Tag Archives: epic

Book Review: Elantris

Book Name: Elantris
Author: Brandon Sanderson
First Published: 2005

Brandon Sanderson was born in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1975. His general schooling began at Brigham Young University as an English major after completing a two-year LDS mission to Seoul, South Korea in 1997. While working on his graduate degree, he became an editor for the semi-pro speculative fiction magazine Leading Edge. Sanderson gained his Masters in creative writing in 2005.

In 2006, Sanderson married Emily Bushman, also an English major and teacher, who also serves as his business manager. They have three children and currently reside in American Fork, Utah. Sanderson continues to teach creative writing at Brigham Young University in addition to his work as a full-time science fiction author.

You can catch Brandon Sanderson with his writing buddies Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, and web cartoonist Howard Tayler on their weekly podcast Writing Excuses. It is filled with writing tips and good humor jokes for aspiring authors.

Sanderson’s first novel is Elantris, published by Tor Books in 2005. It met with positive reviews and showcased the author’s ability to create unique magic systems for his stories. He followed it with his famous Mistborn fantasy trilogy.

In 2007, Robert Jordan, the author of the Wheel of Time, died and his famous series was left unfinished. Jordan’s editor and widow, Harriet McDougal, selected Sanderson to finish her husband’s final book and to give closure to millions of Wheel of Time fans worldwide. Under Sanderson’s care, the final book became three and each met with great success on the New York Times bestseller lists. It also propelled Sanderson into the limelight. Since then, most of Sanderson’s novels land on the NYT bestseller lists, proving him to be a highly successful author of his generation. Many books, novellas, and short stories are pouring from this prolific author’s pen even today.

“To live is to have worries and uncertainties. Keep them inside, and they will destroy you for certain–leaving behind a person so callused that emotion can find no root in his heart.”
― Brandon Sanderson, Elantris

Elantris was the capital of the nation of Arelon. A shiny and radiant city filled with benevolent demigods who use their magic to the benefit of humankind, the parent race from which they spring. A decade ago, their magic failed without warning. The powerful Elantrians became leper-like cripples that cling to the shadows of their dark, crumbling city. Elantris is shunned and feared by all, no one understanding the disaster that befell its people.

With the fall of Elantris, a new capital is built nearby. Peopled by ordinary humans, Kae is a city with the poor, religious fanatics, and the upper class with imperial ambitions. Princess Sarene of Teod is sent by her people to marry with Crown Prince Raoden of Arelon. She has never met him, but via letters, she has grown fond of him and hopes for love in her arranged marriage to him. However, when she arrives at Kae, she discovers that the prince is dead.

As Raoden’s widow, Sarene remains at Kae and uses her influence to help the poor and counter the threat posed by the fanatic Hrathen of Fjordell. This high priest wishes to convert all of Arelon to his religion and then claim the kingdom for his emperor and god.

There is a secret that neither Sarene or Hrathen know. Prince Raoden is not dead. He has been sent to Elantris by his own father when he was struck by the Elantris transformation, known as the “Shaod”, that once would have turned him into a demigod. Now, he is a powerless wretch exiled to the dirty streets of the fallen city. There, much as Serene works with the poor of Kae, Raoden works to help the fallen former demigods of Elantris. As he continues his work to provide comfort and aid, a series of events leads him to learn more about the disaster that befell the former capital of Arelon and might reveal the secret to the magic of Elantris itself.

Elantris Book CoverElantris is the first novel that I have read by author Brandon Sanderson. When he was selected to continue the Wheel of Time series, I was a little nervous. I am a huge fan of the Wheel of Time and was disheartened by the loss of author Robert Jordan. Could anyone truly fill this man’s shoes and complete his magnum opus? To placate my fears, I purchased Elantris and gave Sanderson a trial read. My fears about the Wheel of Time dissolved and now I have a new favorite author to enjoy.

The book showcases what have become signatures in Sanderson’s writing. Incredible world building, complex and unique magic systems, combined with likable characters. There are a few weaknesses in his first novel, the ending is anti-climactic and there are a few plot-holes that are left unresolved. Even so, I can whole-heartedly recommend Elantris as a book to add to your reading list. If you love epic fantasy with strong female characters, great pacing, and beautiful world building, I urge you to give Brandon Sanderson a try. There is a good reason why he is constantly topping the New York Times bestseller lists.

Book Review: The Eye of the World

Book Name: The Eye of the World
Author: Robert Jordan
First Published: 1990

Author Robert Jordan (born James Oliver Rigney, Jr.) was born in the late 1940s in Charleston, South Carolina. As a child, he was fond of reading, especially the books of Mark Twain and Jules Verne. As an adult, he served two tours of duty in Vietnam as a gunner with the US Army.

Returning to the states in the early 1970s, Jordan went back to school at the Military College of South Carolina. He studied the sciences and following the gaining of his degree started work as a nuclear engineer for the Navy.

Writing had always been his passion and in the late 1970s, he began to write novels of various genres, under different pen names. Robert Jordan was his final pen name in which his fantasy books were gathered. His most famous fantasy series is The Wheel of Time which has sold 44 million copies globally and was the basis for a role-playing game, soundtrack album, and a computer game. The ideas and title of the series were inspired by Hindu Mythology.

Jordan had many other concepts waiting to be written in the fantasy genre, he was waiting to start them once he finished The Wheel of Time. However, fate was not kind to him. In March of 2006, he announced publicly that he had cardiac amyloids, a rare blood disease. He was given four years to live. He underwent chemotherapy and took part in a study for a new drug that might have helped him. It was all to no avail. Jordan passed away in September of 2007 with his Wheel of Time series unfinished.

After his death, his wife selected Brandon Sanderson, an up and coming epic fantasy author, to complete the Wheel of Time series based on the notes that her husband had left behind. Robert Jordan had written the epilogue and a few chapters, but little more of the final book. Sanderson took up the challenge but found that the story was so complex that he needed three rather long books to finish the Wheel of Time properly.

“As the Wheel of Time turns, places wear many names. Men wear many names, many faces. Different faces, but always the same man. Yet no one knows the Great Pattern the Wheel weaves, or even the Pattern of an Age. We can only watch, and study, and hope.”
― Robert Jordan, The Eye of the World

The Eye of the World is the first book of a long fantasy epic series that features a cast of main characters instead of a single hero. It has a huge cast of characters and the story unfolds, chapter by chapter, via the viewpoint of a different rotating protagonist. It is a complex tale with many twists and turns.

The story begins in a land known as the Two Rivers which has been all but cut off from the rest of the world for at least a thousand years. It is a rural place of small villages and isolated farms. During the spring festival, young Rand al’Thor notices a stranger watching him. A man whose cloak doesn’t move in the wind. He tells his father about the stranger, but he is gone when his father looks.

They arrive in the village of Emond’s Field for the festival and Rand hooks up with his two friends. Perrin, the apprentice to the village blacksmith and Mat, a comedic prankster. They both mention that they have seen this same stranger watching them. In the village, there are visitors come for the festival. Aes Sedai Moiraine and her warder protector Lan. Moiraine gives each of the three boys a coin; she calls it a token for future work she may ask of them.

Rand and his father return home, but are attacked by creatures known as “Trollocs”. Rand’s father is wounded during the attack. In his delirium, he tells his son that he is adopted, a foundling he picked up on a mountaintop during the Aiel War. Rand takes his injured father back to the village in the hope that the Aes Sedai can use her magic to heal his father. She does heal his father, but she tells Rand, Mat, and Perrin that the Trollocs are after them personally. The strange man who watches them is a “Myrddraal”, a creature of darkness, and the three must leave the village for their own safety and that of their people. The three decide to leave with Moiraine and her Warder. At the last minute, Rand’s girlfriend Egwene joins them. She desires to become an Aes Sedai herself and this is a good excuses to leave Edmond’s Field. A wandering minstrel named Thom also comes along.

The party flees Emond’s Field and travel toward the town of Baerlon. There they meet a young woman named Min who claims that she can see auras around Rand and his friends. While there, their village wisdom Nynaeve find them and says that she wishes to bring the boys home for their own good. This causes her to be at odds with the Aes Sedai who is having enough trouble protecting the boys from Trolloc attacks on the road.

In Baerlon, the boys begin to have dreams where a man clad in black names himself Ba’alzamon and tells them that they will serve him and the Dark One. Moiraine wishes to bring the boys to the city of Aes Sedai, known as Tar Valon, where they can be better protected. She uses her channeling magic, called The One Power, to scare off whitecloak soldiers in Baerlon who wish to harm the boys. While their inn is set on fire, the party escapes.

Away from Baerlon, the group is forced to seek refuge from the Trollocs in an abandoned city called Shadar Logoth. Even the Trollocs fear to enter the city. In the city, the boys go exploring and meet a man called Mordeth who casts no shadow. Mat steals a dagger from him. The boys manage to get away from the man, but this episode worries the Aes Sedai and her Warder enough that they decide to split the party up.

Perrin and Egwene cross the river and try to make their way to Tar Valon on their own. On the way they encounter a man who can talk to wolves. He claims that Perrin has this ability too. As they continue to travel, Perrin and Egwene come to a “stedding”, which is the home of “Ogiers”, giant sized people who live incredibly long lives. Their home has magical protection from Trollocs, however Perrin and Egwene discover that Whitecloaks have also come. The Whitecloaks take a disliking to Perrin due to his association with wolves, which they regard as evil.

Nynaeve, Lan and Moiraine depart Shadar Logoth together. Moiraine senses that Nynaeve also has the one power and can channel it, but she is untrained. Without the schooling of the Aes Sedai of Tar Valon, she may die. Nynaeve resists the idea, but in the end she accepts that she will need to become an Aes Sedai and agrees to go to Tar Valon with Moiraine. Nynaeve casts her eye on the intrepid Lan and the two begin to fall for each other, which causes complications for Moiraine who is bonded to the man via the one power. Via the coin Moiraine had given Perrin in Emond’s Field, the Aes Sedai is able to track him and Egwene. The trio arrives to save the pair in the nick of time from the Whitecloaks.

Mat, Thom and Rand leave Shadar Logoth in a boat and eventually arrive in the city of Caemlyn. Mat becomes increasing paranoid on the journey. Unknown to the boys, he is being magically poisoned by the dagger he stole from Mordeth in Shadar Logoth. In the city, Rand meets a young Ogier named Loial, who at first mistakes him for an Aiel and tells Rand that he must be a “ta’veren”, a man who fate wraps itself around. Rand is eventually taken to see Queen Morgase where a seer has a foretelling that Rand is at the center of all the destruction that is to come to Caemlyn. While it is commented that Rand looks like an Aielman, his accent is that of the Two Rivers. The Queen decides that Rand may go free since she is familiar with the people of the Two Rivers.

Moiraine and her party arrive in Caemlyn and connect with Rand and Mat. Moiraine uses the one power to heal Mat of the poison from the dagger. The group learns that the Dark One plans to use an object known as The Eye of the World in a place called the Blight. Loial the Ogier knows how to use a magical passage called “the ways” and takes the group to the Blight via this method. There Rand must confront Ba’alzamon, using the budding power within him, to claim the objects that are contained in the Eye of the World.

The Eye of the World Book Cover

I was first introduced to The Wheel of Time saga by gaming friends that were hooked on the roleplaying game based on the novels. In order to play the game, it was necessary to read the books. It did not take me long in The Eye of the World to become completely hooked on this series and soon would go on to read the rest of the novels.

I had an opportunity to hear Robert Jordan read from his final work-in-progress novel, the one that would eventually turn into three volumes written by Brandon Sanderson, at the San Diego Comic Con a few months before his death. The room was packed with hundreds of breathless people, waiting to hear Jordan read from his much anticipated book. He was seated and did not wish to move about much due to his illness, but his voice was strong and clear. The words captivated the audience.

When he died with the final book unfinished, I was one of those heart-broken fans that wondered if I would ever hear the end of the tale by one of my favorite authors. When his wife commissioned Brandon Sanderson to finish the series, I was uncertain if this young author had the chops to write The Wheel of Time. I checked out one of his first novels, Elantris, and saw the quality of his work. I had nothing to worry about. Sanderson has gone on to become one of the top writers in the epic fantasy genre today.

The Wheel of Time Saga

The Eye of the World (1990)
The Great Hunt (1990)
The Dragon Reborn (1991)
The Shadow Rising (1992)
The Fires of Heaven (1993)
Lord of Chaos (1994) Locus Award nominee, 1995.
A Crown of Swords (1996)
The Path of Daggers (1998)
Winter’s Heart (2000)
Crossroads of Twilight (2003)
Knife of Dreams (2005) Final novel completed by Robert Jordan.
The Gathering Storm (2009) Completed by Brandon Sanderson.
Towers of Midnight (2010) Completed by Brandon Sanderson.
A Memory of Light (2013) Completed by Brandon Sanderson, epilogue by Robert Jordan.