elantris book review

Elantris Book Review: Does This Early Sanderson Classic Compare to His Other Cosmere Novels?

Truth be told, I had been putting off reading Sanderson’s first novel, Elantris, because of rumors that it’s a slow burn. If you’ve read any of his books, you know Sanderson loves to dive deeply into character development, politics, and world-building—features that usually make his novels compelling, but slow-paced.

And as this was his first book, I worried it might not be as polished. But despite my initial hesitation, I finally picked it up, and, surprise, I enjoyed it! Here is my Elantris book review in case you’re deciding whether or not to add it to your TBR!

*Disclaimer: There are affiliate links below which means if you make a purchase after clicking on one, I may earn a commission. Full disclosure here.

Key Takeaways

  • “Elantris” offers deep character development and world-building.
  • The villain Hrathen adds complexity and intrigue.
  • While enjoyable, it doesn’t surpass “Warbreaker” in my rankings.

Elantris Book Review

Key Characters Breakdown

Elantris features quite a cast, with the primary characters being Raoden and Sarene. Raoden really reminded me of Kaladin from the Stormlight Archive series, but with perhaps a bit more optimism; just like Kaladin, he rises up from his crappy situation in the city of Elantris and leads a ragtag crew of undesirables to become the best they can be, building a sense of community among the downtrodden. (Bridge Four, much?)

Sarene, on the other hand, is a well-written character with a strong personality – although perhaps a little “too perfect.”

The most captivating character for me was Hrathen. This guy’s the kind of villain I live for—gray and complex. None of that mustache-twirling, evil-for-the-sake-of-evil nonsense. Hrathen’s POV really lets you see where he’s coming from. He’s doing dastardly deeds, sure, but at least he’s got a solid rationale behind them. Seeing the world through his eyes made him a three-dimensional character.

Rhythms of Romance

To be honest, Sanderson doesn’t particularly excel in this department (although he’s gotten a lot better over the years). There’s a romantic subplot between Raoden and Sarene, but it didn’t really have much chemistry.

That’s not exactly a critique, given that romance isn’t the novel’s focus, but it’s just something to be aware of if you’re coming into Sanderson’s work as a romantasy reader.

Plot Storylines

Story Pace

I won’t lie; Elantris did take me a bit longer to finish than, say, Way of Kings or Mistborn, or Mistborn Era 2 (despite WOK being hundreds of pages longer). It’s rumored that Sanderson enjoys taking his sweet time, diving deep into character psyches, politics, and world-building. While I appreciated this depth, I found myself needing more breaks than usual. It’s not a bad thing, but definitely not a book you’ll find yourself speeding through.

The book’s length could have been trimmed by about 100 pages without sacrificing much. Some dialogues felt like they dragged on a bit longer than they needed to, and a few scenes could have been tighter. I adore Sanderson’s extensive world-building, but sometimes I wondered if we needed quite so many meetings and discussions.

A More Subtle “Big Bang” Ending

Sanderson is known for his explosive, twist-laden finales—fans even coined the term “Sanderlanche.” Elantris, on the other hand, didn’t pack quite the same punch. There were twists and reveals, sure, but they weren’t as mind-blowing as in his other books. It felt more like a gentler ride to the finish line, which left me with a few unanswered questions.


Brandon Sanderson is a master at world-building, digging deep into the intricate layers of his universes. His worlds aren’t just backdrops for action; they’re living, breathing entities that shape the narrative and the characters. In Elantris, the magic system, politics, and socio-economic structures all intertwine to create a complex tapestry that feels incredibly real.

As I mentioned earlier, I noticed strong parallels between Elantris and other works like The Way of Kings. Because of this, Elantris, at times, reads like a prototype for the more successful opus.

Sanderson’s attention to detail means that even conversations and political maneuvering don’t feel like filler. They tie directly back to the world’s structure and history.

Overall, the world-building in “Elantris” is dense and multi-dimensional, making it a satisfying experience. It might be a bit on the slow side, but the rich, elaborate construction of Sanderson’s world will keep you engaged.

Loose Ends and Future Reads

Despite these pacing quirks, the ending wrapped things up fairly well, though not without leaving a few questions hanging. I discovered there are a couple of novellas set in the same world, so maybe those will tie up the loose ends. I’m left waiting for the moment I can dive into those stories to see if they answer my burning questions.

Warbreaker vs Elantris

If you ask me whether I preferred Elantris or Warbreaker, Warbreaker takes the cake. Vasher and Nightblood are just too awesome to ignore.

The ending of Warbreaker captivated me more, and the story felt tighter and more polished. Even though I enjoyed Elantris, it didn’t quite match up to the excitement and finesse that I found in Warbreaker.

However, neither standalone books hold a candle to Sanderson’s other series, Mistborn and Stormlight Archive – both of which are so good they are nearly guaranteed to change your brain chemistry.

Final Thoughts and Rating

I’d give Elantris a solid 3.75 stars. Did I like it better than Warbreaker? Not quite. Warbreaker’s characters, Vasher and Nightblood, along with its more polished ending, gave it an edge for me. That one gets the slight win in my book.

Nevertheless, Elantris is a great addition to the Cosmere and a notch above your average fantasy novel. For this reason, I highly recommend reading it at some point, if not as your first Brandon Sanderson book.


Is Elantris appropriate?

Elantris is generally appropriate for most readers, including young adults and adults. It contains some themes of political intrigue, suffering, and moral dilemmas, but it does not include graphic violence or explicit content.

Is Elantris better than Mistborn? 

This is subjective and depends on personal preference. Elantris and Mistborn are quite different in terms of plot, setting, and tone. Elantris is a standalone novel with a focus on political intrigue and the mystery of the fallen city, while Mistborn is the first book in a trilogy that combines heist elements with a unique magic system and a broader epic fantasy scope. Some readers may prefer the depth and complexity of Mistborn, while others might enjoy the more contained and focused narrative of Elantris. (Personally, I like Mistborn better!)

Is Elantris necessary to read?

Elantris is not necessary to read before diving into Sanderson’s other works. It stands alone and does not directly connect to the plotlines of his other series. In fact, I would recommend not starting with Elantris as it may be harder to get into than his other books.

Is Elantris related to Mistborn?

Elantris and Mistborn are set in different worlds within Sanderson’s larger cosmere universe. While they share some overarching themes and cosmere-related elements, the stories and characters are not directly connected. Knowledge of one is not necessary to understand the other, but fans of the cosmere may enjoy spotting subtle connections and Easter eggs that tie Sanderson’s works together.

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