Elantris by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I like Brandon Sanderson quite a bit. However, I like him as an author much more than I like this particular book. I'm glad this is the third book of his I picked up, and not the first.
The last 100 pages are pretty awesome--but at least half of the first 500 should be cut. (I'm speaking more as a fan than a fantasy critic.) I've never read so much dialogue with so little purpose. So many scenes that are almost completely irrelevant. So many characters that are entirely unused, or almost totally unnecessary. So many pages spent on the dull introspection of the antagonist. So much banter about painting and cooking and dating and precocious children in an otherwise fairly serious novel. I found myself skimming whole pages in the second half--filled with tedious and ultimately pointless dialogue that was mostly guessing what everybody else was doing, or guessing how magic worked--trying to locate action that moved the plot forward.
The world building was disappointing, too, and that is definitely one of the author's strong points, typically. I didn't mind the made up words and inelegant personal names and place names (Teod, a place, Reod, an event, Shaod, an event, Hoed, some people, etc.) because you expect that in a Big Fat Fantasy. The nations were not believable, though; the basis for their economic and political systems was flimsy, more suited to video game background than a BFF. The scale was never right--a nation with a long history that still has only one city and can be overthrown by a handful of men... And so on.
I see many others liked the book more than me. That's cool. But if it were up to me, I'd cut out entire chunks of the novel, until you were left with about 250 action-packed pages. Or skip this one, and read something he has written since "Elantris," because it's almost certainly going to be more satisfying.
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