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Elantris Annotations ()
#1 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-Three


If you want to read more on this topic, read the critical afterword to Elantris I wrote for inclusion with my Master's Thesis. The short of it, however, is that Sarene is a force of change and chaos. Raoden, as mentioned above, is a master at working with what he is given. He manipulates his confines to the point that they are no longer binding.

Sarene, however, just ignores what she is "supposed" to do. She is chaos. Not the "evil" chaos usually used in fantasy novels--Sarene is simply unpredictable, a force that can't be measured as easily as others. One manifestation of this comes in the nature of this chapter. If you read closely, you'll notice that--for the first time in the book--I offer two viewpoints in the same chapter. We jump from Sarene to Raoden, then back to Sarene again. It's a little thing, perhaps–a silly thing, even, for me to put in. However, it is representative of the fact that the first time Sarene enters Raoden's world, she brings with her an uncanny ability to mess up his plans.

Elantris Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

If I were to assign Raoden two defining traits, the first would be his ability to make the best of what he's given (as I've spoken of above.) The second, however, would be the personality trait he manifests in this chapter–his simple belief in the goodness of the human race.

I suppose this is a facet of his optimism. Raoden believes in people–he believes that, as a whole, they will do what is right. He believes that they are more rational than the nobility sometimes give them credit, and he believes that most men will do what is good if they are presented with all of the facts.

He really is a noble man. He's perhaps the only person I've written in a fantasy book who, from day one, actually deserved to be king.

Brandon's Blog 2007 ()
#3 Copy


Were any aspects of Elantrsi at all biographical? In my case, at least, my writing is often unintentionally reflective of my own experiences. Is this the case for you as well?

Brandon Sanderson

Every book is a little autobiographical. You can’t separate yourself from your work, though I try not to include intentional messages in my writing. (That doesn’t mean I’m opposed to my books having meaning; it just means that I don’t tent to approach them with the idea “I want to teach something in this book.”)

Each of the characters is a little autobiographical, something that is most noticeable to me in retrospect. Raoden represents my belief in the power of optimism. I’m an optimist. I can’t help it; it’s just the way I am. And so, a hero like Raoden often grows to represent my beliefs. His conflict–that of being cast into the most horrific place in the kingdom–is an outgrowth of me trying to devise the most hopeless situation I could, and then make the conflict for my character the attempt to retain hopeful in the face of that.

Sarene represents an amalgamation of several people I knew in my life, most notably Annie Gorringe, a friend of mine in college. Not that Sarene acts just like her, of course–but that some of the conflicts in Annie’s life, mixed with some of her personality quirks, inspired me to develop a character that ended up in my book.

Hrathen is as much a piece of me as Raoden. I served a mission for the LDS church, and while I did so, I thought often about the ‘right’ way to share one’s beliefs mixed with the ‘wrong’ way. It seemed to me that focusing on the beauty of your message, mixed with the needs of the individuals you met, was the way to go. When you start to preach just to be preaching–or to convert not because of your concern for those around you, but because you want to seem more powerful–you risk beating the life out of your own message. You also get in trouble when you focus on putting other religions down (or challenging others on their beliefs) instead of just talking about what makes you believe like you do.

So, in a way, Hrathen represents my fears of what I could have become–a warning to myself, if you will.

TWG Posts ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Each of the characters is a little autobiographical, mostly noticeable in retrospect. Raoden represents my belief in the power of optimism. I'm an optimist. I can't help it; it's just the way I am. And so, a hero like Raoden often grows to represent my beliefs. His conflict--that of being cast into the most horrific place in the kingdom--is an outgrowth of me trying to devise the most hopeless situation I could, and then make the conflict for my character the attempt to retain hopeful in the face of that.

Sarene represents an amalgamation of several people I knew in my life, most notably Annie Gorringe, a friend of mine in college. Not that Sarene acts just like her, of course--but that some of the conflicts in Annie's life, mixed with some of her personality quirks, inspired me to develop a character that ended up in my book.

Hrathen is as much a piece of me as Raoden. I served a mission for the LDS church, and while I did so, I thought often about the 'right' way to share one's beliefs mixed with the 'wrong' way. It seemed to me that focusing on the beauty of your message, mixed with the needs of the individuals you met, was the way to go. When you start to preach just to be preaching--or to convert not because of your concern for those around you, but because you want to seem more powerful--you risk beating the life out of your own message.

So, in a way, Hrathen represents my fears of what I could have become--a warning to myself, if you will.

Elantris Annotations ()
#5 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

In this chapter, we really get to see the effects Raoden's leadership. We see how he makes use of what he is given–the bright cloth, the nails, the sheets of metal. On one side, we saw Sarene twisting his demands. Now we get to see Raoden twisting those items back into usefulness. He changes the bright clothing into an advantage, using it to brighten his people against the sludge. He finds uses for all of Sarene's "useless" payments. The more bleak a situation is, the more Raoden shines.

Elantris Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirteen

This is easily one of my favorite chapters in the book. This chapter really shows off the core of Raoden's character–lets him be the hero that he is. I've never written another character like Raoden. In a way, he's not as rounded as some other characters (characters like Hrathen.) He doesn't have the flaws or internal battles of some of the more complex characters I've designed.

That doesn't, however, make him any worse a character in this particular book. Raoden is something of a superman–he does the right thing at almost every turn, and his internal struggles only serve to make him more noble. You can't often get away with this in fiction. However, I do think that there are really people like him in the world–I've known a few of them. By including him in a book with Hrathen and Sarene, each of whom have their foibles and internal problems, I think I avoid making the characters of the book feel too shallow.

And, there is a certain. . .beauty to a character who is simply noble. Often times, we as authors think that making a character "rounded" or "realistic" means corrupting them somehow. I think Raoden defies this concept. He probably wouldn't be a very compelling character outside of an extreme situation like Elantris. However, confronted by the almost overwhelming problems and tasks associated with the city, his strength only serves to make him feel more realistic to me. A weaker character would have broken beneath Elantris. Raoden can struggle on.

In this chapter, I do begin to introduce what will become Raoden's main character struggle–that of his burden of leadership. He's taking a lot upon himself, and I think a man of his sincerity couldn't help but pause and wonder if he's worth all of the loyalty he is receiving.

Elantris Annotations ()
#7 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Anyway. . .I break triad here again. I'd forgotten about this one. Actually, you'll note that the closer I get to an action sequence or a climax, the more quickly I shift viewpoints. I do it half-intentionally, half-unconsciously. (If that's possible.) Logically, I know that quickly-shifting viewpoints give the scenes more tension and a sense of movement. Unconsciously, I just know that it's good storytelling to keep things quick–and it's more dramatic when you can end with a cliff-hanger line, then switch to a new viewpoint.

I'll admit that this scene borders on being too melodramatic. A couple of things justify it in my mind. First, the scene is more about Raoden confronting how he'd made a mistake with Shaor's men than it is about Sarene discovering that she'd been betrayed. Second, Sarene's "betrayal," as explained in the next chapter, is really about her own prejudice. Inside, she was just waiting for something like this to happen. That's why she didn't give Raoden the benefit of the doubt–she never wanted to like him. It was almost like she was eager to be hurt, expecting it, since things obviously couldn't work out for her. (Or so she unconsciously assumed.)

So, in a way, they were both kind of expecting something like this to happen. When it did happen, they allowed it to. In my mind, this takes it from a "silly misunderstanding" and changes it into a "character-driven conflict."

/r/fantasy AMA WorldCon 2013 ()
#8 Copy


A lot of your works that are stand alone novels or seemingly completed stories, you have announced or started working on sequels for. Are there any stories that you feel complete and don't need to work on the same world or characters again? Or do feel there is always some new tale to tell about every world you make?

Brandon Sanderson

It's hard, because the way I plot I always have to know what happened before the book and what will happen after the book. Knowing that doesn't mean that I have to continue. It's also hard, though, to say no to fans who are so passionate about a specific project.

The Vin/Elend story is most certainly done. As is the Raoden/Sarene story, as is Siri's story from Warbreaker. So there are completed threads. There might be other stories to tell in those worlds, though, so I'll avoid closing the door on them for now. (That said, it did feel very good to finish The Wheel of Time for good, and look forward to putting some of my own works to rest in a similar way.)

Elantris Annotations ()
#9 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

On a more serious note, I'll get to some of the major events in the chapter in a moment. First, let's talk over some smaller annotations. I like the fact that Lukel doesn't like Kaloo–it seems like a perfect characterization for both of them. I will note, however, that Lukel has much better lines in this chapter than Kaloo does. His crack about Ahan getting sick by sheer laws of probability makes me chuckle every time I read them. Kaloo, on the other hand, spends all of his time trying to be honorable and true. Raoden is a good hero, but he can be dreadfully boring sometimes. Maybe that's why he threw himself into the Kaloo persona so eagerly.

Leipzig Book Fair ()
#10 Copy


About Ien, Raoden's Seon. I was wondering what happened to him.

*brief sidebar for translation*

Brandon Sanderson

So, still around, but suffered some effects of what happened in the books, but still around.

*brief sidebar for translation*

I'm trying not to give spoilers, but when I go back to the series I do intend to answer that question.

Elantris Annotations ()
#11 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Other than that massive tangent, I don't know that I have much to say about this chapter. I thought that it was necessary to set Raoden up with a firm set of goals to accomplish–hence the three distinct gangs he has to overcome. Since Sarene and Hrathen's storylines were going to be a little more ambiguous plot-wise, I wanted a conflict for Raoden that could show distinct and consistent progress.

I knew from the beginning that I wanted him to set up a new society for Elantris, and the gangs represented a way for him to approach this goal in an incremental manner.

The cliffhanger at the end of this chapter, by the way, is one of my favorites. The chapter-triad system gave me some amazing opportunities for cliffhangers–as we'll see later.

Elantris Annotations ()
#12 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

If you were wondering, most of the explanations we get in this chapter are true. The reason that Raoden was subject to the Dor attacks was because he spent so much time practicing with the Aons. He began to make a bridge between this world and the Dor, and because of that, he gave the Dor a slight opening into his soul. I imagine that he isn't the first one to suffer something like this during the ten years that Elantris has been fallen. Other Elantrians probably practiced with the Aons, and the Dor eventually destroyed them. When it was done, they simply became Hoed.

By finally using the Dor effectively, Raoden relieved a little bit of the pressure, letting the nearby buildup of the Dor (the one that he himself had created by practicing so much) rip through him and fuel that single Aon.

Originally, I had Raoden's conflict with the Dor continue on after this scene–I had it continue attacking him. In a later draft, however, I realized that I'd made a mistake. Raoden has other things to worry about in the upcoming chapters–he doesn't need the Dor attacks to create conflict and tension. So, after this chapter, the Dor attacks actually became distractions. I also realized that the way I'd set up the magic system, this chapter was probably the place where the Dor should stop attacking, since Raoden had fulfilled what he wanted it to do.

TWG Posts ()
#13 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

ELANTRIS and WHITE SAND have what I would call 'flawless' heroes. DRAGONSTEEL and AETHER OF NIGHT have mostly flawless heroes, with their internal issues being only minor parts of the plot. These four have, from what people have told me, are generally their favorite books of mine.

WAY OF KINGS, MISTBORN (version 1), and FINAL EMPIRE all have heroes with serious emotional or psychological issues that they're dealing with. KINGS is the most daunting of these, with each of the major characters having their own personal 'thing' that they are working through in the book. MISTBORN (version 2) is similar to this (though none of you have read it yet.)

These three books have received mixed reactions. While many people claim to like them, I'm not sure that they enjoyed them as much as the previous set.

Elantris Annotations ()
#14 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

So, in this chapter we get the first real Sarene-Raoden interaction. I worked very hard on this relationship, trying to find a way to make it work naturally, yet still have the drama necessary for good storytelling. I assume that readers–at least the more romantic lot of you–have been waiting for the time when Sarene and Raoden would meet. Not only are they the male and female leads, but they also happen to be married.

One of the things all writers struggle with is making their plots not seem contrived. Moshe and I tried very hard to make certain that everyone's motivations worked, and this is a good test chapter. Does it make sense to you that Raoden wouldn't show Sarene and the others his true self? I think that his desire to keep himself, and New Elantris, quiet makes sense. However, I could see how some readers might find it contrived. I hope my explanations make sense.

One of the biggest complexities in this book is the way Raoden keeps his true self secret. I hope that the way he does this doesn't seem unbelievable. To him, his old life is gone. Though he is curious about his old friends, and especially about Sarene, he can't afford to let himself grow too interested in or attached to the outside world. He knows that doing so would only bring pain, both for himself, and for others.

Elantris Annotations ()
#15 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifty

Joshua absolutely hates it when I use plots like this.

I don't know why I insist on putting things like this (mistaken identities, people pretended to be someone else, that kind of plot) into my books. I think, deep down, I've got a weakness for old-school Shakespearean farces. Storytelling is just more fun when people can do a bit of pretending.

Anyway, I'd been wanting to show a real Dula ever since I started writing the book. Galladon is such a "bad" Dula that I was very pleased when I found an opportunity to work Kaloo into the plot. You've been hearing, through various asides, about Dulas for most of the book. Now you actually get to meet one. Or, at least, someone pretending to be one. (Uh. . .I hope I'm not giving anything away by letting you know that Kaloo is really Raoden. It wasn't supposed to be a surprise.

Anyway, we'll get an explanation from Raoden later about why he didn't come clean immediately. If he were truthful, however, he'd have to admit something: Though he sometimes teases Sarene for being too fond of political games, he likes them just as much as she does. The opportunity for him to meet her for the third time for the first time was just too tempting to pass up.

In order for "Kaloo" to appear in this chapter, he and Galladon had to do some serious moving. (Realize that this has to be the same day as the last chapter.) I imagine that they made their discovery early in the morning, and Raoden was extremely eager to get out of the city and find out what was happening. They put on new faces, snuck out of the city, and went to the Arelene market to buy some costumes. After that, they went looking for Roial–whom Raoden wanted to contact first. Instead, however, he found Sarene and company fencing in the backyard. As mentioned, Raoden couldn't resist the opportunity to see her–and the opportunity to try out his Dula impersonation.

By the way, you might remember that I've mentioned Raoden's fencing ability before. Very early in the book, I note during one of the fencing practices that Raoden had Eondel teach him to fight simply to spite Iadon. He's actually surprisingly good–Raoden, however, is the type of person who is surprisingly good at a surprising number of things.

Elantris Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Now that the three gangs have been dealt with, Raoden's storyline has had some major resolutions. The increasing pain of his wounds, however, is something I introduced into the book for fear that he wouldn't have enough pressing conflicts. As stated in previous annotations, his personality is uniquely strong and stable amongst characters I've created, and I figured that giving him a small problem in the area of self-confidence wouldn't be remiss. He feels that he's worse at dealing with the pain than everyone else, and that makes him worry that he isn't the leader he should. We'll have more on this later.

Elantris Annotations ()
#17 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

So, why does Raoden keep his identity secret from Sarene? I think his explanation here is earnest–he wants to get to know her without the truth of his identity throwing a crimp into the relationship. He, of course, intends to tell her eventually. At the risk of giving a spoiler, however, you needn't worry that this is going to turn into a "I'm mad at you for lying to me" plot. Those always annoy me too. (Chick flicks are famous for them. "Oh, you're really a rich prince? Well, I hate you for pretending to be a pauper to win my love!")

I'm a little bit chagrined at how much faking I have going on in this chapter. Sarene isn't telling Raoden about the outside world (a necessary plotting device because of the triad–three days have passed, and I had to have a reason why she hadn't told Raoden about events outside the city yet.) Raoden isn't telling Sarene who he really is. On top of that, I'm keeping the secret of Hrathen's potion from my own characters, and I have to do some more rationalizing in this chapter–explaining why Sarene has enough food, and why she can't do AonDor–to make it all work. Ah. . .why can't we all just be honest.

Elantris Annotations ()
#18 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifty-Six

This chapter begins with an interesting scene. There's already a bit of tension between Sarene and Raoden. Nothing big, of course–but I think it's realistic. People don't always agree. Loving someone doesn't change the fact that you sometimes think what they're doing is flat-out dumb. It does, however, tend to change your reactions. And so, Sarene acknowledges that Raoden is acting like a king, not a friend, and lets the matter drop.

This highlights a difference between the two of them that I have pointed out earlier. Sarene was not raised to rule–Raoden was. That lifetime of preparation has changed the way Raoden sees things; it has made him look at everything in the light of how it effects his people. Actually, there is no "Raoden the man" separate from "Raoden the ruler." They're tightly integrated.

Elantris Annotations ()
#19 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Sixty-Two - Part Two

Raoden's Teleportation

I had to work very hard to make this one work. I think it turned out, but it is a little bit of a stretch. Hopefully, readers will go with me on this one because of the climactic feeling of the near-ending.

Regardless, I do think I gave Raoden all the pieces he needed here. Adien always existed in the book for this one moment–to give Raoden the length measurement he needed to go try to save Sarene. I've established that seons have perfect senses of direction, and I've talked about how to use Aon Tia. More importantly, I think I've established that this is something that Raoden would do. He gets just a shade foolhardy when Sarene is concerned. (It's all her fault.)

There is another important element to this teleportation. I thought it important to involve deity in the climax of what has been such an overtly religious book. You may not believe in God, and it is never my intention to belittle your choices. However, the format of this book has been one that dealt with religion and the way that people interact with their faith. And so, I took this last moment of the book, and gave Raoden an opportunity to call upon the aid of providence.

Raoden arrives safely, despite the odds against his having gotten the distance, direction, and other factors right. You are free to simply think of this as luck, if you wish.

Elantris Annotations ()
#20 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifty-Five

So, one thing you should notice from this chapter is that Raoden no longer needs his book of equations to draw his face illusion. He's been practicing and getting better. A subtle hint, but one I decided to throw in.

I don't know if you, as a reader, have been imagining Sarene with short hair since her departure from Elantris, but this chapter fixes that. The heroine has her hair back–all is right in the world.

Elantris Annotations ()
#21 Copy

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.