I picked up Brandon Sanderson‘s Elantris on a whim. Whims occur much more easily when Indigo has entices you with a free paperback when you purchase three. Lord knows I don’t need any extra incentive to buy books when I have 40 on my shelf that I have yet to read. :P
I’ve had my eye on Sanderson for a while now. I think it’s safe to say that most of the fantasy community waited with quiet speculation when TOR announced that he would complete Robert Jordan‘s epic Wheel of Time series. My first thoughts were of paranoia: would be wreck the series? Could he write characters that had been evolving for over 10 years? Would he bring the same detail to the Wheel that Jordan had?
Imagine my surprise when I read The Gathering Storm and found, much to my delight, that Sanderson could write. Not only could he write, but he convinced me that he could write something that he hadn’t even created himself. He completed major plot lines. He’d captured the heart and spirit of the characters with incredible accuracy. And he’d written The Gathering Storm with enough detail to engulf me without being overly dense (i.e. filler, a technique that most fantasy writers are guilty of on multiple counts). In fact, I couldn’t help but wonder if Sanderson wrote it better than Jordan could have (as much as it pains me to admit that). I was impressed, and that is not an easy thing for a Virgo to be.
So I picked up Elantris for two reasons: (1) I wanted to see what Sanderson could do when left to his own devices, and (2) I wanted to read just one novel. That second point is extremely important.
Have you ever tried to read just one fantasy novel? Can you name a book in the genre that isn’t part of a series? Go ahead, I’ll wait…
In that 10-second span, I thought of one book.1
Seriously, the fantasy genre by definition has doomed writers into crafting multi-volume epics about the end of the world. Harry Potter. The Heralds of Valdemar. His Dark Materials. The Twilight series. I swear, fantasy writers are whores for multi-volume epics. The Wheel of time is the perfect example. No wonder Jordan died before he finished writing it–the series is over 10,000 pages long and it’s not even finished yet!
Enter Elantris, a fantasy novel. Not a series, or a sequence, or a trilogy. A novel. One, lone novel. Can it actually be good? I admit that even I am guilty of falling into the trap of a fantasy series. Writing The Great Mage Cycle isn’t easy: always thinking two books ahead, revising earlier chapters, plotting out governments and dialects, involving the citizens of the world. My head aches just thinking about it.
Yes. Yes it can. And it really gives me hope that I can do the same. After all, I do have about a dozen novels floating around in my head, and I don’t intend (“intend” being the active word) on any of them evolving into the literary equivalent of a child like The Great Mage Cycle has. Reading Elantris has really given me insight: sometimes, fantasy is just too much. The worlds get too large; the cast of characters requires an appendix. It’s no different than having a big dick: it doesn’t matter how long yours is because only five inches of it is going in anyway.
So thank you, Brandon Sanderson, for renewing my faith in a singular yet exciting fantasy novel. For your sake and for mine, I’ll avoid the sexual metaphor. :P
1. No wait, I lied–it’s also part of a series. Ugh!