Monday, August 27, 2012

Book Review: Elantris (Brandon Sanderson)

This book was solid. Besides the main concept of Elantris there was nothing about it that was truly mind blowing. There was never really a scene that made me go "wow" or a dialogue which really stuck in my mind, but throughout the whole thing the pacing, plot, characters, and dialogue were good, not amazing, but good none the less.

Strengths
- Stand alone fantasy, wrapped up nicely.
- The bad guys are not so black and white, and get a lot of attention. Often stories only focus on the heroes, which can be great, though seeing things through the bad guys eyes can be refreshing.
- Solid pacing, with a great build up of tension throughout the whole novel.
- The main character, the prince, is well done. I enjoyed every single one of his chapters.
- Low magic, and magic feels special. I like this because it makes the dangers that the characters face challenging, they cannot simply teleport out of danger.
- Smaller scope, it is nice to see a story that does not have the fate of the world hanging in the balance. The author creates tension without having to resort to nuclear weapons.
- Lots of small threads and foreshadowing, all of which seem to be wrapped up rather nicely by the end, giving a good sense of conclusion.

Weakness
- Fight scenes not done very well, nothing like some of the fights you get in a Robert Jordan novel, or Ian Irvine (lesser known but highly recommended fantasy author). The were not terrible, but they do not ring of someone who has had fighting experience. At one point someone takes a step back and kicks a sword out of someones hand, the someone who is supposed to be a renown warrior. This was kind of silly. The guy had a sword pointed at his throat, just getting reach and not losing a leg is hard enough, but actually hitting with enough force to dislodge the sword from someones grip is very, very difficult. In martial arts training I have seen people kick someones hand away if they carried a knife or something, but only moving their hand, not making them drop the weapon, not to mention the fact that a sword at your throat is going to be at least three foot of reach to get through. This might have been forgivable if the warrior was a newbie, but the author built the warrior up all through the book, only to have them disarmed so simply and easily. It was a little bit annoying.
- The strongest scenes were from the prince's POV. I feel like the novel might have been stronger overall written from his POV entirely. I got a little bored with some of the other people. Then again, the author only had one book to develop a lot of characters, so I do not consider this a big problem. Like I said in the strengths section, I liked the view from the bad guys perspective.
- The author "tells" instead of "shows" a little too much sometimes. Still, this was his first book.
- A little low on the action (explosions and blood etc.) until right at the end. This did not bother me, but some people might get bored.

Summary: The book is great, I feel warm and fuzzy writing about it, which is a good sign. The strengths easily outweigh the weaknesses, so I would recommend picking it up if you don't mind a story that takes a while to build. I am looking forward to reading more Sanderson. 4/5 stars.

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