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Elantris Annotations ()
#1 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

I can only think of two books I've written–out of sixteen–that use a literary "timebomb" as strict as the one in Elantris. Three months to convert the kingdom or Wyrn will destroy it. That's a pretty heavy motivator. Sometimes, timebombs can feel contrived, and I tried to make this one feel as realistic as possible.

Later, when we discover that Hrathen was never intended to succeed in his conversion, I think this three-month limit makes a lot more sense.

Elantris Annotations ()
#3 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Forty

Originally, I had the steps leading up to Elantris from the outside be a construction put there by the people of Kae. I knew I wanted a large number of scenes on the wall–it is such a dominant visual feature of the book that I thought it would make a good stage for scenes. However, I quickly realized that it would be the people of Kae–not the Elantrians–who controlled the wall. The Elantris City Guard grew from this idea, as did the set of steps constructed on the outside, leading up.

As I worked more and more on the book, however, I came to realize that the pre-Reod Elantrians wouldn't have needed a city wall for protection.

Obviously, to those who've read more, there is a good Aon-based reason for the wall. However, there is more to it than that, as well.

The wall of the city is a symbol–it's part of the city's majesty. As such, it made more and more sense that there would be plenty of ways to get up on top of it.

When we got the cover art back from Stephen, we were amazed by its beauty. A few things, however, didn't quite mesh with the text. One of these was the set of steps–they were so ornate, so beautiful, that it didn't fit that they would have been designed by the people of Kae. At that point, things kind of fell together, and I realized that there was no reason why the Elantrians themselves wouldn't have put a large staircase outside the city leading up to the wall.

And so, in the final rewrite of the book (the ninth draft) I changed the staircase, and the general feel of the wall, to give the proper sense to the reader. The staircase was placed by the Elantrians as a means of getting up on top the wall. The wall itself became less a fortification, and more a wonder–like the Eiffel Tower. It is there to be climbed and experienced.

Brandon's Blog 2015 ()
#4 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Elantris 10th Anniversary

First, in relation to Elantris, May is the 10th anniversary of its release, my first published book! In celebration, we've been putting together a 10th Anniversary Edition, which is coming out later this year. It will be in trade paperback form (the paperback format which is more the size of a hardcover), and I'm hoping I can get Tor to print at least a few hardcovers for those who want to get them.

We've packed this edition with some cool extras. It includes a new foreword by Dan Wells, a retrospective by myself, an Ars Arcanum appendix (as this was the only one of my Cosmere books not to have one), brand-new redone maps by Isaac Stewart, and a very short extra scene. In addition, as I mentioned, we've changed a few things.

Now, this is the dangerous thing I talked about above. We've seen in certain high-profile films that changes done by the creator many years later are controversial. It's a slippery path. Part of creating a work of art is learning when to let it alone—most writers I know could just keep tweaking something forever. The quote (often attributed to da Vinci) that says “Art is never finished, just abandoned” is quite a true statement.

However, Elantris needed some attention. When I wrote it, I didn't have access to a good cartographer who could make the continuity of my crazy map-based ideas for the story work out. I did my best, but it never quite clicked. The maps didn't match the story, and the conceptualization of the ending was always kind of vague because of this disconnect.

Well, I have Isaac now, along with Peter who is really, really good with the minutiae of this sort of plotting. We've made two kinds of sweeping changes, then, to the text:

Map Continuity: We've had to shift the locations of some buildings and events as we've figured out a scale for the maps and for the city. We've tweaked the ending; the events are the same, but where certain things happen has been changed to fit. (Over the years, many of you have asked me about this, and I've had to admit that we just got it wrong.) This shouldn't change the story in any significant way except that now it actually makes sense, but I thought you should know.

Language Changes: Peter has done a very, very thorough copyedit, and has made some stylistic changes to remove some of the quirks of my earlier prose. (Extraneous commas, for example.) Again, this shouldn't change the story in any significant way except to make it more readable.

Elantris Annotations ()
#5 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Sixty - Part One


From here on out, the chapters get longer. It's interesting to try and work with pacing. I think the shifting viewpoints achieve the sense of drama I want, and coupling that with lots of new chapters would be repetitive, I think. So, I waited for the most dramatic moments possible to end chapters. I think this ending counts.

The triad system breaks down completely here. Everything is falling apart, and we're getting wild viewpoints from all over the place. (Well, not exactly–we only add Galladon and Lukel. However, I think that after fifty-nine chapters with only three viewpoints, suddenly adding two more will be disorienting enough to have the effect I want.)

Part of the reason I add the viewpoints is so that I can show the breakdown of the form of the book. However, another–perhaps more important–reason is so that I can show what is happening in places that don't involve one of the three viewpoints. Raoden is off in his own little world of pain, and Sarene and Hrathen have gone to Teod. If I want to show what’s happening in Arelon, I need some new viewpoints.

Elantris Annotations ()
#6 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

So, this section marked one of the biggest changes to the text during the revision process. In the Mad Prince version of the novel, the soldiers who ride up to Kiin's house were members of the Mad Prince's army. They arrested Raoden–he went willingly–and tried him for the death of their leader. This took the better part of two chapters, and ended with Raoden almost getting beheaded.

Overall, I kind of happy to lose the scene. The trial was a big distraction, and I'm not sure that I ever pulled it off narratively. There were a few interestingly tense moments, and it did let Raoden show his honor in his defense (he accepted the judgments of the army assuming they promised to make Sarene queen.) However, I sense that the scene in general was just over-written.

Elantris Annotations ()
#7 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Dilaf's Backstory

I hope that Dilaf's explanations about his past are suitably creepy. I also hope they give some explanation. He is a man who betrayed his religion when he thought it would save the woman he loved–only to find himself, in turn, betrayed by the Elantrians. His wife became Hoed, and he himself burned her. This would have something of an effect on a man's psyche, I think.

Now, recall that Elantris was at the height of its power when Dilaf took his wife in to be healed. I mentioned her earlier in the book, in a Raoden chapter. He found a story in one of his textbooks about a woman who was improperly-healed, and it turned her into what the Elantrians now are. This is Dilaf's wife. (Go re-read Chapter Twenty-Five for the story.) I find this little item beautifully circular.

Anyway, we now have an explanation for Dilaf's instability and his hatred. I really like how Dilaf, normatively, grows into being the prime villain for this book. He comes to it slowly, kind of stealthily, while the reader is focusing on Hrathen. Yet, Dilaf is there from the first Hrathen chapter, always dangerous, always trying to destroy Elantris, always making his own plans. I worked hard to bring about his rise to power in the book, and I hope that it worked. Puling off the Dilaf/Hrathen reversal was one of my main goals in the story.

Elantris Annotations ()
#8 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter three marks the end of the first "chapter triad."

The chapter triads are a major structural element of this novel. The viewpoints rotate Raoden-Sarene-Hrathen, in order, one chapter each. Each of the three chapters in the grouping cover pretty much the same time-frame, so they can overlap, and we can see the same scene sometimes from two different viewpoints. (Note the point in chapter two where Sarene sees Raoden being led to Elantris, wearing the sacrificial robes.)

We always follow this same format, going from Raoden, to Sarene, to Hrathen.

Until, that is, the system breaks down late in the book–but we’ll get into that.

And, you might have noticed that the Aons at the beginnings of the chapters stay the same for three chapters before changing. Each triad, therefore, has a different Aon to mark it. (I did a little bit of fighting to get this through at Tor. The final decision was theirs, but once they realized what I was trying to do, they liked the idea and approved it.) The placing of the Aons is a little bit obscure, I'll admit, but it might be fun for people to notice. (They also grow increasingly complex, built out of more and more tracings of Aon Aon, as the triads progress. There are some special Aons marking the beginnings of sections.)

I'll talk more on chapter triads later. You can read more about my theory on the format in the critical afterword to Elantris (which should eventually be posted in the Elantris "Goodies" section.) I might also do essay specifically about the format and the challenges it presented.

ICon 2019 ()
#9 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

I will speak up... I do like the American cover. Some people don't and I can understand... there's like... a lot of people who don't like it say that it looks too sci-fi. And Stephan Martinière was a concept artist for science fiction movies and the book, the cover feels too sci-fi for a lot of people.

Elantris Annotations ()
#10 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty-Two

Time for my second favorite chapter! (The first, if you recall, was the one where Raoden led Karata to the king's palace.)

There are so many things going on in this chapter that I don't quite know where to start. I guess I'll begin with the Mysteries. I drew part of this religion, including the name, from the mystery cults of ancient Greece. I added the ritual sacrifices to give them a bit of zing. You'll get a little bit more of an explanation of the Mysteries, and why someone might decide to join one, in a later Sarene chapter.

As I've noted before, religion–especially its dark side–is a theme in this book. I don't think I could have covered this subject well in the book without including a look at cult mentality. Now, I'll admit that "cult" is a word we bandy about too frequently in religious discussions. It has been noted that Christianity started out as a kind of cult, and it seems that many consider any unorthodox religion to be a "cult."

To me, however, a cult is something that twists who you are, changing you into a shadow of what you used to be. I firmly believe that you can judge a religion by the effects it produces in its practitioners. Does it make them better people? If so, then there's a good chance that the religion is worth something. Does it turn them into people who sacrifice their own servants in an effort to make evil spirits come and kill their daughters-in-law? If so, well. . .you might want to stay away from that one.

Anyway, the Mysteries were–in my mind–a natural outgrowth of the Mystical Jesker religion. Like Galladon is always saying, they're NOT the same religion. The Mysteries are a perversion and simplification of Jesker teachings. Jesker looks to the Dor–the power behind all things–and tries to understand it. The Mysteries treat the Dor like some kind of force to be manipulated. (Which actually, is what AonDor does. . . .)

Elantris Annotations ()
#11 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

This is a rather long chapter. Longer, actually, than I probably would have put in a regular story. However, the triad system kind of forced me to lump all of these events together. It was important that I show the danger of Shaor's gang, as well as the way New Elantris was progressing despite its problems. At the same time, we needed to find out more about Galladon eventually. So, when I did the "find the pool" chapter, I had to include these other items before it.

I kind of wish that I'd been able to include the "Once so very beautiful. . . ." in this chapter somewhere. If you've been watching, you'll know that I do mention the man several other places, often when Raoden is near the Hoed. This is one of the more clever little twists of foreshadowing in the book, if I do say so myself.

Elantris Annotations ()
#13 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

The Pool

So, this is a SLIGHTLY contrived mechanic, and I realize that. I let Raoden off easily by having him simply choose not to be dissolved by the pool.

Partially, I did this simply because I couldn't think of a better way to get him out of it. In addition, however, I think it fits the form of the novel. The pool represents giving in–though it's giving in to peace instead of pain, it is still an admittance of defeat. I've mentioned over and over that the pain has no power against one who doesn't give in to it. I don't see why the peace should be any different. If you can resist one, then you can resist the other.

Besides, the image of Raoden bursting from the pool in front of Galladon and Karata was too good to pass up.

I'm honestly not sure what the pool is or how exactly it fits into the theory of this magic system. It was added as a plotting devise, as mentioned earlier, and therefore was never tied directly to the cosmology or theoretics of the world. When I do a sequel to this book, I think I'll try and find a way to tie it in. For now, however, it's kind of a loose thread. The only thing I know for certain is what I mentioned above. Just like the pain of an Elantrian, I think the peace offered by this pool is a supernatural force. It has something to do with the physical form of the Elantrians.

Elantris Annotations ()
#14 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

So, this is where the book turns a little violent. You can read some of my earlier annotations on the topic. I was a little bit worried about putting any strong violence in this book, since it was generally focused around politics and other, more subtle methods of building tension. However, I decided to go with contrast instead. So far, nearly everything in the book has been surprisingly peaceful. We didn't even see Shaor's men kill many people.

Now things are going very wrong. An evil that nobody was expecting has come against the city, and it's controlled by a demented, hateful creature. I don't see how we could get around having these scenes be particularly dark. I think there is an element of realism here too, however. This is what happens with all of the politics and the maneuvering breaks down.

TWG Posts ()
#15 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, it's looking like my next series--after Warbreaker, which is looking like it will be a two-book cycle--will be set in the Dragonsteel world. I'm revamping the setting significantly, mashing it together with Aether of Night, which always had a cool magic system but a weaker plot.

I have some sample chapters done, actually. Dragonsteel is now the series name, and the first book will be titled "The Liar of Partinel." (Probably.) The book you all read (now tentatively titled "The Eternal War") will be the third or fourth book in the series, and we will wait that long to introduce Jerick, Ryalla, and Bat'Chor. "Liar" will take place some five hundred years before "The Eternal War."

Brandon Sanderson

The following is a complete Brandon Sanderson Bibliography, published and unpublished.  Prime indicates an early attempt at a book which was later redone.  (Note that when I redo a book like this, it isn't a 'rewrite.'  Generally, it's me taking some elements from the setting and writing a whole new book in that setting, using old ideas and mixing them with fresh ones.)  Published books are in bold.

1) White Sand Prime (My first book, took two + years to write.  1998)

2) Star's End (Science fiction.  1998)

3) Lord Mastrell (Sequel to White Sand Prime.  1999)

4) Knight Life (Fantasy comedy.  1999)

5) The Sixth Incarnation of Pandora (Science fiction.  1999)

6) Elantris (2000.  Published by Tor: 2005)

7) Dragonsteel (2000)

8 ) White Sand (2001)

9) Mythwalker (Never finished. 2001)

10) Mistborn Prime (Stole the magic system and title for a later book.  2002)

11) Final Empire Prime (Stole a character, some setting elements, and title for a later book.  2002)

12) The Aether of Night (2002)

13) The Way of Kings (350,000 words.  Took a long time.  2003)

14) Mistborn: The Final Empire (2004, Published by Tor 2006)

15) Mistborn: The Well of Ascension (2005.  Contracted to Tor for 2006)

16) Alcatraz vs. The Evil Librarians (2005.  Contracted to Scholastic for 2006)

17) Mistborn: The Hero of Ages (2006.  Contracted to Tor for 2007)

18) Warbreaker (2006.  Tentatively to be released by Tor for 2007)

19) Alcatraz vs. The Scrivener's Bones (2006.  Contracted by Scholastic for 2008)

20) Dragonsteel: The Liar of Partinel (Unfinished.  2007?)

21) Alcatraz vs. The Knights of Crystallia (Planned.  2007  Contracted by Scholastic for 2009)

22) Nightblood (Planned.  2008)

23) Dragonsteel: The Lightweaver of Rens (Planned. 2008)

24) Alcatraz vs. The Dark Talent (Planned.  2008.  Contracted for Scholastic for 2010)

I'm not sure if I got all of those dates right, but the order is correct.  I'm finished with all the books up to Dragonsteel, though Mistborn 3, Warbreaker, and Alcatraz 2 are all only in the third draft stage.

Brandon Sanderson

You DON'T have to have read the other Dragonsteel to understand this. The other Dragonsteel will never be published. Some of the plots and characters in it, however, will eventually become book three of this series. Not because I'm doing a 'Dragonlance' type thing, but because when I sat down to work on this project, I realized that I'd rather start back in time a few hundred years. In other words, I'm writing the prequels first, if that's possible.

Brandon Sanderson

In worldbuilding this, I realized that I missed a big opportunity in Dragonsteel Prime by not dealing with fainlife all that much. It was a powerful world element that got mostly ignored. By writing a book here, where I can slam a city in to the middle of the fain assault--before people learned really how to keep the alien landscape back--I think I'll be able to focus more on the setting.

One thing that always bothered me about Dragonsteel Prime is that it felt rather generic for me. I like more distinctive settings, with more distinctive magics. Yet, Dragonsteel Prime had a fairly standard fantasy world (though one set in the bronze age) with magic that didn't really get used all that much in the first book. The idea here is to add the Aether magic in, which is a 'day-to-day' magic, and to enhance the originality of the setting by using fainlife more. Microkenisis, Realmatic Theory, Cognitive Ripples and Tzai Blows, and all of that will STILL be part of this world. I've simply folded the Aethers in as well, and hopefully I can make it all feel cohesive.

Elantris Annotations ()
#17 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Four

Moshe and I agreed on just about every edit or change made to Elantris. There is one small thing, however, that we kind of went the rounds about. The word Kolo.

Galladon's "Kolos" are, in my mind, an integral part of his personality. I characterize him a great deal through his dialogue–he doesn't really get viewpoints of his own, so everything I do for him at least until the ending I either have to do through Raoden's thoughts or through Galladon's own words. When I was coming up with Galladon's character, I realized I would need a set of linguistic features that would reinforce his culture's relaxed nature. So, I went with smooth-sounds, and gave their dialect a very "chatty" feel. The Dula habit of calling everyone "friend" came from this–as did their habit of softening everything they say with a question tag. Linguistically, questions are less antagonistic than statements, and I figured a culture like the Dula one would be all about not antagonizing people.

A number of languages in our own world make frequent use of similar tags. Korean, the foreign language I'm most familiar with, has a language construction like this. Closer to home, people often make fun of the Canadian propensity for adding a similar tag to their own statements. I hear that Spanish often uses these tags. In many of these languages, a large percentage of statements made will actually end in a softening interrogative tag.

Anyway, enough linguistics. I'm probably using the standard "literary" posture of falling back on facts and explanations to make myself sound more authoritative. Either way, I liked having Galladon say "Kolo" a lot. In the original draft, the tags were added onto the ends of sentences, much like we might ask "eh?" or "understand?" in English. "It's hot today, kolo?"

Moshe, however, found the excessive use of Kolo confusing–especially in connection with Sule. He thought that people might get the two words confused, since they're used similarly in the sentences. Simply put, he found the kolos distracting, and started to cut them right and left. I, in turn, fought to keep in as many as I could. It actually grew rather amusing–in each successive draft, he'd try to cut more and more, and I'd try to keep a hold of as many as possible. (I was half tempted to throw a "kolo" into the draft of Mistborn, just to amuse him.)

Regardless, we ended up moving kolo to its own sentence to try and make it more understandable. "It's hot today. Kolo?" We also ended up cutting between a third and a half of the uses of the word, and losing each one was a great pain for me. (Well, not really. But I'm paid to be melodramatic.) So, if you feel like it, you can add them back in your mind as your read Galladon's lines.

Oathbringer San Francisco signing ()
#18 Copy


Had you planned to write... the whole Cosmere when you initially started?

Brandon Sanderson

So, I wrote Elantris, had a bunch of the ideas. I started planning right then, and it has evolved a lot since. A lot of Elantris kind of got retrofitted into the things I came up with over the next four or five years... By the time I did Mistborn, I had most of this in mind, but it changes so much, even while I'm writing it. 


So, like, when you had Warbreaker, it was--

Brandon Sanderson

Warbreaker, I wrote as a prequel to Stormlight. I had already written Stormlight One by that point, but I didn't like it, so I wrote about Kaladin's swordmaster, who was in the first book in that version.

Elantris Annotations ()
#19 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Eighteen

This chapter went through some heavy edits. First off, I originally had Hrathen interrogate the Elantrian off-stage. At a suggestion from my editor, I put this in-scene, showing Hrathen talk to the Elantrian. The intention here was to give a little characterization to Hrathen by showing his logical approach to studying and interrogating his prisoner.

The other big change to this chapter came in the middle. As I was working on the later revisions, I realized–at Joshua's suggestion–that I really wanted something here in the early middle of the book that showed Hrathen sparring against Dilaf and winning. In certain sections of the book, Hrathen's character came off too weakly–and this was one of the chapters. Originally, I had Dilaf extinguish the torches of his own accord, then burn the Elantrian later, despite Hrathen's protests.

In the new version, I get to have Hrathen prove his competence by having him wrestle control of the crowd. He is the one who burns the Elantrian, which enhances the scene by letting Hrathen feel guilt for it. He comes off much stronger in this chapter than he did before.

Those of you who have read on realize how important this is to the plot, because from here out, Dilaf starts to get the better of Hrathen. I needed to reinforce Hrathen's strength at the beginning of the story, otherwise I feared that the scenes of Dilaf winning would make Hrathen seem too weak. Hopefully, things now feel like they are balanced–one gaining dominance for a time, then the other wrestling it away, and so on and so forth.

Elantris Annotations ()
#20 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

In the original drafts of the book, I had Sarene feeling a sense of foreboding here at the beginning of her section. My thought was that we'd just seen the Dakhor attack Raoden–the reader is going to be feeling some tension, so I thought I'd like to keep it up in the Sarene scene.

There's still a little bit of it there, but I cut most at Moshe's recommendation. He felt that having Sarene feel an unnatural eeriness about this particular night was too melodramatic, and implied a kind of psychic link. Personally, I think there's nothing psychic about it–it's just a general storytelling convention that characters can sense when something is wrong.

Either way, I do think the more subdued tone of this first part has its own advantages. By having Sarene completely ignorant, even unconsciously, of what is coming, I think I build a sense of tension. The reader knows danger is approaching.

Elantris Annotations ()
#22 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Forty-Four

Cutting the Mad Prince forced me to rewrite a bit of this chapter. As I mentioned, in the original draft, Raoden and Galladon saw Eton's army crouching outside the city. At first, Sarene didn't know what to make of this news. She decided it couldn't be a Fjordell army–one could have never arrived so quickly. She knew it wasn't Teoish.

The chapter used to end with a startling realization from Sarene–she decided that the phantom army must belong to Prince Raoden. She decided that he hadn't died or been killed, but had instead fled to raise an army to take the throne from his father. I thought this was a very clever twist, and it was one of the things I was most sad to lose by cutting the Mad Prince.

Elantris Annotations ()
#23 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

In the Mad Prince drafts of the book, I was still holding off on revealing him to the readers. His army was out there in this chapter–visible because of its fires in the night. I revealed that Hrathen considered the newcomer an ally, but I hadn't yet given away who the newcomer was.

The Mad Prince's disappearance was probably the most time-consuming cut I made, not to mention the one most difficult for me personally. I'm happy to know he lives on in his web presence–he's practically the star of the "Deleted Scenes" section. The cut came at the suggestion of Joshua "Axe Man" Bilmes. The stark truth is, the story didn't need another random diversion here. We're getting very close to the climax, and introducing another whole character–with his own plot, problems, and tangents–just wasn't good for the pacing. Eton was, in my opinion, a brilliant character. However, he just didn't belong in the book.

Elantris Annotations ()
#24 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

You'll notice the quick mention of the Widow's Trial in this chapter. This sub-plot was actually added later in the drafting process, and I had to come back and write these comments into this scene. It will become apparent why later on.

Though, you spoilers already know how it is used. I needed to get Sarene into Elantris somehow, and I wasn't certain how I was going to do it. Somewhere along the way I devised the idea of the Widow's Trial. In the end, it worked quite well, as it provided the means for Raoden to create New Elantris.

YouTube Livestream 2 ()
#25 Copy

Stephen Kundy

If you were to write Elantris now, with all the writing experience that you've gained over your career, would you change anything?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, there are a lot of things I would change about Elantris. I have an autistic character in Elantris that I did not do a very good job with. It's more of a pop science version of autism than it is an actual in-depth look at what it is to live with autism. My prose is pretty rough, back then. Prose has never been my strongest suit, granted, but I do think I've gotten a lot better over the last twenty years. (Published fifteen, but twenty years ago, I wrote it.) I think my prose has improved dramatically over the years, and I think my ability to do dialogue has improved, and a lot of things like that.

Would I change any major plot features of Elantris? No. I'm actually fairly pleased with Elantris, plot-wise. There are aspects to it, right? I mean, Raoden's character arc is primarily externally driven. He is not a character who is going through a big change internally. But that was intentional. When I sat down to write it, the book I had written right before was about a deep and angsty character who had one of these very, very dramatic character arcs. And I was tired of angst, and I wanted somebody who dealt with external pressure in a fantastic way and was put into a very extreme situation externally and was someone who was kind of a little more like me in that that didn't really faze him, and he did his best with the situation. And I like that aspect of it. It does mean that some people who read it think Raoden isn't as deep as someone like Kaladin. Which you are perfectly fine in thinking that, but I think they are just different types of characters. I wasn't trying to write somebody angsty in Raoden, and I am pleased with how he turned out.

Sarene, as a character, was always kind of me trying to write someone who was a little more confident than they, perhaps, deserved to be. And that's a personality trait of Sarene. I actually, when I was plotting Stormlight, I once described Jasnah to someone in my writing group as "the person that Sarene thinks she is." And I like that about Sarene. She's young. She's got gumption and grit. And she's not quite as capable as she thinks she is, but you know what? Thinking you're capable can get you a long ways, as long as you have a minimum level of capability. And she does.

And I'm very proud of Hrathen as an antagonist. It has taken me until The Way of Kings and Taravangian to find someone that I feel is as strong an antagonist as Hrathen from my very first book. I'm still very pleased with how he turned out.

Elantris Annotations ()
#26 Copy

Brandon Sanderson


I keep promising that I'll tell you about some of the other silly character revelations I had pop up in the book. This one is particularly embarrassing. To be honest, I have NO idea what I was thinking.

In the original draft of the book, Hrathen turns out to have been from Duladel the entire time. It's revealed in this scene, when he and Sarene are running from the Dakhor. He was of Dula blood, having grown up there, then moved to Fjorden as a teenager.

Yes, I know. I must have been tired when I wrote that chapter. Anyway, at one point it must have seemed like a good idea. It didn't make even the first cut, however–my first readers rose up in open rebellion, and I joined them.

I figure I must have decided that it was more dramatic to discover that Hrathen had betrayed his own people by destroying Duladel. (Note, in the early draft of the book, I made more of a habit of pointing out that the Duladen republicans weren't generally dark-skinned.) In the first draft, I always had Hrathen wear black die in his hair and pretended to be from Fjorden.

Yes, again, I know. It was stupid. We writers do stupid things sometimes. I didn't even pause to think that the drama of Hrathen betraying his own people and religion in the present is far more powerful than a betrayal that happened before the book even started. I denied his entire character by trying to rely on some whim that seemed like a clever, unexpected twist. Don't let yourselves do things like this, writers. Let the twists help develop the character, not exist simply to surprise.

Anyway, I'll post this scene in the deleted scenes section. It'll keep me humble to know people can read it.

Elantris Annotations ()
#27 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Forty-Six - Part One

Raoden's reaction to Iadon's death is just a little bit cliché, but I think that cliché exists for a reason, so I wrote the scene this way.

Sometimes, I have difficulty in my writing because I try to be TOO original. I react pretty strongly against anything I've seen before, and don't want to include it in my books. This has served me well in some ways–Moshe bought Elantris partially because he found it refreshingly different from other fantasies on the market. I generally have a strong element of originality to my worlds, my magic systems, and my plot structures. This is part of what draws people to my work.

However, sometimes I go too far. If I see something written one way–even if that way is good–then I react against it, trying to find another way. I've stayed away from "Eternal Apprentice" plots (Thank you Craig Shaw Gardner for the name) even though they are extremely popular in fantasy–indeed, they are what got me into fantasy when I was younger. But, because of some things like this, my books can be more difficult to get into. The extremely steep learning curve of my works, the focus on strange settings and odd magic systems, might be off-putting for some readers. (Elantris, by the way, is only a hint at these kinds of things. Mistborn is a much better example.)

I try to walk a fine balance in my works. The trick is to write something that is original and new, breaking convention and tradition–yet at the same time have it FEEL like a fantasy. People read in the genre because they like the things it can do. I have to add the new, Sanderson, spin to things without tossing out all that is wonderful and resonant within the genre.

That's why you'll see some old archetypes showing up in my works occasionally. In a way, Mistborn is an old-fashioned "overthrow the evil empire" fantasy. When choosing my next project, I decided that I had enough sufficiently new material–both in setting and in plot–to tell the story in a way that would be fresh. I think it adds something to the genre, rather than just recycling what is there. So, I went ahead with it, hoping that the familiar and the original would work together.

Elantris is similar. I threw in odd (for fantasy) plotting structures, but I let the air of "standard medieval culture" remain in the book. (In fact, as I've noted, this is probably my most like-Earth book in that way.)

The balance between the new and the familiar. That's what it's all about.

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Why did you choose the political system in Elantris, just based on an economic system, I thought that was fascinating.

Brandon Sanderson

I wanted to explore, this was just an idea for a story I had: what if an MLM were in charge of a monarchy? And it obviously didn't go straight that direction, but that was my pitch to myself. I feel like sometimes fantasy books just take everything as assumed. And you end up with these-- And sometimes it's okay, right? But in every book I write, I'm like, let's look and see if there's something different, not taking all of our assumptions for granted. And with Elantris it was that--MLM runs a monarchy, go. And that's where my worldbuilding went. You can probably blame Dune a bit for this, because Dune's worldbuilding and economy are so wrapped up together that ever since I read that,almost everything I've built has had an economic component to the worldbuilding.

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How did you come up with Shardpools and travel between the worlds?

Brandon Sanderson

...So, what happened is (close as I can remember; it's been a long time now), close as I can remember, I wrote Elantris in, like, 1998 or 1999, and I, at that point, didn't really have the cosmere in place. I knew I wanted to do some sort of grand epic, I knew I wanted to do some sort of thing, but I just wrote that book-- Elantris is mostly a discovery-written book, rather than an outlined book. And I wrote this book, and that's when I started a lot of these ideas. I stepped away from it, and I started writing a book called Dragonsteel, which was Hoid's origin story. And then I kinda got into the dark age where I was trying to be George R.R. Martin for a while. And then when I came out of that, I wrote The Way of Kings [Prime]. And during those days, I was really looking for these tying agents. When I put the first Shardpool in, I had-- I'm just like "Here's a well of power. I don't know what this does." I was discovery-writing the book. By the time I sold Mistborn and Elantris, I sold those two in a deal in 2003, that's when I'm like, "All right, now I'm gonna do this for real." I've had all this trial run-- I'd written thirteen novels at this point, and I'd sold #6 and #14, Mistborn not being written yet... So, I sat down with Elantris, and I built out the cosmere, and I built out these things, like "Why do I have this pool of power? What am I gonna do with the pool of power in the next book? I want this to be a theme." And I started building out the cosmere from there. So, part of it was organic, part of it was by design.

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Brandon Sanderson

Another big nod of thanks goes out to my thesis committee for their suggestion regarding this chapter. I'm not sure how I missed it, but in the original drafts, Raoden and company never acknowledge the fact that Hrathen had been healed. They never even mentioned it, and they certainly didn't give their thoughts on why it happened.

The fix was an easy one–you can read it in a few paragraphs in this chapter. However, the fact that it hadn't been there before was indeed a problem. Moshe was dumbfounded when I mentioned the oversight to him.

So, thanks Sally, Dennis, and John. You saved me from some embarrassment.

I like the explanation that Raoden gives here for Hrathen's healing. It seems like it would make sense to the Elantrians, and it saves me from having them suspect what was really going on.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifty-Eight - Part Four

I don't know if you've noticed this, but this chapter forms a mini-triad of its own. It shows all three characters in their traditional rotation. It's something fun I decided to, playing with my own format. The idea was to give an unconscious sense of urgency to the reader by giving them a whole triad compacted into one chapter. I don't expect anyone to pick up on it–actually, I don't want them to. For it to work right, the reader will be paying so much attention to the text that they don't consciously notice the speed up. However, I hope that it will make them read faster and faster as the book progresses.

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Brandon Sanderson

By the way, in the original draft, when Sarene gives her "All of Arelon is blessed by your presence" line when the Patriarch is on the docks, the Patriarch originally said "I know." Moshe thought this was a little overdone, so I cut it. In my mind, however, the Patriarch IS overdone and cliché–that's part of his character. But, anyway, one other item about this scene is the storm. I threw it in so that I could fudge the time of the Patriarch's arrival–the triad structure requiring me to have had him on the boat longer than the trip should take. This might actually not be necessary any more–in the original, I had him leave before he found out about the king's death. (I'm. . .not exactly sure why. Something to do with pacing and the triad structure. However, it was always my intention to have him read the proclamation at the funeral, so I had to have him ASSUME that Iadon would be executed, then take off with the proclamation. Either way, I eventually fixed this, smoothing things out considerably.)

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Brandon Sanderson

Raoden and Sarene vs Dilaf

There's really only one way this battle could have ended–Dilaf had to win. Raoden might know his Aons, but Dilaf has been a Dakhor for decades. Sarene has practiced fencing, but Dilaf is a warrior monk with a supernaturally fast and powerful body. It makes sense to me that this little battle wouldn't even be much of a contest. Both Sarene and Raoden are people who succeed not based on their ability to beat up their enemies, but on their ability to manipulate their surroundings. By having the heroes defeated in combat by the villain at the end, I think I give a final nod to my desire to write a book that didn't use violence as the solution to problems.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Forty-Six - Part Two

As I've said before, I worried about the Sarene-Raoden plot falling too much into "romantic comedy" stereotypes, so I took measures to try and make them act more honestly. In this chapter, Raoden tries to push Sarene away–but, of course, she doesn't believe him. Honestly, I think people in a lot of such plots TRY to find ways to misunderstand each other. That's the only explanation I can give for why such ridiculous things occur.

In cutting the Mad Prince, this section in the Sarene/Raoden chapters was one of the things I was sad to change. As I mentioned in a previous annotation, in the Mad Prince version of the book, Sarene thought that Raoden had returned with an army to try and take the city. I started this chapter out with a scene of Raoden thinking about the problems Sarene's realization caused. I’ll just stick it in here:

One side effect of her mistaken supposition was that she hesitated in regards to their own relationship. He could see the conflict within he–the two of them had grown very close over the last five days, acting on the feelings they had both been forced to hold back during the weeks of Sarene's food distribution. Yet, now, Sarene thought that her husband might actually be alive and, a truly devout daughter of political necessity, she felt that getting any closer to Raoden would betray her vows. With surprise, Raoden realized that he was competing with himself–and losing.

I really hate to lose that last line. It always struck me as ironically clever. However, there was another loss that was even tougher to lose. It comes in where Raoden and Sarene are at the city gates:

Raoden fell still. He wanted her to stay–he longed for her to stay. But, at the same time, he knew he had to do whatever it took to get her out of Adonis. The city was death. As much as it pained him to think of her leaving, it pained him more to think of her staying.

"He will be there," Raoden said enticingly, his voice suddenly growing quiet. "Raoden. The man you love."

Sarene's hand grew slack, and she waved uncertain eyes towards the Elantris city gate. "No," she finally said. "That's not what I want any more."

I think the reason I hated to lose this scene is obvious. Right here, Sarene gets to choose "Spirit" over the images she has in her head of the perfect Prince Raoden. It's an opportunity for her to show that she really does love him, despite what he is, despite what the other options might be. It's love offered against logic and against wished-for dreams. In other words, it's realistic love. Of all the scenes I had to cut, these few paragraphs make me the saddest to lose, I think.

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So, AonDor is super versatile and powerful.

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, but region-locked!


Yes, it is region locked, exactly. If a full Feruchemist using nicrosil were to create an unlocked medallion that allowed an Elantrian to store Connection to Elantris' location, would it let them use AonDor at full power as long as they were tapping that Connection?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. That should work just fine.


Just understand that the medallion's going to have to be usable by everyone in order to work. You're going to have to jump through some hoops, but I think what you want there would work. And for those of you listening, that would be the harder way to unlock AonDor. There are easier methods.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-Two

Raoden is an expert at manipulating his surroundings. This doesn't make him "manipulative," in my mind. (You can read about a real manipulator in my next book.) Raoden simply knows how to take what he is given and make the best from them. In a way, this is the soul of creativity. Raoden is like a master composer or an artist–except, where they take images or sounds and combine them to suit their needs, he takes the situation and adapts it to create something useful. Outside of Elantris, he took his father's edicts and turn them against the man. However, thrown into a terrible situation like the pit of Elantris, Raoden really has an opportunity to shine.

He's kind of like a magic unto himself. I've known people a little like him in this world–people who can defy convention and reality, and just make things work. Somehow, Raoden can make three out of two. He can take the pieces and combine them in new ways, creating something greater than most people thought possible.

In short, he's the perfect hero for this kind of book. When I was writing Elantris in the winter of 1999 and spring of 2000, I was finishing up my undergraduate degree at BYU. The book I'd written before it was called The Sixth Incarnation of Pandora–undoubtedly the strangest, most-un-Brandon-like book I've ever constructed. Pandora was a SFstory about a man made immortal though careful–and expensive–application of nanotechnology. The process slowly drove him mad.

Pandora was a dark, grisly book. The man character could withstand alarming injuries without dying. One prime theme of the novel was dealing with the psyche of a man who could slaughter thousands of people while being shot to pieces, then find himself reconstructed a short time later. It was a rather violent book–probably the most disturbing I've ever written.

When I got done with that book, I reacted against it by wanting to devise a plot that didn't depend at all on violence. Elantris was the result. I wanted to tell a story about a hero who could succeed without having to beat up on the people who opposed him. I took away his physical abilities and his royal resources, leaving him with only his wits and his determination.

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Brandon Sanderson

Anyway, back to the chapter. I planned from the beginning for Sarene to give Raoden this vital bit of information about the magic system. As I've said before, she represents chaos–and chaos isn't always a bad thing. She is able to give Raoden the one simple bit of information that, despite all of his studying, he hasn't been able to find.

I worry, now that we have the map, that the Chasm answer is too obvious. Jeff made the Chasm a lot bigger than I intended it to be. And, since we zoomed in on the map so much, the Chasm dominates a large section of what we see.

Fortunately, I think it's the very next Triad where Raoden figures out how to use Sarene's bit of information. We don't have to wait long for him to figure out the secret–so, hopefully, if the readers figure it out, they won't feel Raoden is too stupid for taking so long.

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Brandon Sanderson

I use this chapter as a strict triad chapter–it covers the same space of time as the other two chapters. With Sarene and Raoden running around together now, the triad system has been easy to forget. While I still start each chapter with the correct character, I often let the viewpoints intermix after that.

Again, this is intentional. After this last Hrathen chapter, I have the triad system break down completely. It's supposed to be a subtle indication of the chaos of these last few chapters. I'll even start throwing in viewpoints that aren't of the core three, which I hope with give the reader a sensation that something different is happening. The world, even the narrative structure of the book, is breaking apart. None of the old rules hold any more.

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Brandon Sanderson


So, Hrathen wasn't really dead. (Ironically, while many of you are probably saying "yeah, yeah. That was obvious," I actually didn't have him appear here in the first eight drafts of the book. I'll explain later.)

I think this is my favorite scene of this chapter. Not only is it written a little better than the rest of the book (I added it quite late–just this last summer) but it gives final closure to the Hrathen-Dilaf relationship. It uses Hrathen's time in Dakhor as an ironic twist against Dilaf. In short, it is a pretty good scene. Fulfills character, plot, and theme at the same time–while giving us a nice image to boot. (Though I do hate to do the "Hey look, a guy we thought was dead is really alive" twist.)

The story behind this scene is pretty recent. One of the original rewrites Moshe asked for was a fix of the ending, which he thought was too Deus Ex Machina. (Which, indeed, it was.) I don't think I'll go into the entire original version here–it was quite different. You can read the alternate ending in the deleted scenes section, when I throw it up next month. The short of it, however, is that Ien (Raoden's seon) showed up to save Raoden and Sarene from Dilaf. I used a mechanic of the magic system that I have since pretty much cut from the novel (since it was only in the book to facilitate this scene) that allowed Ien to complete his Aon, "healing" Dilaf. Except, since Ien's Aon was broken, it turned Dilaf into an Elantrian instead. (A non-glowing Elantrian. One like Raoden the group used to be–like Dilaf's own wife became after she was improperly healed in Elantris.)

I know that's probably confusing to you. The scene, over all, was just kind of weak. It relied on a barely-explained mechanic mixed with a tangential character showing up at just the right moment. When Moshe asked for the change, I immediately saw that I needed to bring Hrathen back to life for a few more moments. Letting him die on the street just wasn't dignified enough (though originally I wanted him to die this way because it felt more realistic.) I wanted a final confrontation between Hrathen and Dilaf, since it would give most people's favorite character a heroic send-off, and would also let me tie in the aforementioned Dakhor irony.

In the end, I was very pleased with the rewrite. It's good to have an editor.

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If I may ask another thing, did you decide what come earlier in the Cosmere's Timeline between Elantris and White Sand ?

Brandon Sanderson

White Sand is earlier. I was pretty sure on this, but I wanted to be able to glance at the timeline and make sure I hadn't made any changes. (And I haven't.) It's pretty solidly locked into that place because of certain events around the cosmere, so you can assume it won't change.

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Brandon Sanderson

The only other thing to say about this chapter is that it's about where the Mad Prince subplot began in the original drafts of the book.

Though this is explained other places on the site, I should probably note it here. The Mad Prince, a character who has been cut from the book, dominated about three or four chapters in the last quarter of the manuscript. Originally, Raoden wasn't an only child–he had a brother who was something of a madman. Eton–the Mad Prince–was sent away by his father to live in seclusion. He was mentioned several places in the text, foreshadowing the time when Hrathen decided to pull him back into Arelish politics to try and use him as a pawn.

In this chapter, the Mad Prince arrives in the area–though we don't know it. Hrathen finds out that Eton has arrived, and goes to meet with him off stage. The reader doesn't know what's going on yet–you only know that Hrathen has some other little scheme he's been cooking up since Sarene's fall. (Remember, in the original draft of the book, Telrii was far less of a character. Hrathen gave up on him early in the book, after the plan to sink Iadon's ships ended up being a wash.)

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Brandon Sanderson

Everything else in this chapter pretty much stayed the same. In the original draft, Galladon was actually named Galerion. I made the change because the name "Galerion" just didn't fit the eventual linguistic style I devised for Duladel. Again, I didn't do as much planning for this book as I do for books I write now, and I just kind of let the names and cultures develop as I wrote. In the end, Galerion's culture out-developed his name. I figured that the main Dula in the book needed to have a Dula-sounding name. Interestingly, Moshe–my editor–independently decided that he really didn't like Galerion's name. When I made the suggested change, he was very pleased. Originally, he didn't like Raoden's name either–but this came, mostly, because he had trouble pronouncing it. I actually really like the name, but understand that it can be difficult if you don't understand the Aonic language. Remember–two hard vowel sounds formed by the Aon, every other vowel is soft. RAY-OH-den. (Read the pronunciation guide for more.)

Galladon/Galerion originally spoke with a much stronger dialect in this chapter. However, these dribbled off after the first few chapters, and I decided I didn't want him to be quite as difficult to understand. So, I went back and cut them. You'll notice, however, that Galladon still hits the dialect pretty hard in this first chapter.

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Brandon Sanderson

There's a tie for best line of the chapter, in my opinion. The first one goes to Sarene, and it's in her thoughts. " 'The problem with being clever,' Sarene thought with a sigh, 'is that everyone assumes you're always planning something.' " This was an original line from the first draft, and it's always struck me as a rather true statement. The other line goes to Roial, and it was actually added in one of the last drafts. "Mean young men are trivial, and kindly old men boring."

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Brandon Sanderson

The main edit to this chapter came very early in the process. Very few people have seen this section–I don't think it made it past the first revision. I'll probably post in on the "deleted scenes" section, though. What good is a website if you can't embarrass yourself?

Anyway, the scene dealt with Daorn and Kaise approaching Kiin (during the fencing practice) and asking him if they could go with Sarene into Elantris. He responded by saying that they could as long as they did some silly homework-style projects for him. (Essays or multiplication tables or something like that.) In a re-read, I realized that this was WAY to modern, even for Kiin. I'd think that people who did this today were being progressive–and a bit odd. (What are these kids? Home-schoolers?)

Anyway, I cut the scene.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-Four

As you can probably deduce from what I've said before, this Telrii scene is a late addition. It's not one of my favorites between Hrathen and Telrii--re-reading it, it makes me feel like Telrii is simply there to be persuaded. While the intention of these scenes is, indeed, to show Hrathen as a stronger character, their secondary purpose is simply to let him voice out loud some of the thoughts he's been mulling over. If you have trouble characterizing or motivating one of your characters in a book you're writing, try giving them someone--either friend or foe--to talk to.

Anyway, this particular scene is a little weak, and I suppose I could cut it without too much loss. It is a good idea to keep people thinking about Telrii, however, since he will be important later in the story.

Also, there is his warning to Hrathen about not being a pawn, which is some good foreshadowing for what happens later, when he casts Hrathen off and tries to become a Gyorn himself.

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What can you tell us about food in Arelon? Is there a specific Earth culture that it resembles? Because in Elantris, we only really see cooking an eating when it's Kiin's cooking. And he kind of has a mishmash.

Brandon Sanderson

I was looking at Renaissance Europe, maybe Spanish...with the coastline...Let's go with Spanish-esque. So some olives, something close to a paella. I would imagine it being somewhere along those likes, probably. The problem is I don't really know what they ate in Renaissance Spain. I only know what they eat in Spain right now. But I was looking at it like a Renaissance Mediterranean for Arelon when I was building it.