I grew up devouring fantasy novels. They formed the foundation of my literary interests. Reading Roger Zelazny's Amber series was a revelation to me. I've been interested in literature ever since.
Except, over the past few years I have found very little in fantasy that appealed to me. Fantasy has been overtaken by bloated, commercialized, soap opera fantasy. These huge tomes have nothing for me.
Initially, I was interested in fantasy series that had huge amounts of sequels. But I started realizing that even though the authors would occasionally forward the plots, they were largely writing the same books with new covers and changed names. I grew weary of getting up to book four of a series only to realize that the author was just milking the series success and had no intention of a justifiable end.
Which is why it is such a pleasure to have found Elantris by Brandon Sanderson. I had heard of it many times, the first from Orson Scott Card, who raved about the book when he first read, but I kept my fantasy prejudices away from it. I finally took the plunge and bought it. Rather than intermittently reading a chapter, I smashed my way through it, enjoying every moment.
What's so great about the book is that it entirely fails to ascribe to fantasy convention. The novel has three separate protagonists, each with their own rich story. None of the main characters are from a mysterious lineage nor do they have dead parents who they never knew. Each is dense and vibrant in his or her own way.
The plot is also terrific. Magic in this land has virtually disappeared, those who relied on it reduced to zombie leper-like creatures called the Elantrians. Once Elantris was a rich city built on magic. But something terrible happened and the city crumbled. Nobody is quite certain where the magic has gone, but those who lived in the city are too weak and in pain to find an answer. One of the main threads in the novel is a quest to find the answer and save the city.
But that's just skimming a very dense surface. The novel has a great amount of political intrigue, action, and mystery. But the best part of the novel is that it has...
Wait for it...
Yes, this particular fantasy manages to wrap itself up in 600 pages. The author creates a complex fantasy world with dense history and manages to tell one single story in it. The ending is satisfying and rational, which so many fantasy books completely lack. The author leaves a couple of threads open for a possible sequel, but the reader gets the idea that the protagonists story is finished.
Pick it up, but be careful because you might not want to put it down.