that his chance would soon pass, stretched his arm forward with the sudden strength of desperation. "Food?" he mumbled through a mouth only half full of teeth. "Please?"

Then the arm fell, its endurance expended, and the body slumped back against the cold stone wall. His eyes, however, continued to watch Raoden. Sorrowful, pained eyes. Raoden had seen beggars before in the Outer Cities, and he had probably been fooled by charlatans a number of times. This boy, however, was not faking.

Raoden reached up and pulled the loaf of bread from his sacrificial offerings, then handed it to the boy. The look of disbelief that ran across the boy’s face was somehow more disturbing than the despair it had replaced. This creature had given up hope long ago; he probably begged out of habit rather than expectation.

Raoden left the boy behind, turning to continue down the small street. He had hoped that the city would grow less gruesome as he left the main courtyard— thinking, perhaps, that the dirt was a result of the area’s relatively frequent use. He had been wrong; the alley was covered with just as much filth as the courtyard, if not more.

A muffled thump sounded from behind. Raoden turned with surprise. A group of dark forms stood near the mouth of the side street, huddled around an object on the ground. The beggar. Raoden watched with a shiver as five men devoured his loaf of bread, fighting among themselves and ignoring the boy’s despairing cries. Eventually, one of the newcomers—obviously annoyed—brought a makeshift club down on the boy’s head with a crunch that resounded through the small alley.

The men finished the bread, then turned to regard Raoden. He took an apprehensive step backward; it appeared that he had been hasty in assuming he hadn’t been followed. The five men slowly stalked forward, and Raoden spun, taking off at a run.

Sounds of pursuit came from behind. Raoden scrambled away in fear— something that, as a prince, he had never needed to do before. He ran madly, expecting his breath to run short and a pain to stab him in the side, as usually happened when he overextended himself. Neither occurred. Instead, he simply began to feel horribly tired, weak to the point that he knew he would soon collapse. It was a harrowing feeling, as if his life were slowly seeping away.

Desperate, Raoden tossed the sacrificial basket over his head. The awkward motion threw him off balance, and an unseen schism in the cobblestones sent him into a maladroit skip that didn’t end until he collided with a rotting mass of wood. The wood—which might once have been a pile of crates—squished, breaking his fall.

Raoden sat up quickly, the motion tossing shreds of wood pulp across the damp alleyway. His assailants, however, were no longer concerned with him. The five men crouched in the street’s muck, picking scattered vegetables and grain off the cobblestones and out of the dark pools. Raoden felt his stomach churn as one of the men slid his finger down a crack, scraped up a dark handful that was more sludge than corn, then rammed the entire mass between eager lips. Brackish spittle dribbled down the man’s chin, dropping from a mouth that resembled a mud-filled pot boiling on the stove.

One man saw Raoden watching. The creature growled, reaching down to grab the almost-forgotten cudgel at his side. Raoden searched frantically for a weapon, finding a length of wood that was slightly less rotten than the rest. He held the weapon in uncertain hands, trying to project an air of danger.

The thug paused. A second later, a cry of joy from behind drew his attention: one of the others had located the tiny skin of wine. The struggle that ensued apparently drove all thoughts of Raoden from the men’s minds, and the five were soon gone—four chasing after the one who had been fortunate, or foolish, enough to escape with the precious liquor.

Raoden sat in the debris, overwhelmed. This is what you will become....

"Looks like they forgot about you, sule," a voice observed.

Raoden jumped, looking toward the sound of the voice. A man, his smooth bald head reflecting the morning light, reclined lazily on a set of steps a short distance away. He was definitely an Elantrian, but before the transformation he must have been of a different race—not from Arelon, like Raoden. The man’s skin bore the telltale black splotches of the Shaod, but the unaffected patches weren’t pale, they were a deep brown instead.

Raoden tensed against possible danger, but this man showed no signs of the primal wildness or the decrepit weakness Raoden had seen in the others. Tall and firm-framed, the man had wide hands and keen eyes set in a dark-skinned face. He studied Raoden with a thoughtful attitude.

Raoden breathed a sigh of relief. "Whoever you are, I’m glad to see you. I was beginning to think everyone in here was either dying or insane."

"We can’t be dying," the man responded with a snort. "We’re already dead. Kolo?"

"Kolo." The foreign word was vaguely familiar, as was the man’s strong accent. "You’re not from Arelon?"

The man shook his head. "I’m Galladon, from the sovereign realm of Duladel. I’m most recently from Elantris, land of sludge, insanity, and eternal perdition. Nice to meet you."

"Duladel?" Raoden said. "But the Shaod only affects people from Arelon." He picked himself up, brushing away pieces of wood in various stages of decomposition, grimacing at the pain in his stubbed toe. He was covered with slime, and the raw stench of Elantris now rose from him as well.

"Duladel is of mixed blood, sule. Arelish, Fjordell, Teoish—you’ll find them all. I—"

Raoden cursed quietly, interrupting the man.

Galladon raised an eyebrow. "What is it, sule? Get a splinter in the wrong place? There aren’t many right places for that, I suppose."

"It’s my toe!" Raoden said, limping across the slippery cobblestones. "There’s something wrong with it—I stubbed it when I fell, but the pain isn’t going away."

Galladon shook his head ruefully. "Welcome to Elantris, sule. You’re dead— your body won’t repair itself like it should."

"What?" Raoden flopped to the ground next to Galladon’s steps. His toe continued to hurt with a pain as sharp as the moment he stubbed it.

"Every pain, sule," Galladon whispered. "Every cut, every nick, every bruise, and every ache—they will stay with you until you go mad from the suffering. As I said, welcome to Elantris."

"How do you stand it?" Raoden asked, massaging his toe, an action that didn’t help. It was such a silly little injury, but he had to fight to keep the pained tears from his eyes.

"We don’t. We’re either very careful, or we end up like those rulos you saw in the courtyard."

"In the courtyard.... Idos Domi!" Raoden pulled himself to his feet and hobbled toward the courtyard. He found the beggar boy in the same location, near the mouth of the alley. He was still alive... in a way.

The boy’s eyes stared blankly into the air, the pupils quivering. His lips worked silently, no sound escaping. The boy’s neck had been completely crushed, and there was a massive gash in its side, exposing the vertebrae and throat. The boy tried without success to breathe through the mess.

Suddenly Raoden’s toe didn’t seem so bad. "Idos Domi..." Raoden whispered, turning his head as his stomach lurched. He reached out and grabbed the side of a building to steady himself, his head bowed, as he tried to keep from adding to the sludge on the cobblestones.

"There isn’t much left for this one," Galladon said with a matter-of-fact tone, crouching down next to the beggar.

"How …?" Raoden began, then stopped as his stomach threatened him again. He sat down in the slime with a plop and, after a few deep breaths, continued. "How long will he live like that?"

"You still don’t understand, sule," Galladon said, his accented voice sorrowful. "He isn’t alive—none of us are. That’s why we’re here. Kolo? The boy will stay like this forever. That is, after all, the typical length of eternal damnation."

"Is there nothing we can do?"

Galladon shrugged. "We could try burning him, assuming we could make a fire. Elantrian bodies seem to burn better than those of regular people, and some think that’s a fitting death for our kind."

"And . . ." Raoden said, still unable to look at the boy. "And if we do that, what happens to him—his soul?"

"He doesn’t have a soul," Galladon said. "Or so the priests tell us. Korathi, Derethi, Jesker—they all say the same thing. We’re damned."

"That doesn’t answer my question. Will the pain stop if he is burned?"

Galladon looked down at the boy. Eventually, he just shrugged. "Some say that if you burn us, or cut off our head, or do anything that completely destroys the body, we’ll just stop existing. Others, they say the pain goes on—that we become pain. They think we’d float thoughtlessly, unable to feel anything but agony. I don’t like either option, so I just try to keep myself in one piece. Kolo?"

"Yes," Raoden whispered. "I kolo." He turned, finally getting the courage to look back at the wounded boy. The enormous gash stared back at him. Blood seeped slowly from the wound—as if the liquid were just sitting in the veins, like stagnant water in a pool.

With a sudden chill Raoden reached up and felt his chest. "I don’t have a heartbeat," he realized for the first time.

Galladon looked at Raoden as if he had made an utterly idiotic statement. "Sule, you’re dead. Kolo?"

THEY didn’t burn the boy. Not only did they lack the proper implements to make fire, but Galladon forbade it. "We can’t make a decision like that. What if he really has no soul? What if he stopped existing when we burned his body? To many, an existence of agony is better than no existence at all."

So, they left the boy where he had fallen—Galladon doing so without a second thought, Raoden following because he couldn’t think of anything else to do, though he felt the pain of guilt more sharply than even the pain in his toe.

Galladon obviously didn’t care whether Raoden followed him, went in another direction, or stood staring at an interesting spot of grime on the wall. The large, dark-skinned man walked back the way they had come, passing the occasional moaning body in a gutter, his back turned toward Raoden with a posture of complete indifference.

Watching the Dula go, Raoden tried to gather his thoughts. He had been trained for a life in politics; years of preparation had conditioned him to make quick decisions. He made one just then. He decided to trust Galladon.

There was something innately likable about the Dula, something Raoden found indefinably appealing, even if it was covered by a grime of pessimism as thick as the slime on the ground. It was more than Galladon’s lucidity, more than just his leisurely attitude. Raoden had seen the man’s eyes when he regarded the suffering child. Galladon claimed to accept the inevitable, but he felt sad that he had to do so.

The Dula found his former perch on the steps and settled back down. Taking a determined breath, Raoden walked over and stood expectantly in front of the man.

Galladon glanced up. "What?"

"I need your help, Galladon," Raoden said, squatting on the ground in front of the steps.

Galladon snorted. "This is Elantris, sule. There’s no such thing as help. Pain, insanity, and a whole lot of slime are the only things you’ll find here."

"You almost sound like you believe that."

"You are asking in the wrong place, sule."

"You’re the only noncomatose person I’ve met in here who hasn’t attacked me," Raoden said. "Your actions speak much more convincingly than your words."

"Perhaps I simply haven’t tried to hurt you because I know you don’t have anything to take."

"I don’t believe that."

Galladon shrugged an "I don’t care what you believe" shrug and turned away, leaning back against the side of the building and closing his eyes.

"Are you hungry, Galladon?" Raoden asked quietly.

The man’s eyes snapped open.

"I used to wonder when King Iadon fed the Elantrians," Raoden mused. "I never heard of any supplies entering the city, but I always assumed that they were sent. After all, I thought, the Elantrians stay alive. I never understood. If the people of this city can exist without heartbeats, then they can probably exist without food. Of course, that doesn’t mean the hunger goes away. I was ravenous when I awoke this morning, and I still am. From the looks in the eyes of those men who attacked me, I’d guess the hunger only gets worse."

Raoden reached under his grime-stained sacrificial robe, pulling out a thin object and holding it up for Galladon to see. A piece of dried meat. Galladon’s eyes opened all the way, his face changing from bored to interested. There was a glint in his eyes—a bit of the same wildness that Raoden had seen in the savage men earlier. It was more controlled, but it was there. For the first time, Raoden realized just how much he was gambling on his first impression of the Dula.

"Where did that come from?" Galladon asked slowly.

"It fell out of my basket when the priests were leading me here, so I stuffed it under my sash. Do you want it or not?"

Galladon didn’t answer for a moment. "What makes you think I won’t simply attack you and take it?" The words were not hypothetical; Raoden could tell that a part of Galladon was actually considering such an action. How large a part was still indeterminable.

"You called me ‘sule,’ Galladon. How could you kill one you’ve dubbed a friend?"

Galladon sat, transfixed by the tiny piece of meat. A thin drop of spittle ran unnoticed from the side of his mouth. He looked up at Raoden, who was growing increasingly anxious. When their eyes met, something sparked in Galladon, and the tension snapped. The Dula suddenly bellowed a deep, resounding laugh. "You speak Duladen, sule?"

"Only a few words," Raoden said modestly.

"An educated man? Rich offerings for Elantris today! All right, you conniving rulo, what do you want?"

"Thirty days," Raoden said. "For thirty days you will show me around and tell me what you know."

"Thirty days? Sule, you’re kayana."

"The way I see it," Raoden said, moving to tuck the meat back in his sash, "the only food that ever enters this place arrives with the newcomers. One must get pretty hungry with so few offerings and so many mouths to feed. One would think the hunger would be almost maddening."

"Twenty days," Galladon said, a hint of his former intensity showing again.

"Thirty, Galladon. If you won’t help me, someone else will."

Galladon ground his teeth for a moment. "Rulo," he muttered, then held out his hand. "Thirty days. Fortunately, I wasn’t planning any extended trips during the next month."

Raoden tossed him the meat with a laugh.

Galladon snatched the meat. Then, though his hand jerked reflexively toward his mouth, he stopped. With a careful motion he tucked the meat into a pocket and stood up. "So, what should I call you?"

Raoden paused. Probably best if people don’t know I’m royalty, for now. " ‘Sule’ works just fine for me."

Galladon chuckled. "The private type, I see. Well, let’s go then. It’s time for you to get the grand tour."

Excerpted from Elantris by Brandon Sanderson.

Copyright © 2005 by Brandon Sanderson.

Published in May 2005 by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 392 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 394 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2012

    Great first novel

    I highly recommend this book to fantasy buffs as well as fans of Sanderson's other works. While not quite as fast paced or polished as his Mistborn series, it was a fantastic read with a very satisfying conclusion.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 4, 2011

    Great Sci-Fi

    I really enjoyed this book. I found the time and world fascinating. It was amazing to think of an arranged marriage princess bride arriving to her new land to find out that her intended was dead and she was married to him, thus a widow never having met him in person. I have to admit that I have never met a character who came so close and yet had such a hard time getting married.

    I marvel how both the Princess and Prince created their own realms similarly yet apart. You want so badly for them to get together because you know that they would be good together.

    I love how the Prince pieces together the puzzle and comes to really love the Princess. He was so good at changing everyone in Elantris by giving them a job to do, a purpose. It really helps you appreciate our need for purpose in our lives. I was fascinated by the science involved in Elantris.

    It is hard to keep track of all of the characters especially because they sometimes have similar sounding names. There are a ton of characters to keep track of too.

    I found the priests involvement in the story disturbing at times but also intriguing.

    I do like how it ends.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 21, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    A great standalone novel

    Elantris, by Brandon Sanderson, is a great novel. This story of "gods" brought low is quite gripping, leaving the reader on the edge of his or her seat. The story of the Elantrans, and their once great race and city, is very deep, with a plot that has more twists and turns than a hedge maze. A prince deeply loved by his people, shows the signs of the changing, pronounced dead, and thrown in the old city of Elantris with the rest of these immortal beings. His betrothed arrives at the palace only to find that he has "died," yet the story she is told seems not to fit with what she sees. A priest of the most powerful religion in the world sees the fall of Elantris as a sign that his religion is the one true path...or is it? Elantris was hard to put down, and even harder to know that it is a standalone, for I only want more!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 25, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Good book, though not his best.

    I enjoyed this book. It's definitely not as good as Sanderson's later works, but it's reflective of his fertile imagination. I loved the premised and enjoyed the plot. The characters were just okay and the ending wrapped up a little too neatly, which is why I don't rate it higher. Don't let the overhyping spoil it for you. It's a fine, middle-of-the-pack fantasy.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 21, 2013

    Amazing

    A rich, detailed story with characters you can truly care about, this is a great saga. Sanderson weaves a very complex, realistic tale with something for everyone. Politics, religions, love, hate, loyalty, betrayal. He does tend to go to the dark side before coming out on top though.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 17, 2012

    So good. READ!

    I loved it.

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 19, 2011

    Quality Stuff

    I got into Brandon Sanderson because he was the author tapped to finish Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time. I've read the Mistborn trilogy, both his WOT books, and loved them, so I thougt I should read his first novel as well. Elantris is definetly a simpler work than those later books. Secondary characters aren't that well defined, and even the main three protagonists can be a little one dimensional at times. But this is still a good page turner, displays Sandersons strengths, such as well written female characters,clarity of plot, slow, realistic revealing of the secrets of the world. A good summer read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 24, 2010

    Enjoyable but fairly predictable

    It's so rare these days for me to have a sense of completion when I read a fantasy novel, that this was a pleasant change. Sanderson built an interesting, layered fantasy world and laid out a very tight plot. It was fast paced and the characters were fun. It definitely shows that this is his first work though, because there's definitely a level of predictability about the whole book. Though I enjoyed this book, I far prefer his Mistborn trilogy.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2008

    Amazing

    I have just finsihed reading this amazing book and I am glad I found it. I feel in love with all the wonderful people in this book and read it every chance I got. When I wasn't able to read it I could not get it off my mind this book blew me away becuase at the time I bought it I was not able to fully read what it was about and by luck it was one of the best books I have read. Now I am going to by another book by this author.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2014

    Five stars!!!

    Great fantasy, kept me reading past midnight! I love Sanderson's books, especially Mistborn. A must read for fantasy readers! I like how original his books are. This book keeps you guessing till the end!

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  • Posted February 8, 2014

    A refreshing change of pace

    What if the city of the gods, a beacon of hope and healing around the world, suddenly turned into a place of disease and ceaseless pain? The story of Elantris picks up ten years after the miraculous city of Elantris suffers that fate, and details the political maneuverings in the outside world in the aftermath.

    The book has no elves, no rings, no dragons, no wands, no vampires, and no werewolves and tells a humdinger of a good story. This is the first book I've read by Brandon Sanderson, and if they're all this good, I'm going to get every one.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2013

    Fantastic, fresh, gripping, deep, evoking...

    I love this novel. It is completely unlike anything that has been done before. Sanderson's ability to create new types of magic is just incredible. And then he uses it to help the characters grow and develop and it is wonderful. I had definitely been in a reading slump, all the fantasy novels started to feel the same and then I picked up Elantris... I couldn't put it down. I was drawn into the intrigue and depth. I rarely knew exactly what was coming next. Sometimes I'd have a good idea, and he sets it up well to give the right hints, letting the reader think and then realize it had been set up perfectly. I really cannot recommend this book enough.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2013

    Great Book!

    Compelling characters, Rich and Dynamic world, Page-turning story. I've now read several Brandon Sanderson novels/series and I can honestly say I LOVE Elantris. It's a stand-alone and is a great quick read for me. I'd recommend it to anyone who likes Fantasy, anyone who likes good fiction and anyone interested in reading Brandon Sanderson. The only problem I had was that I didn't want to haul around my hard copy for when the impulse to read it struck. Problem solved! I now own it on Nook as well!

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  • Posted December 1, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    I enjoyed it despite the politicking. Did I enjoy this book: I

    I enjoyed it despite the politicking.

    Did I enjoy this book: I did. A friend of mine recommended it to me, and well, I’m a sucker for sci-fi. There was just a bit too much politicking for my interests, but I did enjoy it, and if you’re a fan of Dune, you’ll like it as well. The imagery was stunning – it would translate well to the big screen – and the writing was darn close to perfection.

    The conclusion felt a bit contrived; it was, despite the numerous deaths, just a bit too neat. The Elantrians are doused in oil, Spirit is on his way to eternal damnation, and Serene is moments away from her demise, and yet – suddenly – everything falls into place quite perfectly, and everything turns out okay. It was just a bit too lovely to be believable (well, as believable as a book about a city of once-magical-now-zombie people can be, I suppose). Even still, I enjoyed it up to the last page.

    Would I recommend it: For sure! Especially if you’re a fan of the Dune series, you’ll like the mix of politics, magic, and love affairs.

    Will I read it again: It’s unlikely due to the ginormous “To Read” list I’m currently grappling with, but Sanderson left ample room for a sequel, and I’d certainly read that!

    As reviewed by Melissa at Every Free Chance Book Reviews.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2013

    Amazing

    One of the best books I have ever read in this genre

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 25, 2013

    The best fantasy I have read in years.

    The best fantasy I have read in years.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2013

    Just ok for me

    I expected more because of previous reviews, but it fell a little flat for me.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2013

    Amazing!!

    I went into this book expecting it to be good and was not disappointed! Masterfully written this book kept me spellbound till the last amazing page!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2013

    Awesome

    A great read. I couldn't put it down.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 2, 2013

    Three characters, all building up to a fantastic ending. The onl

    Three characters, all building up to a fantastic ending. The only downfall of the book is Brandon seemed to cram as much as he could in the last 50 pages or so. This is Brandons style I know, but it is not as well paced as it is in many of his other books. Nevertheless, read it.  It is worth your time.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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