I present to you a story analysis form on Elantris by Brandon Sanderson. Somehow I managed to pick one of the most complex novels I have read. While it’s extremely difficult to write about such a novel, I’ve done my best. Aka, go read it yourself.
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Genre: Fantasy / Fiction
Audience: Young Adult
Raoden: This character is the crown prince of Arelon, an empire, betrothed to Princess Sarene of Teod (another empire). The marriage is set to strengthen ties between the two empires to resist aggression from a third empire, the Fjorden. He is struck by the Shaod, a disease, and therefore banished to Elantris, a fallen city turned refuge for Shaod-stricken individuals.
Sarene: This character is the princess from the Teod empire, sent to strengthen the ties between both empires. Upon finding her future husband dead, she immerses herself in politics to gain security in the foreign land. She prepares to make a place for herself, with allies.
Hrathen: A new leader of the Derethi Church on the capital of Arelon, he seeks to convert all the people to prepare them for an invasion from the Fjorden Empire. Hrathen is very tall, and wears ceremonial blood-red armor signifying his rank in the Derethi Church. He is supposedly only a priest, but is revealed to be a warrior at the end of the book.
Dilaf: This is a lower monk from Hrathen’s congregation, who is overly zealous for the Derethi Church. His passion eventually causes many problems, adding plot twists to the story. Additionally, he is a Dakhor Monk, granting him strange, and very mystical, powers. These are not discussed in detail.
Kiin: This is Sarene’s uncle, a friend of Raoden’s. With a hazy past as a warrior, he plays a background role for most of the story until his fighting skills and unique weapon, a hammer, are revealed. He sets about helping Sarene settle into Arelon.
Galladon: This is a resident of Elantris who Raoden befriends in the city. Also stricken by the Shaod disease, he somehow knows many things about proper survival and skills needed for life in Elantris. He is a burly, dark-skinned person, who appears in at least one other book by Sanderson; he is one of a few characters scattered through Sanderson’s universe who can transport himself to different worlds. He may be significant in future writings from the author.
Point of View
There are three points of view, but the story is told in general from the limited third person; the subject and scope of knowledge shifts between three characters—Raoden, Sarene, and Hrathen—throughout the book.
Time in Sanderson’s Cosmere is purely fantasy, with its own dating system and chronological progression. As the first novel in the set of novels set within the Cosmere, it is probable that Elantris takes place relatively “early” in the Cosmere’s existence. The planet is named Sel, and lacks electricity or modern construction related to our Earth.
Sel faces a conflict of empires, a loss of its magic, and a power vacuum. Raoden, prince-turned-anathema, seeks to build a new life for himself within the walls of Elantris, a once-glorious city which now lies in ruins. Its mythical residents were the Elantrians, who could create light and release power by simply drawing in the air. Instead of a glorious transformation, those selected now become outcasts, half-dead creatures who feel every pain inflicted, forever. Sarene, Raoden’s betrothed, seeks a new life for herself among foreign people, without a husband. Facing an invading religious figure, his overzealous monk, and a hostile empire, Sarene and her allies wade through political waters to forge a path to peace. Raoden works toward a similar end in Elantris, seeking to recover the lost magic.
The major conflict in this story is the conflict between man and man, along with a tension between man and his environment. With a broken magic system and lost power, the environment is hostile; at the same time, an invading force and a defending force fight—this is conflict between man and man.
“Right” is universal—all cultures and backgrounds can unite behind a concept of “right” and use their own powers to fight for it.
To fight for “right” is noble, and those who die fighting for it have reached fulfillment.
Imagery: The story is loaded with it. From descriptions of the magical symbols, which glow brightly at night, to the landscape and architecture, the imagery is vivid enough to evoke images in the mind easily. Auditory imagery is not lacking in battle scenes, either.
Euphemism: In an author-created universe, readers receive original swear words as well. All of Sanderson’s work contains made-up words used as swear words, substituted in for American cussing. These words often reference parts of the Cosmere.
Juxtaposition: This device is used in Elantris (the city) in its architecture and appearance. The buildings were once grand, possessing grand lines and soaring stonework. However, they have long since been covered in black slime, and the wood has decayed. This, along with its sickly residents, is strong juxtaposition.
This was one of the most riveting stories I have ever read, with a plot that would come close to being predictable before turning on its head and making sense in a whole new way. Sanderson’s worldbuilding capabilities make a fanciful world not only plausible, but actual. Because of this, and because of the depth behind his characterization, I give the story a 4 out of 5. While it comes close to being a perfect 5, I feel that Sanderson bested his own work with some of his later, longer stories.