I’m not the editor responsible for bringing Brandon Sanderson to Gollancz. Simon Spanton, Deputy Publishing Director of Gollancz and the person most frequently behind @Gollancz (and entirely behind @SimonGuy64) on twitter, is. Of course the team is involved in acquisition decisions – but that doesn’t mean that we all always have the time to read projects in their entirety before agreeing. And, to be honest, if Simon says something is good, it’s good.
So it wasn’t until this Christmas that I had the chance to settle down with Brandon Sanderson’s debut novel, ELANTRIS. And I’m glad that I waited for Christmas, because it was an absolute delight to have some perfectly uninterrupted reading time for this novel. Any editor will tell you that reading time is precious – too precious for us to waste it on something we don’t enjoy – and that when an editor reads something in the genre in which we specialise, we’re a nightmare: we’re picky, we fuss, we scrutinise. The slightest thing will irritate us and – in my case – make us turn to that box set of HOUSE, pick up that PS3 controller and dive back into SKYRIM, or switch on our computers and dive back into whatever we’re editing, where if something bothers us we can at least tell the author.
. . . so finding a fantasy novel which seized me from the first paragraph and gave pure reading pleasure – a novel where I loved the world, I relished the magic, I was egging the characters on, and I enjoyed, and was even surprised by, the mystery at the heart of the novel – was one of the best gifts I could have asked for for Christmas. This does not read like a debut novel – not at all. It’s as deft and as smart as you could wish for. The plotting is sharp, the world nuanced, and the world politics and religions weave through the characters’ stories in ways that refresh and build on each other. No pausing of a character storyline to fit political shenanigans in here – each thread is woven admirably into the whole, and each thread is done justice.
If I’ve sparked your interest, the story revolves around the city of Elantris, which used to be magnificent but whose magic failed a decade ago, leaving it and its people to fall into ruin. Arelon, the nation which has grown up around Elantris needs allies – and is using marriage to form a political union with their closet ally, the nation of Teod. But there are more than economic woes here: Arelon and Teod are the last nations to stand against a wave of religious conversion too; and perhaps not for long, as a High Priest arrives in Arelon just as the wedding is meant to take place, and his arrival could spell the end of both nations . . .
. . . But enough of my talking about the book, not least because I won’t do it justice. I was captivated by ELANTRIS, which is more or less the highest praise I can give, and I highly recommend it. Pick up this novel, especially if you enjoy a great fantasy adventure, and let the magic sweep you away.