Well, I’m done. That is one heckuva first-time novel for an author. I have a feeling this Sanderson kid is going places. Joking aside, it was a well-done novel that leaves the world open for a slew of books in the universe, but if we never get another, it’s still a great story. I covered a lot of themes for this story in the other two reviews so I’m going to try and stick to new themes as much as possible for this one.
Mr. Sanderson says in his annotations to Warbreaker that he feels bad he hasn’t really presented religion very positively in his writing. He makes mention of Hrathen in this novel as well as (I think) a reference to Misborn or Warbreaker. However, I think he’s being a bit too hard on himself. What I actually took away from Elantris is that those at the top of religion can often be corrupt or coopt a religion for their own goals, but those at the bottom can make very good use of it. In the case of Shu-Dorath (however it’s spelled – I listened to the audiobook), their pope is a self-important jerk. But the local head of the church in Arulan is a compasionate person. He talks to Serene about compassion for the Elantrians. He also treats Hrathen well, if taking a bit of vulgar satisfaction when Hrathen appears to be taken by the Sheode. In previous reviews I mentioned Hrathen’s redemption arc and without spoiling anything about the details of this book, I think he is definitely a prime candidate for the idea of someone who can believe in a religion that’s being used for evil and not be evil himself.
In this part of the story we find out why Deloth hates Elantris so much. Again, while he has been using doctrine as a reason for his hate, we learn it is in fact because of an interaction with Elantrians that went badly. His wife (or lover? I was so fascinated by the plot that the exact relationship was lost to me) was hurt and when he took her to be healed, it went wrong and she became what we would know as Elantrians in this book. It happened long enough ago (20 years, I think he says) that I wonder if she is the case study that Riyodan finds that leads him to understand why they were stuck in undying bodies.At any rate, his misguided sense of revenge causes him to distort the teachings of Shu-Korath to achieve his goals.
A few other throwaway thoughts:
In part 2, Riyodan finds a Hoid who was one of the original Elantrians. Plot-wise, his biggest purpose is to lead Riyodan to the library where he can learn more of the basics of Aeon-Door. But he does also introduce the dissolving pool to give us a sense of urgency during one scene in part 3. What I find fascinating is that we discover the pool only takes those who are ready to go. This leaves me with so many questions: Who created this pool? Or was it just an element of this planet? When would the gold-like Elantrians use it? If healing went awry? Elantrians are said to be long-lived – one facet of a lot of SF I’ve read is that if you live too long you get bored and/or suicidal. Would it serve THAT purpose for the Elantrians?
Sanderson reveals the Door to be something anyone can tap into. Not just the Elantrians, but also the not-tai chi that Shudan does at various points in the book, and the power being the uber-monks of Shu-Korath. I like this more than the alternative, because it’s not some magical force for good. It’s just the universe or planet’s force that anyone can tap into. Three different groups on this planet have found different ways to tap into it with different effects.
We never find out where the Saeons come from. I like to think they are Elantrians who tired of having bodies. But who knows.
While the ending is somewhat predictable from the tropes, the way we get there is pretty unique and full of enough twists and turns that I wasn’t fully sure what the end state would be and who would be alive. As it is, the leaves the locals in a certain mood, but things are not necessarily resolved. Sanderson has plenty of space here for more novels on this planet or even just this continent if he gets the time to do so. (He has 4 projects currently on his progress bar on his website)