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Elantris Annotations ()
#1 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

One interesting note about this book is how small the armies are. Often in books, I'll deal with armies in the tens and hundreds of thousands. Those, however, tend to be war epics–it makes sense to me that in Elantris, they're talking about hundreds of men, rather than thousands. This may seem like a ridiculous number for a defense force, but I imagine Arelon being a small country, quite isolated and–as noted in the text–rather innocent. They really only need policing forces.

My copy editor was worried about my use of the word "legion," actually, for Eondel's personal force. She said that a legion, dictionary wise, was usually much larger. While this may be true, I think the fact that they call it "Eondel's Legion" makes it a proper noun, and is usable. This is a kind of honorary title, rather than a descriptive name. Besides, in Arelon, a couple hundred men really is quite big.

Elantris Annotations ()
#3 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

I really like Sarene's explanation for why the country is in so much trouble now. You could wonder, perhaps, how Arelon lasted as long as it did beneath Iadon's rule. Her answer here–that the people were anticipating Raoden's rule–is a good one, I think. People can endure a lot, as long as they know that there is a defined end to their suffering.

Elantris Annotations ()
#4 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Eight

The economy of Arelon is one of the interesting features of this book. Even still, I'm not certain if I made things a little too odd here. The idea of nobility being tied directly to money is described so often by the characters that I worry that readers will think the system too foolish to have arisen. However, I think that by establishing the king as a former merchant—and by pointing out how the system was created quickly, to fill the void after the fall of Elantris—I manage to keep the economic and social situation in Arelon within the realm of possibility.

I think that too often fantasy writers are content with simply throwing in a slightly-original spin on magic—ignoring the fact that their cultures, governments, and religions are derivative. There is this idea of the "general" fantasy world, and writers draw upon it. However, I think an interesting cultural element can be just as fascinating—and as useful to the plot—as an interesting magic system. In the best cases, the two are inter-woven, like what one can find in brilliant genre books like Dune.

Of course, the strange economic/governmental system of the book is only a descendant of another strange economic/governmental system. Sarene and Lukel discuss a few of the problems presented by having a race of people who can create whatever they want through use of magic. I don't get to deal with that aspect of AonDor very much in this particular book, since the novel is set during a time when the magic of Elantris doesn't work. However, there are a lot of interesting ramifications AonDor would present for a book set during Elantris' heyday. What good is gold if someone can create it from nothing? In fact, what good is a monetary system at all when everyone can have as much food as they want? What need is there for invention or ingenuity in the face of a group of people who can re-create any good, no matter how complex, with a mere flick of the magical wrist?

The truth behind the Elantrian magical abilities is far more limited than Sarene or Lukel acknowledge in this chapter. If one were to go back fifteen years, one would find that the Elantrians who had the skill to fabricate complex materials "out of nothing" were actually quite rare.

As we learn later in the book, AonDor is a very complicated, difficult skill to master. As I was writing this book, I imagined the complicated Aons that Raoden eventually learns how to draw being only springboards to massive equations that could take weeks to plan out and write. Fabricating something very complex would require a great deal of detail in the AonDor recipe.

Even still, I think the tension between the Elantrians and the merchants is a natural outgrowth of this situation.