Elantris Annotations

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Name Elantris Annotations
Date April 21, 2005
Location Brandon's website
Entries 249
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#1 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Title Page

You'd be surprised how much can be said about the title of this book. Naming books is one of the most frustrating, and most fulfilling, elements of writing. I'm more fortunate than some authors I know–for most of my books, the names came easily. Sometimes, I even came up with the title before I wrote the book. (This has actually only happened once, when thought up the phrase "The Way of Kings," and thought "Man! That would be a great title for a book!")

Elantris has had several titles. During the rough draft phase, I simply called it "SPIRIT." I knew that the main character's name would be based on the character for Spirit, and that would also be the name he took for himself when he was in exile. I never intended this to be the final title for the manuscript, but it was what I named all the files when I was typing the work.

Those of you who've read the book realize the special significance of "Spirit" (or Aon Rao as it eventually became known) to the climax of the story. I'll talk more about this in a bit.

Well, as I was writing the story, I realized I needed a better title. The most obvious choice was to somehow work in the name of the fallen magical city that was the focus of the book. Now, I'm a little embarrassed to admit this, but the city "Elantris" was actually originally named "Adonis." I'm not sure what I was thinking. Sometimes, when you're coming up with a lot of fantastical names, you create words that have a certain, unforeseen connotations or connections. In this case, I wasn't even thinking of the Greek myth. "Ado" was simply the Aon I chose to base the city’s name around, and "Adonis" (Pronounced with a long "A" and a long "O") was the word that came out of that Aon.

So, I named the book The Spirit of Adonis, hoping to play off of Raoden's name.

It was, however, actually a three-fold pun. I included this line–"The Spirit of Adonis" at the climax, when Raoden realizes that the city itself formed an enormous Aon Rao.

I didn't realize what I'd done until my writing group met for the first time, and they said "I like the beginning of the book. I'm having trouble figuring out what this has to do with the Greeks. Is it because the god-like people were so arrogant?"

Then it hit me. Adonis, from Greek mythology, was a beautiful man loved by Aphrodite. The word has become a kind of paradigm for a beautiful–almost perfect–specimen of the male species. And I had unwittingly named my book after him.

Let's just say I changed that pretty quickly. However, I needed a new name for the city. I played with a number of different combinations of Ado, but somehow ended up trying up different sounds and combinations. Thankfully, I came up with the word "Elantris." As soon as I wrote it down, I knew this was my city. It sounded grand without being overbearing, and it had a mythological feel to it (hearkening slightly to "Atlantis".) I renamed the book "The Spirit of Elantris," and proceeded.</p>

Then came time to send out the manuscript. I had had some comments on the book–people liked "Elantris," but the "spirit of" was less popular. I tried several iterations, and even sent out some query letters calling the book "THE LORDS OF ELANTRIS." That just felt too cliché fantasy for me, however, and I eventually returned to "The Spirit of Elantris."

Finally, the book got sold. At this point, my editor (Moshe Feder) suggested that we shorten the title to simply Elantris. Remembering how other people had been unimpressed with the "spirit of," I agreed. Now that I've seen the cover lettering and worked with it as "Elantris" for some time, I'm very pleased with the change. The new title has more zip, and makes the book sound more majestic. I still get to have a reference to my old title, as Part Three of the book is called "The Spirit of Elantris."

Of course, even this title isn't without its problems. People have trouble spelling it when I say the title, and some think of the car named the "Elantra." At one panel, I even had one person miss-hear me, thinking the name of the book was "The Laundress." That would certainly be a different book...

#2 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

The Dedication

I've always intended to dedicate my first published book to my mother. I poke a little fun at her here, since I can't resist. However, I really do owe a lot of who I am–and what I've accomplished–to her. When I was in elementary school, I had mediocre grades–and my test scores placed me as "below average" on several occasions. Well, she was bound and determined to prove that I was "gifted" despite those scores. She worked hard to get me to improve in school, and she was a prime motivator behind my reading habits.

Now, my mother is a very practical person. She believes strongly in practical professions that pay well and are stable. Writing is neither one of these. I think she realized early on that despite her hopes, she wasn't going to have a doctor or a business man–or even a scientist–for a son. She did convince me to major in biological chemistry as a freshman–though she said this was simply to put me in a better position for getting a scholarship (which I did get, by the way). However, I've always assumed that a little piece of her hoped that the bio-chem influence would persuade me to go to med school, or to at least become an engineer.

That, obviously, did not happen. The big bad English monster took me in my sophomore year. However, my mother has always been supportive, and it was her sense of dedication, excellence, and assiduousness that forged my determined personality. Without that sense of self-determination, I would never have lasted in this field long enough to publish.

So, thank you mother. Thanks for being proud of me.

#3 Copy

Brandon Sanderson


I've had a few complaints about this page–but not the complaints I expected. When I was writing the acknowledgments, I was worried that I'd leave someone out who gave me good comments on the book. It took me a lot of searching through old records, but I think I finally found pretty much everyone. However, I assumed that if I did leave anyone out, they would complain. (It's been five years since I wrote Elantris, and a lot of people have read it during that time.)

However, most of the complaints I got weren't from people I forgot to put on the acknowledgements page. The complaints were from people who were on the page, but didn't think they deserved to be there!

You see, I added a few names to this list. These were people who hadn't read Elantris as an alpha reader, but who had been part of one of my writing groups or who had otherwise given me support during the days when I was trying to get published. These people read other books of mine, even if I wasn't working on Elantris when I met them. So, on this acknowledgements page, I wanted to give a general thanks to all the people who have helped me over the years. That means if you're on the list and don't think you belong there, tough!

You get my acknowledgement whether you want it or not!

Anyway, you can see that there are a lot of names on this list. These are a great bunch of people–good critics, great fans, and many of them pretty good writers in their own right. Though at this point, only one of them has a professional novel publication (Rob Wells,) I'm sure that others will eventually join him. When they do, buy their books!

The top list of people includes my closest and most helpful writing groups. The first group, named "Here there be dragons" actually started when I was writing Elantris, and that was the first book the group dealt with. Though we didn't spend much time on Elantris, I remember meeting in Ben's office in the BYU alumni house and chatting about the book's terrible title (see the title page annotation,) among other things. The founding members were Dan, Ben, me, and Nate. We added Peter a bit later on, and he went on to become an editor at Tokyopop. A couple of other people–Krista Olson, Alan Layton, and a few others–did short stints as dragons, but I ended up acknowledging them in other places on the list.

Of those three writing groups, only one is still going. The one with Alan Layton and Kaylynn ZoBell. We meet in Salt Lake every Friday night (yes, I know. That's the best thing we writers often have to do on Friday nights. . . .) Anyway, they're a great support and help to me.

Another interesting note is regarding my professors. I intend to dedicate a book some day to the teachers that have helped me over the years. It was a school teacher–the appropriately named Ms. Reader–who gave me my first fantasy book . I can think of few professions as noble as that of teacher, and I am deeply thankful to all of those who have helped me–not just the few names I had room to mention on this page.

#4 Copy

Brandon Sanderson


I'm a very sequential writer. When I write a book, I usually start with the prologue and write straight through until I hit the epilogue. Though I can't remember for certain, I'm pretty sure that this prologue was the first thing I ever wrote for Elantris.

Back in those days, I didn't outline as much as I do now. When I first put fingers to keyboard, I really didn't know where this book was going to go. I had some vague idea of what I wanted it to be, but I didn't know how I was going to get there. However, this prologue really helped solidify things for me.

I love how it works in the story. It's quick, descriptive, and gives a marvelous outline of the magical setting of the book. It's also one of the most heavily-edited sections of the book. Moshe didn't like my original draft of it because he thought it was over-written. The original first line of the book was "Whispered are the days when Elantris was beautiful." I kind of still like this line better, but it may just be nostalgia. The line kind of has a faint. . .flowing quality to it. An etherealness.

Regardless, "Elantris was beautiful, once" made for a nice compromise. I'll probably post the entire, first-draft version of the prologue in the "deleted scenes" section of the website, if you want to compare.

Despite my preference for the old first line, I like the other changes we made to the prologue. Over all, it became more descriptive and easier to understand. It's a nice springboard to the story, and we've used it several places as a kind of quick teaser to get people to read the book.

(Including putting it on the back cover of the hardback.)

#5 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter One

There are a couple of interesting things about this chapter. First off, it didn't originally start with Raoden waking up. When I first wrote the book, I threw Raoden directly into the city, line one. That original line was: "It wasn't until Raoden heard the gate swing closed behind him, booming with a shocking sound of finality, that he realized he had been damned."

While this line worked pretty well, I found I had to do an extended flashback showing him waking up and frightening the maid, etc. In the end, I realized that this was a bulky construction that didn't really speed the novel up–but rather slowed it down. So, I rewrote the first scene to have Raoden waking up, seeing Elantris, and then realizing he'd been taken by the Shaod.

My books tend to have what are called "steep learning curves." In other words, they take a little getting used to. Fantasy in general has a steep learning curve, and I don't tend to write very standard fantasies–I like to push the genre a little bit, introducing strange settings and irregular magic systems. Because of this, I have to be very careful at the beginnings of my books not to overwhelm the reader. This book was a good example–taking it a little easier, giving the reader a more cautious ease into Elantris, proved the better route.

Happily, I eventually managed to preserve the original line with its catchy feel. I don't usually do things like this–I don't believe in the standard "hook" idea. However, when I was thinking about this book, the first lines of the first three chapters were some of the first things that occurred to me. These three lines became the foundation for how I characterized the separate viewpoints, and they were part of what drew me to writing the book in the first place. If you go through and read them, I think they each have a little bit of zip, and hopefully invoke a sense of curiosity. These three lines introduce each character and one of their primary conflicts, and do it in a simple, clear way.

Maintaining this feel with the new first scene was important to me, even though it could be argued that the first line of chapter one is a bit of POV error. I'm revealing information that the viewpoint character doesn't yet know. I avoid these, but in this case, I felt that cohesion was more important than strict POV, right here.

I also did a second massive cut just after Raoden was thrown into the city. If you read the earlier draft, you'll see that he struggles with what has happened to him a bit more. There's even a brief section where he thinks about Ien and some of the seon's words of wisdom. I cut these sections because they just slowed the book too much. I figured Raoden's shorter soul-searching at the beginning, where he quickly comes to the decision to "look damnation in the face," helped the story move along. Again, I worry about my beginnings–perhaps too much–because they have a history of dragging just a bit. By pushing Raoden into walking through the city, I kept the pacing up.

#6 Copy

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.

#7 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Two

So, this chapter gets the grand prize for most edited and revised chapter in the book. There are other chapters that have more new material–but only because they were added in completely after the original draft. This chapter, good old chapter two, was the one that underwent the most tweaks, face-lifts, additions, and edits during the ten drafts I did of Elantris.

And, I think poor little Sarene is the cause of it.

You could say that she played havoc with the book in much the same way she did with Hrathen, Iadon, and Raoden in the story.

As I worked on the novel, Sarene as a character took on a much more dominant role in the plot than I had intended. Perhaps it's because she's the intermediary between the other two characters, or maybe it's because I liked her best of the three characters. Either way, in my mind, this book is about Sarene. She's the catalyst, the force of change.

In the end, she's the one that provides the solutions to both Raoden and Hrathen's problems. She gives Raoden the hint he needs to fix Elantris, and she gives Hrathen the moment of courage he needs in order to turn against Dilaf.

However, I've found that Sarene is many people's least-favorite of the three characters. I had a lot of trouble in the original drafts of this book, since many alpha readers didn't like her in this chapter. They thought she came off as too brusque and manipulative. It was always my intention to show a more sensitive side to her later in the novel, but I didn't intend to lead with it quite as quickly as I ended up doing.

The first edit to the chapter came with the addition of the Sarene-and-Ashe-travel-to-the-palace scene. This is the section were Sarene sits in the carriage, thinking about her anger at Raoden and her insecurity. This counteracts a bit of the strength we see from her in the first scene at the docks, rounding her out as a character.

The second big addition came in the form of the funeral tent scene. This was added as a tangent to one of Moshe's suggestions–he wanted us to have an opportunity to see Sarene investigating Raoden's death. In the original drafts of the book, we felt the narrative made it too obvious to outsiders that Raoden must have been thrown into Elantris. Moshe and I felt that it seemed silly that people wouldn't consider the possibility that Raoden wasn't dead. This wasn't what I wanted–I wanted most people to accept the event. Only someone as overly-curious as Sarene would have been suspicious.

So, I revised the story to downplay the suspicion around Raoden's death. Instead of having Iadon rush through the funeral (an element of the original draft) I added the funeral tent and had Sarene (off-stage) attend the funeral itself. These changes made it more reasonable that very few people would have suspicions regarding the prince's death, and therefore made it more plausible that people wouldn't think that he had been thrown into Elantris.

Other small tweaks to this chapter included the removal of a line that almost everyone seemed to hate but me. After Sarene meets Iadon for the first time, she is pulled away by Eshen to leave the throne room. At this time, I had Sarene mutter "Oh dear. This will never do." Everyone thought that was too forceful, and made her sound to callous, so I changed it to "Merciful Domi! What have I gotten myself into?" A piece of me, however, still misses Sarene's little quip there.

#8 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Three

There is some division among readers regarding their favorite viewpoint character. One group chooses Raoden, but I think the majority go with Hrathen. All things considered, I think he's probably the best villain I've ever written. His personality comes off quite well in this first chapter, and I think he might have the strongest introduction–at least personality-wise–of the three.


Anyway, back to Hrathen. My hope in creating him was to present an antagonist for the story who would be believable, understandable, and sympathetic. He's a good man, after his own fashion–and he's certainly dedicated. He doesn't want to destroy the world; he wants to save it. It's not his fault he's serving an evil imperial force.

Regardless, Hrathen certainly has the most interesting character progression in the story. Raoden and Sarene, despite many interesting attributes, are two of the most static characters I've designed. This book isn't about their growth as people, but rather their ability to overcome their desperate odds. Hrathen, on the other hand, has a real opportunity to grow, learn, and change. Perhaps this is what makes him people's favorite. It certainly made him the critic's favorite.

#9 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.

#10 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.

#11 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.

#12 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.

#13 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Five

This chapter includes two very important events. The first is the establishment of Hrathen and Sarene's relationship. The "dramatic eye-lock" is, admittedly, over-used in fiction. However, I found it appropriate here, since I later have Hrathen remark on Sarene. I wanted to establish that the two had an understanding, and I needed to introduce an overplot for Sarene. Hrathen got his thirty-day timebomb in chapter three, and Raoden not only has his exile, but the problems with the gangs established in the last chapter. So far, Sarene only had her suspicion regarding Raoden's death, which really isn't enough to carry her sections of the novel.

One of the plotting elements I had to establish in this book was the fact that a single man–in this case, Hrathen–can have a serious and profound effect on the future of an entire people. If I didn't establish this, then Sarene's sections would lack a sense of drama, since Hrathen himself wouldn't seem like much of a threat. You'll have to judge for yourself if I actually manage to do this or not.

#14 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

The second important part of this chapter, obviously, is the introduction of Kiin's family. Sarene's personality makes her less independent than Raoden or Hrathen. It isn't that she lacks determination, or even stubbornness. However, her plots, plans, and personality all require other people–she needs politics, allies, and enemies. Ashe provides a wonderful way for her to talk through her problems. However, I felt that she needed someone within the court of Arelon with which to work and plan. As the book progresses, you'll notice that Sarene's chapters include far more side characters than Hrathen or Raoden's chapters. In fact, I'll bet she has more than the other two combined. This is just another manifestation of her communal personality–she excels in situations where she can coordinate groups, and she needs a lot of different people to interact with to make her personality really come out.

I have gotten a little grief from readers regarding Kiin's family. Some think that the family as a whole feels too "modern." It is an anachronism that, to an extent, I'll admit. One of the quirks about the fantasy genre is how it generally prefers to deal with ancient governments, technologies, and societies without actually making its characters conform to more ancient personality patterns. In other words, most fantasy main characters are people who, if dusted off a bit and given a short history lesson, could fit-in quite well in the modern world.

I'll be honest. I prefer the genre this way. I don't read fantasy because I want a history lesson, though learning things is always nice. I read for characters–and I want to like the characters I get to know. I like putting characters in situations and exploring how they would deal with extreme circumstances. I just don't think this kind of plotting would be as strong, or as interesting, if the characters weren't innately identifiable to a modern readership.

My in-world explanation for this is simple. Just because our world placed a certain kind of cultural development alongside a certain level of technological development doesn't mean that it always has to be that way. In many of my worlds, culture has out-stripped technology. This does have some rational basis; I write worlds that involve very distinct–and often very prevalent–magic systems. Because of the benefit of these magics, many of my societies haven't been forced to rely as much on technology. There is more leisure time, more time for scholarship, and–as a result–the societies are more developed.

That said, Kiin's family is a bit extreme, even for me. However, the honest truth is that I wrote them the way I like them. They work, for some reason, to me. They stand out just a little bit, but I'd like to think that it's their brilliance and forward-thinking–rather than a mistake in narrative–that makes them seem so much like a modern family.

#15 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Six

In this chapter, we first get to see some of the scars that Hrathen is hiding. Part of what makes him such a compelling character, I think, is the fact that he considers, questions, and seriously examines his own motivations. The things he did in Duladel are a serious source of guilt to him, and his determination to do what is right–even if what is "right" to him isn't necessarily what we would consider right–gives him a strength of character and personality that is hard to resist.

He combines with this sincerity an actual force of logic. He's correct in his examination of Arelon. It has serious problems. It has weak leadership, weak military forces, and a weak economy. Hrathen's logical explanations in this chapter of why he feels justified in trying to overthrow the government should sound fairly convincing.

On the other hand, we have his whole "Tyranny in three easy steps" discussion with Dilaf. It's this sense of twisted goodness that rounds out his personality as a villain. He's not just earnest, he's not just logical–he also has an edge of ruthlessness. That's a very dangerous combination in a character.

Speaking of the "I will show you the way to destroy a nation" line, this concept–that line, actually–was one of the first things I came up with in my mind while imagining Hrathen. The way that he logically approaches something that would seem daunting–even impossible–to an outsider is a strong part of what defines who he is. I also really enjoy finding opportunities to show how Hrathen sees the world. Whenever I place him on the Elantris city wall and let him inspect the defensibility of the city, I give a clue as to how he was trained, and how he thinks. I don't believe that Sarene ever pauses to consider just how weakly fortified the city of Kae is–but Hrathen thinks about it on at least three separate occasions.

#16 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

I worry, just a bit, that people will read this book and think that I'm anti-religion. Those of you who know me will realize how opposite this is of the truth–I'm actually rather devout in my own beliefs. However, because of this devotion, that I understand religion and the power it can have over people. I think that something so potentially good also provides great potential for evil. And, as a firm believer in religion–and religious freedom–I can think of few things quite as frightening or as evil as a religion gone bad.

I am not anti-religion. In fact, I'm not even really anti Shu-Dereth. I tried to construct a religion in Shu-Dereth that had some very interesting, and valid, teachings. However, like some very good religions in our own world, an evil–or even misguided–leadership can transform good teachings into a force for destruction and evil.

My own religion teaches that contrast is a good thing. Because of pain, we can appreciate joy. Because we understand evil (though we don't necessarily have to partake in it) we can understand and appreciate good. Because we have choices, we have the opportunity to take responsibility for our actions. In this way, I believe that a religion should have no qualms about teaching that it has the truth–and like the fact that we have many options in religions in our own world. When we get into trouble, however, is when we begin to enforce our religious opinions with sword or legislation.

I guess this belief is the main basis for my painting of Hrathen as an antagonist in this book. Yes, his logic is good–Arelon probably is going to fall. However, that doesn't give him the right to speed that collapse, or even manipulate it to his own good. It doesn't give him the right to overthrow or suppress the beliefs of others. Resisting him as he tries to destroy the belief system of an entire people is a good far greater, in my mind, than the good of self-preservation.

(Man. That last bit seems a little melodramatic, now that I look back at it. Forgive me a bit of that on occasion, if you please. Occupational hazard.)

#17 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Seven

It's interesting that this book would be the first one I publish. Many of you know that when I finally sold Elantris, I was working on my thirteenth novel. By the time Elantris was released, I'd written fifteen separate novels. Very few of these are sequels, and of the fifteen, Elantris is actually number six.

One of the things I pride myself on as a writer are my magic systems. I spend a lot of effort and prewriting on them, and I strive very hard to make them feel like nothing a reader has ever experienced before. Mistborn, the book that will come out a year after Elantris, is a very good example of this.

Elantris, however, is very interesting in that I don't actually get to spend much time with the magic. Or, at least, I don't get to spend much time showing it–the magic of this book is broken, and so while we find out a lot about it (and I think it's distinctive in its arrangement) we don't get to see it.

In the end, when the magic finally gets restored, I think it actually loses just a bit of charm. I developed this magic system to be an interesting and original puzzle–and so, when you finally see it working, I think there's a fulfilling payoff. However, in its actual form, it isn't generally as distinctive as some of my other magic systems.

Another interesting thing about this book, however, is that the setting includes a mixture of magical wonder itself–kind of as a balancing factor to the fact that we don't get to see the Aons doing anything. I think the problems associated with being an Elantrian, mixed with the interesting setting inside of the city, create an interesting magical ambiance for the book, one that seons serve to heighten.

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Brandon Sanderson

This chapter, which Raoden and Galladon crouching atop the rooftop and watching for newcomers, reminds me of the early days of conceiving this novel. The seed for Elantris actually came several years before I got around to writing the book. I knew that I wanted to tell the story of a brutal city filled with people who has some sickness that kept them from dying.

One of the initial scenes that came to my mind was that of the main character crouching atop a low building, watching the gates to the city. The gates open, and a newcomer is thrown in. At the same time, one of the wretches inside the city snaps–finally giving into his pain, and going mad. This man madly rushes toward the gates, trying to escape. The city guards–who don't have the disease–throw massive spears at the man rushing the gates. One of the spears hits him, piercing him all the way through.

However, it's quickly explained that the spear wasn't meant to kill, for the man continues to struggle weakly, despite being impaled. However, the spear is so big and bulky that the poor creature can't move any more–obviously, the weapons are intended to slow and immobilize, not kill. After all, the inhabitants of this city can't be killed. The man gives up struggling, and lays there limply, whimpering with the massive spear stuck through his chest.

At the same time, another sick one approaches the main character. "–Insert name– went mad last night," he whispers to the main character. "You are now the eldest." Meaning, of course, that the main character is now the person who's been in the city the longest without having gone mad.

You should be able to see the evolution of this scene in the story that I eventually told. Many of the concepts are the same, though I changed the viewpoint character from a person who had been in the city for a long time to a newcomer who still had his optimism. I also shifted much of the focus of the novel to what was happening outside the city, adding the two other viewpoint characters. However, this scene still remains in my mind–it's actually the only real scene I can remember from the very early days of planning Elantris. As an homage to it, I left in the large, bulky spears carried by the Elantris City Guards. Hrathen mentions them in the previous chapter. Though the guards no longer carry them for the same purpose–indeed, the guard probably wouldn't even know what to do with them in case of an attack–I thought this little inside reference to be an interesting one.

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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.

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Brandon Sanderson

The scene where the children talk about art is one I nearly cut from the book on a couple of different occasions. I worry that this is one of the scenes that contributes overly-much to the "Kiin's family is out of place" feeling that people occasionally get. In addition, I worry that I made Kaise too intelligent here. Three things make me retain the scene. First, I think it's kind of amusing. The second is a spoiler, so I won't say much on it—just let it suffice that I wanted to give Kaise and Daorn some good characterization.

For you spoiler readers, those two would be the main characters of any sequel I wrote to Elantris. I'd set the book about ten years after the ending of this one.

The third reason for retaining the scene is because I put it in, in the first place, quite intentionally. Kaise, and to a lesser extent Daorn, are a small reaction against Ender's Game. When I read that book, and some of Scott's other works (which, by the way, I think are all brilliant) I got to wondering if children who were as smart as his really would act the way they do in his books. Not to disagree with one of the greatest sf minds of our time, but I wanted to take a different spin on the "clever child" idea. So, I presented these children as being extremely intelligent, but also extremely immature with that intelligence. I'm not convinced that IQ brings maturity with it, and think there's only so much "adult" you can have in a kid. So, I put in Kaise and Daorn to let me play with this idea a little bit in Elantris.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Nine

This third "chapter triad" is the first one where I do a real intersection of the three viewpoints. Raoden sees Hrathen on the wall, Sarene and Hrathen spar, then Hrathen thinks about his run-in with Sarene on his way to the meeting with the noblemen.

I'm not sure if I'd ever want to use the chapter triad system again. It made all kinds of problems for writing the book. Almost everything else I've written has been strictly chronological–if you jump from one viewpoint, or one chapter, to the next, you're always progressing forward in time. By jumping backward in two chapters out of three, I gave myself some challenging pacing and coordination issues. For instance, the important events in each of the three storylines had to happen on generally the same days. Also, I had to rotate the chapters strictly, and so I couldn't just skip a character during a given time-frame. That meant I had to have important events happening in all three viewpoints all the time.

However, the benefits of this situation are moments like you see in this triad, where I could flow from one chapter to the next, having the timeframes play off of each other. You might have noticed from this triad that I had to fudge just a bit. Not all of the viewpoints happen at exactly the same time. The rule I set up for myself is that they had to all happen on the same day–preferably as close to overlapping each other as possible.

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Brandon Sanderson

This chapter is one of the prime "show Hrathen's competence" chapters. Most of what goes on here is in the way of character development for Hrathen. The plot of him swaying some of the noblemen is important, but not specifically so. However, I've always said that the stronger–and more clever–the villain is, the better the story is. By showing how Hrathen deals with the noblemen, I re-enforce his abilities, and justify him as a threat to the city.

There were a few small edits to this chapter. The biggest one was a change where I slightly-weakened Hrathen's treasonous talk. In the original, he told the noblemen that he was the gyorn assigned to Duladel before it collapsed. Moshe pointed out that this was a little too subversive of him to imply in the middle of a group of men who may or may not end up supporting him, so I made the change.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Ten

Are the Elantrians zombies? I've been asked this question before. The answer is a little bit yes, a little bit no. I very intentionally don't make any references in the story to them being zombie-like, and I certainly don't call them "undead." Both words bring a lot of baggage with them.

No, the Elantrians aren't "zombies." However, they certainly would fit the standard fantasy definition of being "undead." After all, their bodies aren't really alive, but they can think. Still, I resist comparisons to established fantasy traditions. I wanted the Elantrians to be their own genre of creatures. In the world I have created, they are simply "Elantrians." They are people who don't need to eat, whose bodies only function on a marginal level, and whose pains never go away. For the function they fill in the world and the story, I'd rather that they be compared to lepers.

That said, I always have wanted to do a story with a zombie as a main character.

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Brandon Sanderson

This chapter introduces a couple of minor characters for Raoden's gang. One thing you'll notice here is the good-natured humor I include in the chapter. (Or, at least, I hope you found it humorous.) I had a real worry that Elantris would be too dark a book, considering the things that Raoden has to go through. That's why Galladon's character is so important. In my mind, Galladon fits the most basic definition of a humorous character–he is a juxtaposition. He is a pessimist from a culture of optimists. He is a foil to Raoden, yet at the same time his comedic pessimism lifts the story and points out just how ridiculous their situations are.

Galladon isn't simply comic relief–I have never used, and never intend to use, a comic-relief character. However, he allows for some farce and some fun-poking, which in turn lightens the air of what could otherwise be a very gloomy book. His relationship with Raoden proves that even in the hellpit of Elantris, things like friendship and trust can exist.

Because I have three separate storylines in this book, I have to move quickly. (Or, at least, quickly for me.) This allowed me to keep up the pacing, and to have a good amount of tension in every chapter. Of the three viewpoints, however, I think Raoden's chapters seem to move the quickest, though Hrathen has the smallest number of pages.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Eleven

I certainly didn't want this book to turn into a political statement about female-empowerment. I think that sort of thing has been overdone in fantasy–the woman in an oppressive masculine world seeking to prove that she can be just as cool as they are. However, I did have to deal with some cultural issues in Elantris. There's no getting around the fact that Sarene is a strong female character, and I think it would be unrealistic not to address some of this issues this creates with the men around her.

I actually used several women I know as a model for Sarene. I've often heard women say that they feel like men find an assertive, intelligent woman threatening. I suspect that there some strong foundations for feelings like this, though I would hope the men in question form a small percentage of the population. Still, I do think that it is an issue.

In my own culture, people tend to get married early. This is partially due to the LDS Church's focus on families and marriage, and partially because I've lived mostly in the west and mid-west–where I think that the general attitude is more traditional than it is in big cities. Because of this, I've seen a number of people–many of them women–complain about how they feel excluded from society because they're still single. Sarene's own insecurity is related to the real emotions I've seen in some of my friends.

However, I do have to point out that some of the reactions Sarene gets aren't because she's female–they're just because she's bull-headed. She tends to give too much stock to the fact that she's a woman, assuming that the resistance she receives is simply based on gender. I think a man with her personality, however, would encounter many of the same problems. The way she pushes Roial into a corner in this chapter is a good example. In my mind, she handled things in the kitchen quite well–but not perfectly. She still has some things to learn, some maturing to do.

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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.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twelve

The language metaphor I use in this chapter is one of my favorites in the book. Hrathen's attitude can be quickly summed up in the way that he decides it is all right to preach to the people in their own language. He admits that he probably shouldn't do such a thing, but the logical justification is just too strong for him to deny.

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Brandon Sanderson

I've spoken earlier about how fantasy books tend to place modern-like characters in more archaic settings. The seons in this book are one of my rationalizations for the way that people act. I believe that a lot of our civility and maturity as a global culture comes from our ability to communicate quickly and effectively with one another.

Instantaneous communication changes the world. It makes countries seem less distant, and it allows for faster resolution of problems. Often times, when I'm creating a magic system, this idea is one of the first that I consider. Can this magic provide for instant communication or travel? If it can, I can use that to shrink the world, allowing me to place characters in more distant settings and still have them tied to the plot. (This isn't something I have to do often in this particular book. However, the ability to communicate with Wyrn and Sarene's father does have the effect of shrinking the world, making it easier to plot such drastic events in such a short period of time.)

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Brandon Sanderson

Dilaf's outburst in this chapter is my first real hint that things are not going to go well between him and Hrathen. In a way, this chapter is a paradigm for events to come—Hrathen sets up what he think is a perfect, careful presentation. Then Dilaf arrives and throws chaos into it. Yet, despite that chaos, Dilaf has a profound—and arguably successful—effect on those around him.

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Brandon Sanderson

I didn't originally intend for Hrathen to have a seon. However, as I was working on this chapter, I realized how much sense it made. It lends a bit of hypocrisy to the Derethi religion, and I found that I liked that a great deal. The seon also allowed me to move more quickly with Hrathen's plans. I couldn't have made the storyline nearly as compact if Hrathen didn't have access to a seon.

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Brandon Sanderson

As a side note, I'm planning this seon here to make an appearance in the sequel (if I write one.) She would be Adien's own seon, as he would probably be the hero of the sequel. (Along with his brother and sister.) For those of you who think I didn't deal enough with the seons in this book—the sequel would have strong focus on them. In fact, I'm tempted to make this seon a viewpoint character. However, that would bump me up to four characters, which wouldn't let me use the chapter triad system.

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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.

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Brandon Sanderson

Also, in this chapter we begin to get a few pay-offs from the building I've done in previous chapters. The foreshadowing with the well, the foreshadowing with Karata's escapes into the city, and the foreshadowing with the child Elantrians all come to head in this chapter.

At the same time, I give foreshadowing for Iadon's paranoia, and foreshadowing regarding the passage out of his palace.

These are the sorts of little plotting events that make writing exciting for me. When they pay off–when the reader has that moment of "oh, I get it"–is when I'm the happiest as a novelist.

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Brandon Sanderson

My favorite moment in this chapter? Probably a tie. One moment is when Raoden draws the Aon to stop the guard. A truly clever character doesn't need a fireball or a blast of power to defeat his enemies–he simply needs a wit quick enough to manipulate the resources he has. The other moment is when Raoden arrives back at the chapel and gives the sword to Seolin. This is the story's first big victory moment, and after this many chapters dealing with the pains and dirtiness of Elantris, I think Raoden and co. deserved it.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fourteen

Shuden's comments on marriage early in this chapter have often earned me smiles and jibes from my friends. An author puts a little of himself into every character he crafts, and sometimes we find a particular character being our voice in one way or another. I'll admit, the way marriage is treated in this book does have a little bit of a connection to my own personal thoughts on the subject. It isn't that I'm avoiding the institution. . .I just find the formalities leading up to it to be a dreadful pain.

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Brandon Sanderson

I had a bit of trouble in this book devising personalities for all of the noblemen who would be hanging around Sarene. Some of them, such as Shuden, don't get very much screen time, and so it was a challenge to make them interesting and distinctive. In the end, however–after several drafts–I had their characters down so well that when my agent suggested cutting one of them, I just couldn't do it. So, perhaps there are a few too many names–but this is a political intrigue book. Lots of people to keep track of is a good thing.

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Brandon Sanderson

Interestingly, one of the noblemen most important to the plot didn't appear very often in the original draft. Telrii was a much more minor character in the first versions of the book. As you'll see later, however, he has an important role to play.

Some of you who read the very early drafts of the book might remember the Mad Prince. This is a character my agent successfully convinced me to cut–I'll talk about it more later on. However, the need for beefing up Telrii's character came from the loss of the Mad Prince. Telrii now does most of what Eton used to do.

So, this addition of Telrii in the party scene was one of the more later revisions to the book. He showed up in draft eight or nine, and I'm glad to have him. He finally has a character–in the first drafts of the book, he was a non-entity. Spoken of occasionally, but really only in the book to show how much money Hrathen was willing to spend on overthrowing Arelon.

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Brandon Sanderson

Another interesting moment in this scene is Sarene's idiocy act. There's actually a good story behind this plotting device. I've always enjoyed this style of plot–where a character intentionally makes people underestimate them. You can see a similar plotting structure (pulled off quite a bit better) in my book The Way of Kings. (It should be published around 2008 or so. . . .) Anyway, some of my favorite plots of this type are found in Hamlet and Dragon Prince (by Melanie Rawn.)

Sarene's own act, however, plays a much smaller role in the book than I'd originally intended. I soon discovered that I'd either have to go with it full-force–having her put on a very believable show for everyone around her–or I'd have to severely weaken it in the plot. I chose the second. There just wasn't a reason, in the political climate I created for the book, to have Sarene pretend to be less intelligent than she was. (The original concept–though this never made it to drafting–was to have her pretend to be less intelligent because of how many times she'd been burned in the past with people finding her overbearing and dominant.)

I decided I liked having her personality manifest the way it is. The only remnant of the original feigning comes in the form of this little trick she plays on Iadon to try and manipulate him. Even this, I think, is a stretch–and it has annoyed a couple of readers. Still, it doesn't play a large part in the plot, and I think it does lead to some interesting moments in the story, so I left it in.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifteen

When I teach writing, one of my major educational philosophies is that an author must understand his or her strengths. If you do something well, play to that strength. Write books that show off what you can do. This isn't a reason to ignore, or to not work on, your weaknesses. However, like the opportunity cost laws of economics, the more time you spend on your strengths, the greater rewards you're going to receive. That translates to better books, a better chance of publication, and better sales.

Every writer is different. We can't all do everything perfectly. As a writer, one of the things that I don't do is beautiful prose. I don't think my prose is bad, but it is somewhat utilitarian. Some authors, like Orson Scott Card, can turn this minimalism into a strength itself. I'm not there yet–I still write with a more flamboyant style, I'm just not a brilliant prose craftsman like Gene Wolfe or Ursula LeGuin. I think I do other things, however, that are better than those two can manage.

Anyway, despite that acknowledgement, I occasionally write a paragraph that I just think is beautiful. The first paragraph of chapter fifteen is probably my favorite descriptive paragraph in the book. I love the imagery and language of it. Perhaps others will see it as trite–I had to end up changing the first line of the prologue, after all, which I also thought was beautiful. However, one of the nice thing about being published is that I can look at this paragraph in a bound hardcover and say, "I did that."

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Brandon Sanderson

Perhaps the most interesting of Hrathen's internal thoughts in these chapters is his conviction that it's better to do things that cause him guilt, as long as it saves people's souls. This is a logical conundrum I've considered on several occasions. Taking Christian theology–which says that a soul is best off when it is "saved"–wouldn't it be the ultimate sacrifice not to die for your fellow man, but to somehow sacrifice your own soul so that he could be saved? In short, what would happen if a man could condemn himself to hell so that another man could go to heaven? Wouldn't that act in itself be noble enough to un-condemn the man who unfairly went to hell? (Enter Douglas Adams, and god disappearing in a puff of logic.)

Anyway, that's the logical fallacy I see Hrathen dealing with here. He knows he bears a heavy guilt for the bloodshed he caused in Duladel. However, he's willing to take that guilt–and all the damage it brings–in order that people might be saved. He allows his own soul to bear the burden, rather than turning it over to the church. Again, I see this as a fallacy–but it certainly does make for an interesting line of reasoning.

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Brandon Sanderson

One of the major post-sale revisions I did to Elantris came at the suggestion of my agent, Joshua Bilmes. He noted that I had several chapters where Hrathen just walked about, thinking to himself. He worried that these sections made the middle of the book drag a bit, and also feared that they would weaken Hrathen's character. So, instead, he suggested that I add Telrii to the book some more, and therefore give Hrathen opportunities to be clever in the way he achieved his goals.

This is the first chapter that shows any major revision in this direction. In the original, Hrathen simply walked along, thinking to himself. I added Telrii to the second half of the chapter, putting some of Hrathen's internal musings into their discussion. I cut some of the more repetitive sections, and then left the others interspersed between lines of dialogue.

The result is, I think, a very strong new section.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Sixteen

Raoden's memory of Ien at the beginning of this chapter pretty much sums up what the seons are. A lot of readers have asked me for more on them, and I'll give it eventually. However, in this book, you simply need to know that they are what they appear. Servants bound out of love, rather than duty, force, or pay.

The original inspiration for seons came, actually, when I was in high school. Visually, I was inspired by the Passage series–a collection of paintings by Michael Whelan. Every painting in the series contained little floating bubbles with what appeared to be a candle flames at their center. At the same time, I was getting the idea for a story. When I wrote it, I included a group of sentient balls of light.

Well, that story didn't go anywhere. Six years later, however, I started Elantris. I wanted a sidekick for Sarene, and I knew I needed someone wise and cautious to off-set her sometimes reckless personality. I had already decided to use the Aon characters, and I considered transforming my old idea of balls of light into glowing Aons. As Ashe's character began to develop, I realized I had something quite strong, and I began to build the mythology and magic behind the seons. 

The latest addition to the story regarding seons is the idea of "Passing." I only speak of it a few times, but in earlier drafts, I didn't have any definite indications that a person and their seon were bound. The only hint was what happened to seons whose masters were taken by the Shaod. When Moshe asked about this, I decide I'd include a little more information, and added a couple references to "Passing" seons in the book.

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Brandon Sanderson

Raoden finally confronts Taan here in this chapter. In a way, the three gangs that Raoden has to defeat represent three things that the Elantrians themselves need to overcome. The first is their solitude, represented by Karata's exclusionary attitude. The second is self-pity, represented by Taan's indulgent madness. The final is their pain, represented by the wildmen of Shaor.

The way, therefore, to defeat Taan was to turn his attention outside of himself. Self-pity melts when confronted with larger issues, such as the beauty and wonder of Elantris itself. I worry that this scene itself was a bit too melodramatic–however, I've always said that the difference between drama and melodrama is how engaged the reader is by the story. If everything is working like it should, this section should seem powerful, rather than over-the-top.

I do think, however, that Raoden's arguments are a bit too philosophical for his audience. I did that intentionally. Raoden is a child of privilege, and he is something of a thinker. His philosophical arguments are probably the first things he himself would consider, because of how curious and interesting they are. However, he doesn't achieve success with this crowd until he turns to more practical observations. In reality, his strongest ally in this scene was the way he broke the tension and the passion of the moment. Once Dashe's momentum was gone, he couldn't convince himself to continue.

You'll note in later chapters that Raoden's victory here wasn't as complete as it was with Karata's band. This is mostly due to the fact that Taan's followers weren't as committed to him as Karata's were to her. Though I still see this as a victory for Raoden, the fact that many of Taan's followers find their way in to Shaor's camp implies that his efforts had some serious side-effects.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Seventeen

Of all the books I've written, I think this one hearkens most closely to our own world. Usually, when I develop cultures and languages, I try to stay away form basing them too closely on any one Earth society or race. I'm not certain what made me do things differently in Elantris. It's not just fencing–JinDo, with its obvious links to Asian cultures, is a good example too. And Fjorden's language has some obvious references to Scandinavia. (Dilaf's name comes from Beowulf, actually. I named him after Beowulf's heir, Wilaf.)

Anyway, in this chapter we find two very obvious "borrows" from our world. I've always been fascinated by fencing, though I've never participated myself. The idea of turning swordfighting into a sport intrigues me. In addition, I found the light, formalized dueling appropriate to the tone of this book, so I took the opportunity to write it in. (I do realize, by the way, that Hollywood has done some interesting things to fencing. Most real fencing bouts are much shorter, and far less showy, than what we see depicted. This is pretty much true for any kind of fighting, however. Think what you will, but combat is usually brutal, quick, and really not that exciting to watch.

This kind of fighting is very appropriate in some books. However, I allowed myself the indulgence of doing my fencing scenes a bit more flourish than one would find in real life. It felt right in the context to have the participants spar, parry, and jump about for far longer a time than is realistic. If you need justification, you can assume that in Teod, the rules for fencing are very strict–and so it's very hard to actually score a point on your opponent, forcing the battles to be prolonged.)

The other item of interest in that scene is, of course, Shuden's ChayShan dance. As mentioned above, his culture is pretty obviously borrowed from Asia. In fact, the link is so strong that some readers have trouble imagining his features as anything but Asian. (Note, once again, that this is not the case. The JinDo have dark brown skin. Though, I guess you'll imagine Shuden however you wish.) The ChayShan is a martial art I devised to feel just a bit like Tai Chi–though ChayShan focuses on speeding up the motions and gaining power from them. I've always kind of thought that Tai Chi would look more interesting if it slowly sped up.

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Brandon Sanderson

Sarene's visit to the chapel is probably the strongest scene in the book dealing with the Korathi religion. I felt this scene was important for the sake of contrast. Hrathen, and therefore Shu-Dereth, gets quite a bit of screen time. Unfortunately, Sarene and Raoden just aren't as religious as Hrathen is. I consider them both to be believers–Sarene the more devout of the two. Religion, however, isn't as much a part of their lives as it is for Hrathen.

I've actually seen this kind of aggressive religion/passive religion dynamic before. (Referring to the dynamic between the peaceful Korathi believers and the aggressive Derethi believers.) In Korea, where I served as a full-time LDS missionary, Buddhism and Christianity are both fairly well represented. Buddhism is having problems, however, because it doesn't preach as aggressively as most Christian sects. It is not my intention to paint either religion in a poor light by adopting the aggressive religion as the antagonist in Elantris. However, even as a Christian, I was often troubled by the way that the peaceful Buddhists were treated by some Protestant missionaries. I was there to teach about Christ's gospel–I believe that Christ is our savior, and that people will gain happiness by following his teachings. However, I think you can teach about your own beliefs without being belligerent or hateful to people of other faiths.

The most memorable example came when I was walking in the subway. Often, Buddhist monks would set up little mats and sit chanting with their bowls out, offering prayers and chants for the people while trying–after the tenet of their religion–to gain offerings for their sustenance. Standing next to one particular monk, however, was a group of picketing Christians holding up signs that read "Buddhism is Hell." You could barely see or hear the monk for all the ruckus.

I guess this has gotten a little bit off from the source material. But, well, this is a book about one religion trying to dominate another. In the end, I don't think Hrathen's desires are evil (it's okay to want to share what you believe–it's even okay to think that you're right and others are wrong.) His methods, however, are a different story.

In other words, I think we should be able to preach Christianity (or whatever you happen to believe) without being complete jerks. (Sorry for that little tangent. I'll try to keep the rants to a minimum in the future.)

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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.

#47 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

You should notice the comments about unity popping up in religious scenes throughout the book. Omin spoke of it before, and Hrathen often thinks–or mentions–the concept. When designing the religions of this book, I really wanted them to feel authentic. If you look at our own world, one thing is obvious (I think) about the way major religions work. They always fragmented–different sects of the same teachings often rise up and squabble with each other. Judaism, Islam, and Christianity share obvious links. In a similar way, Hinduism, Buddhism, and other eastern religions share some common roots.

So, in designing the Korathi and Derethi churches, I decided to give them a common ancestor–Shu-Keseg. All three religions came from the teachings of a single Jindoeese man. (You might note that the word "Shu," as used in connection with Shu-Korath and Shu-Dereth, doesn't seem to fit the linguistic styles of Aonic or Fjordell. This is an intentional reference to the Jindoeese commonality of their origin.)

The central tenet of Keseg's teachings was unity, and his followers began to squabble about what he meant by "Unity." Hence we have the loving, inclusive Korathi; the aggressive, expansionist Derethi; and the contemplative, didactic Jindoeese.

Of course, Jesker and the Mysteries are a completely different religious line. We'll get more into them later. . . .

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Nineteen

Yes, okay. I'll admit it. I started a chapter with a dream sequence. However, if you didn't realize that it was a dream before you got to the end, they you obviously haven't been paying much attention to the rest of the book. It's usually good advice to avoid dream sequences. It's particularly a good idea to avoid flashback dream sequences at the beginning of your novel. I did it anyway. The truth is, I liked what this scene did too much to cut it. My purpose was not to "fake out" or confuse–but simply to show some things that would be otherwise impossible to show in the novel.

I wanted to show AonDor working without Elantris' current limitations. The only way to do this–to really show this, rather than just describe it–was to have a flashback. So, I gave Raoden the dream where he able to remember the days before the fall of Elantris. You'll notice that I refer back to this dream several times through the chapter, using it as an example of several things Raoden considers.


There are a lot of other clues sprinkled through these chapters. If you're really clever, you could probably figure out from this chapter what is wrong with AonDor, and from that extrapolate why the Shaod went bad.

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Brandon Sanderson

In this chapter, I also go a little bit into the linguistics of the novel. If you'd been able to figure out that "Dor" wasn't an Aon, then you were a step ahead of Raoden at this point. I realize it's probably too small a thing to have been of note, but I do actually mention the "Dor" one time earlier in the book. It's in the discussion where Galladon discovers that the republic has fallen. He says, "Only outsiders–those without any sort of true understanding of the Dor–practice the Mysteries."


Anyway, if you want more on linguistics, head over to the "goodies" section of the website. I've got a whole essay on the languages in Elantris over there.

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Brandon Sanderson

This is the first chapter where I really start to get into the magic system of the book. There will be much more later. Some people have accused me of writing science fiction that masquerades as fantasy. That is, of course, an exaggeration. I like fantasy idioms–the deep characterization, the slower plot progression, the sense of wonder and magic–far more than I like the science fiction counterparts. However, I'll admit that I do design my magic systems with an eye for science. (Or at least pseudo-science.)

The idea of a runic magic system is not new. I've seen several other authors write some very interesting runic systems (David Farland, for instance, has a particularly good one.)

The twist I wanted to bring to my novel was twofold. First, I wanted to focus on what went wrong with the magic–therefore really allowing me to get into its mechanics. Secondly, I wanted the runic system to be more mathematical than it was mystical. Raoden hints at this in the chapter, and you'll get more later. However, the idea of runes that include qualifiers and functions appealed to me as a little more distinctive than some of the other systems I'd seen before.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty

Ahan's line here is one of my favorite openers in the book. Partially because it is amusing, and partially because it so perfectly represents what is going on in the story. Good political maneuvering, in my opinion, leads to shifts in power. Two or more sides vie, the upper-hand bouncing back and forth between them.

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Brandon Sanderson

If you read over this scene in the garden, you might notice something odd. I didn't see it until I was doing the copy edit, and by then it was too late to change. Lukel and Kiin aren't there for the meeting. They're never mentioned, and I never explain why they aren't there. I think that I just forgot to put them in, since the scene isn't set in the customary location of Kiin's kitchen.

I don't know if readers notice it or not–or even if they care–but I get tired of writing scenes in the same locations. I know it's common in storytelling to do this. Most sitcoms, for instance, always take place in the same locations over and over again. However, I enjoy describing new settings, even if the change is as simple as putting the meeting outside instead of in the kitchen. Maybe it's an unnecessary complication, but it makes the writing more interesting for me.

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Brandon Sanderson

Sarene used to tap her cheek a lot more than she does in this draft. It was a quirk I designed for her at the beginning–a nervous habit I thought indicative of her personality. However, a lot of people found it distracting. They seemed to think that tapping the cheek was an odd behavior. (Just as a note, when she taps her cheek, I'm thinking of her folding her arms, with one hand raised contemplative, index finger resting on her cheek. I've been known to sit that way some times.)

Anyway, I took out many of the references. As Moshe said, "There's just too much tapping going on!"

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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.

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Brandon Sanderson

Sarene's half-breakdown in this chapter was intended as both a simple reminder of the stress she's under as well as further characterization of her. She's far more volatile than Raoden and Hrathen, and I think that is part of what makes her my favorite character in the book. She doesn't always keep it all in–nor is she perfect. Occasionally, she makes mistakes, and things well up inside her. In this way, she's very real to me.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-One

Some of the most fulfilling experiences in writing this book came from the Hrathen chapters. Though Joshua still occasionally complains that he finds Hrathen's internal monologues to be slow and ponderous, I find them essential to the plot. Chapters like this—chapters where we really get to see how Hrathen thinks—are what makes this book more than just a nice adventure story.

The section where Hrathen tries to appoint a new Head Arteth is a more recent addition to the book. I wanted to show the power Dilaf was beginning to have over Hrathen's work in the city, and thought that this made another nice little sub-conflict for Hrathen to deal with.

The chapter used to begin with Hrathen trying to send Dilaf away. Though I added some new information at the beginning, that particular scene is pretty much intact from the first draft. I do worry that some of Hrathen and Dilaf's posturings don't come across as well as they could. This exchange is a wonderful example—I haven't had time in the book to do as much explaining about the Derethi religion as I would like. Because of this, I have to explain Dilaf's move as he tries to perform it. This is always a weaker narrative structure than if the move itself is an obvious outflow from the dynamics of the world. If readers had understood just what an Odiv and a Krondet were, then all Dilaf would have to do is mention that he'd sworn a bunch of Odivs, and the reader would know what he was doing.

Even still, I like what happens here. For the first time, the book expressly shows that Dilaf is planning and working against Hrathen. Before, he's always been able to fall behind his excuse of, I was caught up in the moment. This, however, is an obviously planned maneuver intended to give him power over Hrathen.

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Brandon Sanderson

I mention the Outer Cities here with the beggars. Actually, the main reason I put them in was to give myself another excuse to mention the Outer Cities. Throughout the books progress, I've been worried that people wouldn't understand the ending climax. In order to get what is going on with Aon Rao, they need to understand the geography of the cities around Elantris. Hopefully, I describe it well enough that it comes off.

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Brandon Sanderson

 I'm very fond of this last scene for two reasons. First is the fact that I get to show Hrathen being charitable. He really does care. When characterizing him in my mind, this scene always jumps out as showing something very important about him.

Contrasted with that moment, however, is Omin's lucid presentation of Hrathen a hypocrite. All this time, Hrathen has worked against Shu-Korath, trying to stamp it out. Yet, in one brief moment, Omin scores a personal hit that is more painful than anything Hrathen could do in return.

Notice how Hrathen keeps trying to pull the discussion away from discussing truth in this scene. He knows that he can dominate if he can get the conversation to center around logic. However, truth is something that is hard to define, and something even harder to argue against. Despite his priestly mantle, he finds truth outside of his authority and experience.

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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

Some people have noted to me that it seems strange to them that Elantris only fell ten years before the start of the book. It seems to them that the legends make it seem older, more removed. This is actually intentional. I wanted it to be difficult to remember, at times, that it has only been ten years since the majestic city fell.

Just like Elantris is crumbling far more quickly than should have been possible, it is passing into legend far faster than people might have thought. Part of this is due to the power of rumors and stories in a land without the ability to provide archival visual records (i.e., film.) Part of it, however, is the Elantris "mystery." Something very bad happened, and nobody understands it. In a way, the entire country has been left with a hole inside of its soul, now that Elantris is gone.

By the way. Yes, the line "Its sprit has fled" was intended as another little pun off of the then title of the book "The Spirit of Elantris."

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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.

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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.

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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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Brandon Sanderson

As I've mentioned before, the Hrathen chapters tend to be shorter than the other two. As Raoden and Sarene's chapters pick up, I was left struggling just a bit to find things to do in the complimentary Hrathen chapters. I probably could have sped up his plot through these middle chapters just a bit. However, the triad system means that I had to give him a viewpoint every third chapter. That is probably why he got so many contemplative sections–and, possibly, is what in turn made him into such an interesting character personality wise. It's kind of hard to dissect these kinds of things now that the book has been done for five years.

Anyway, I did need this chapter to give Hrathen a chance to do some more foreshadowing on Dilaf. The emergence of Dilaf in these chapters is, I think, one of the more interesting and surprising elements from the middle Hrathen chapters. When Dilaf is originally presented in the book, I expected people to see him as a simple sidekick to Hrathen, much in the same way that I established Galladon and Ashe to be counterparts to Raoden and Sarene. With this parallelism in servant characters, I hoped to pull of a subtle surprise with Dilaf when he started to make trouble for Hrathen, as he is doing in these chapters.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-Five

I couldn't resist having Sarene intentionally mis-interpret the demands from Raoden's team. Not only did it make for a fun scene with them discovering how she twisted their requests, it also let me characterize Sarene in-abscentia. To her, politics is a game. Any time she can twist her opponent's words and do something unexpected, like send a pile of nails instead of sheets of steel, she feels a thrill of victory.

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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.

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Brandon Sanderson

Those of you who've read the book before should recognize the case study Raoden mentions in this chapter. The woman who was miss-healed by the Elantrian is none other than Dilaf's wife–he speaks of her near the end of the book. This event–the madness and death of the woman he loved–is what drives his hatred of Elantris, and therefore Arelon and Teod.

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Brandon Sanderson

Seolin is an interesting character to me. Not because he really does anything distinctive–but because of how he developed. His name was "Saorn" in the original draft, by the way. I think I changed this because it was too close to "Daorn." People also confused it with Shaod. I'm not certain if the new one fixes that problem, but it does feel a little more distinctive to me.

Regardless, Seolin is one of those characters who grew out of nothing to have a strangely large part in the plot. Again, I realize that he's not all that original as a character. However, his dedication–and the way Raoden came to rely on him–wasn't something I intended when planning the book. While I don't believe in the whole "Books surprise their authors" concept, I do enjoy the discovery of writing. Seolin is one of the characters "discovered" in this way, and I am very pleased with him.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-Six

This book, as I've mentioned before, is a little less "tight" than others I've written. There are chapters like this one, where nothing extremely important happens–I simply show life from one viewpoint, a state necessitated by one of the other two doing something very important. Still, despite it having very little to do with the overplot, I really like how this chapter turned out. Maybe I should force myself to do a strict triad system like this more often, for it forced me to have some chapters where the characters could just live. Sarene's light chapters center around her friends and family, giving us an opportunity to spend time with them and enjoy ourselves. The Lukel sourmellon exchange probably couldn't have happened in a book like Mistborn, where the pacing is far more tense.

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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

I suppose the most important scene in this chapter was the exchange between Sarene and Daora. It's hard, in writing, to avoid being heavy-handed with exposition and emotion. Show don't tell, as the proverb goes. Sometimes you get it right–like this particular scene. Sarene, obviously, is falling for Spirit–and Daora mistakes the emotion as being applied to Shuden. (Yes, I know, I shouldn't have to explain this. However, that's part of what these annotations are for–to explain things. I never can tell what people will get and what they'll miss. I've thrown in twists I thought were obvious, only to have everyone miss them–but instead they pick up on the foreshadowing that I never meant to be strong enough to give the ending away. )

Anyway, one of my challenges in this book was to make the romance between Sarene and Raoden realistic, considering the relatively small amount of time they had to spend together. I hoped to avoid any silly "love at first sight" type plottings, while at the same time making their relationship feel genuine and touching in as short a time as possible.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-Seven

One of the shortest, but most powerful, chapters in the book.

I added the "head arteth" conflict (the idea of everyone rejecting the appointment) later in the revision process so that I could have one more thing to push Hrathen over the edge. My only worry about this scene is one of pacing–if I've done the novel right, then this will seem like a climax that has slowly been building for some time. If I'm off, then this chapter will seem out-of-nowhere, and lack power to the reader.

This is really where Hrathen's chapters have been pushing. The questioning and self-doubt, the problems with Dilaf and conversion. . . . He's pretty much been defeated at every turn. It was time for him to either crack, give up, or do something spectacular. In a way, he kind of does all three.

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Brandon Sanderson

Yes, his drinking of the poison is supposed to be a zing. Theoretically, this will push you on into the next section of the book. The slower portions of the novel are beginning to wind down–from now on, the events start to move a little more quickly. Even still, this is probably one of the more slow-moving of my novels, which is part of its charm–as I noted in a different annotation.

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Brandon Sanderson

Part One Wrap-up

"The Shadow of Elantris." These section headings were added in the last real draft I did, while I was visiting my father in Massachusetts during the summer of '04. By then, the book's title had firmly been changed from The Spirit of Elantris to just Elantris. I knew I needed to divide the book into sections, and decided that I'd use "The Spirit of Elantris" as the final heading, as kind of a nod to the original title of the book.This presented me with several problems, however. First, I needed two more good sub-headings to go along with "The Spirit of Elantris." Second, I needed to find good places to divide the chapters. Because of the chapter triad system, I'd probably need to base my dramatic section cuts on Hrathen's chapters, since he came third in the rotation.

The Shadow of Elantris came easily as a title. It, of course, has reference to the first chapter, where Raoden looks out the window and feels like Elantris is looming over him. However, it's also a nice summary of the first section. Elantris looms over everything, dark and dirty, during the first section of the book. While we see the beginnings of light from Raoden's efforts in the city, they don't really come to much fruition.

If we throw out the nostalgia factor "Spirit" has going for itself, "Shadow" is my favorite of the three section titles.

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Brandon Sanderson

Fantasy is a slow-starting genre. Readers expect this, and hopefully they'll invest enough in the story to keep them reading this long. I love the first half of Elantris—it does what I want a book to do. It presents fun characters in interesting situations, then laces their actions with just enough of a thought-provoking air and an edge of excitement that the reader feels fulfilled. Writing is truth, and it should deal with important topics. However, before that truth must come enjoyment, I believe. If a book isn't, first and foremost, fun to read, then I think the storyteller has failed. After that, he or she hopefully manages to deal with some real issues and questions—this is, in my opinion, what makes characters real.

Anyway, on to section two!

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-Eight

I've actually been called a "square peg" before. I believe the line was "You're one of those creative types–you're a square peg, trying to fit into a round hole." I was twenty-two, and was getting let go from one of my first jobs.

That's another story, though. Just note–apparently, fantasy writers and "creative types" don’t make good librarians. Go figure.

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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."

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Brandon Sanderson

We have a nice little cliff-hanger at the end of this section. However, you have to remember the format of the triad system–when we go back to Sarene, we'll be jumping back in time a bit. That means that you won't immediately discover what is going on with the gate of Elantris.

Dramatically, this is my favorite of the triad structures. We get to hold this cliffhanger for a long time, building it through the next chapter.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-Nine

So, here we get the payoff for several hundred pages worth of hinting at Iadon's insecuirty and paranoia. Plotting is all about payoffs, in my estimation. You have to earn your plot. You do that by putting the pieces together in the right places, so when you finally get to a climax (even a smaller one) your readers accept what is happening.

The build-up doesn't have to always be subtle–and it doesn't even have to be done through traditional foreshadowing. For instance, if you want a character to be able to defeat a small group of bandits, you have to have earned the payoff that says that he/she is competent with a weapon. It's like a chemical equation–you balance all of your pieces on the one side, and they should equal what comes out on the other end.

In order for Sarene's speech in this chapter to work, I needed to do several things. I needed to build up that she'd be both capable enough to make it and brash enough to go through with it. I also needed to build up that Iadon would crack beneath this kind of external pressure, which I hope I did.

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Brandon Sanderson

Some other small notes. First, the proverb about the Lion. It's actually a Korean proverb, one which always stood out to me because it was almost identical to our proverb "Speak the name of the devil, and he will appear," referring to someone who arrives right when you were talking about them. The Korean version says "If you say the name of the tiger, he will appear." I embellished this a bit with use of my handy creative license, and you get what we have here.

Actually, from what I’ve seen, you'd be surprised at how many proverbs span cultures. They may sound a little different, but the meanings are often very similar.

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And, in Kaise's "Why did YOU have to get sick," line, you can see a remnant of the cut scene I talked about in the last Sarene chapter. Kaise and Daorn were supposed to be able to go with Sarene into the city, and when I got to this scene, I thought I'd forgotten to add them. So, I came up with the sickness excuse. This was actually an error on my part, since this triad is actually happening several days after the last triad, and the twins got their permission to go with Sarene for the "next day." Therefore, their trip into Elantris would have happened during the intervening days.

Kaise's comment, however, seemed like a nice little nod to things happening in the world off-stage. Things like this give a nice feel to a book, so I left it in–despite the fact that the original scene it was tied to got cut early on.

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Brandon Sanderson

And, as a note on the final exchange, did you forget about the cliffhanger at the end of Raoden's chapter? My hope was that knowing, from Raoden, that the gates to Elantris opened sometime after the attack, the reader would assume that Sarene actually failed to stop the soldiers. Now that she has, however, stopped them, you are reminded that SOMEONE is entering the city. One guess who it is.

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Chapter Thirty

And, we finally get to figure out what is going on. As I said, this is one of my favorite triads because of the way it manages to string a cliff-hanger across three separate chapters. I've spoken often of how difficult it was, at times, to maintain the triad structure. However, scenes like these are the reward. We get to see from Hrathen's viewpoint the things spoken off in Sarene's viewpoint, and often (especially later in the book) we can see the same scene from different sets of eyes, seeing different opinions and thoughts manifest.

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Brandon Sanderson

Another interesting note in this chapter is that we finally get to see what Raoden went through in chapter one. The washing process isn't all that exciting, but I have had several people remark that they were sad to have missed it. I guess that's just human curiosity. Well, for those who wondered what the process was, they finally got to see it in this chapter.

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Father Omin, by the way, "traces Aon Omi" on Hrathen's chest as part of the religious service. This should look familiar. It is a subtle little thing, but I wanted to show how the Korathi religion has been influenced by its proximity to Elantris. The priests probably wouldn't do something like this in Teod. In a way, Hrathen is right–Elantris has had a corrupting influence on those around it.

However, "corruption" is probably too strong a word. Religions adapt as their people adapt, and often times cultural elements are incorporated into belief structures. People have asked me, as a Christian, what I think about Christmas itself being set in place of a pagan holiday. Doesn't really bother me. The day we happen to celebrate the birth of Christ doesn't have any doctrinal importance to me. A religious person has to be willing, in my mind, to accept that while truth may be eternal, the way we interact with it–as changing human beings–must needs be influenced by the way we think and the way society works.

It doesn't matter if my religion "borrowed" things from other religions or cultures–especially if the things we filched added good things to the religion. That's what humans do. We adapt. We steal. This especially makes sense if you happen to be a writer. (We're really good at stealing. . .uh, I mean "adapting.")

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty-One

Raoden failed in finding ways to defeat Shaor's gang on two separate occasions. First, there was the original infiltration with Galladon (in which Raoden hoped to convince Shaor to stop attacking.) This excursion was informative, but not successful. The second failure was in dealing with the wild men who were trying to get to the carts. Raoden's decision to simply cut them off from the courtyard was eventually a failure. I'm not sure what else he could have done, but he still failed. Saolin's death, among other things, was the cost.

I knew that Raoden had to have more difficulty dealing with Shaor's band than he did with the other two. "Defeating" Karata and Taan happened quickly, and with relative ease. If Shaor's band hadn't presented a problem, then I felt that the entire "three gangs" plot would have been unfulfilling.

So, in these chapters, I stepped up the danger from Shaor and the crew. In the early drafts of the book, this danger wasn't present enough. (In fact, this was one of the main comments that Tom Doherty, CEO of Tor, gave me when he read Elantris.) So, I increased Shaor's numbers–by giving them a larger percentage of Taan's men, not to mention a larger number of men to begin with–and made them more dangerous in the way they attacked.

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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.

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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. . . .)

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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

Sarene's extended internal narrative about Graeo remains in the book despite a slight dissatisfaction on my part with the section. It feels a little expository, and we've gotten implications regarding these things before. I'm not sure that we really learn anything new about Sarene's character here, we just get a few specifics about her past.

However, one of the nice things about a book like this–or, even, books in general, as opposed to movies –is that you don't have to worry TOO much about every scene and moment. I don't have to shave seconds quite as intensely as a film-maker might, or even shave words as much as an author of a shorter work might. I can afford a few diversions like this one, even if they ramble just a bit.

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Brandon Sanderson

Showing Roial's seon was important, I think. First off, I wanted to give some evidence that there are indeed seons in Arelon who aren't mad. (So far, I believe that the only named seons we've seen in the book are Ashe and Ien.) Secondly, Opa is a nice little foreshadowing–it's through him that Ashe manages to contact Sarene's friends. Actually, Sarene's interaction with Ashe is quite interesting in this chapter, as it's somewhat more strained–and therefore a bit more true–than what we've seen before. When under stress, Ashe isn't quite so accommodating and straightforward as normal–but he still does retain Sarene's best interests at heart.

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Brandon Sanderson

Some notes about the party. First off, I had a lot of fun sticking the sickening young couples into this book. I'm not sure why I like to make fun of them like I do, but I certainly have a bit of fun in the Sarene chapters. Ah, poor Shuden. He didn't hold on as well as he thought he might. Anyway, the contrast here is very nice for Sarene, and I like how she and Roial move through the party, mingling. There's just a. . .natural feel about some of the scenes in this book that I haven't quite been able to capture in my other works.

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Brandon Sanderson

There are a couple of important foreshadowings in this chapter as well. One is the seon sense of direction, which plays a very small-yet-important part in the climax of the book. The other is Sarene's insight into Ahan's character here at the party. If you've been following him, you realize that he is like she explains–a little too quick to act, not quite as politically shrewd as he'd like others to think. It's this scene, however, where I really wanted to lay the seeds of understanding in my readers, preparing them for his eventual betrayal.

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Chapter Thirty-Three

Another short, but powerful, Hrathen chapter. This is the head of Hrathen's character climax for the first half of the book. He has been questioning his own faith ever since he first met Dilaf. It isn't that he questions the truthfulness of the Derethi religion–he just has become uncertain of his own place within it. I wanted this moment, when he's semi-consciously watching the eclipse, to be the moment where he finally decides upon an answer within himself.

This is a major turning-point for Hrathen. His part in the book pivots on this chapter, and the things he does later are greatly influenced by the decisions he makes here. I think the important realization he realizes here is that not every person's faith manifests in the same way. He's different from other people, and he worships differently. That doesn't make his faith inferior.

In fact, I think his faith is actually superior to Dilaf's. Hrathen has considered, weighed, and decided. That gives him more validity as a teacher, I think. In fact, he fits into the Derethi religion quite well–the entire Derethi idea was conceived as a logical movement.

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When I was designing this book, I knew I wanted a religious antagonist. Actually, the idea for the Derethi religion was one of the very fist conceptual seeds for this novel. I've always been curious about the relationship between the Catholic church and the Roman empire. While Rome itself has declined greatly in power, the church that grew within it–almost as a side-effect–has become one of the dominant forces in the world. I wondered what would happen if an empire decided to do something like this intentionally.

The early Derethi leaders, then, were a group who realized the problems with the Old Fjordell Empire. It collapsed upon itself because of bureaucratic problems. The Old Empire was faced with rebellions and wars, and never managed to become stable. The Derethi founders realized the power of religion. They decided that if they could get the nations of the East to believe in a single religion–with that religion centered in Fjorden–they would have power equal to, or even greater than, the power of the Old Empire. At the same time, they wouldn’t have to worry about rebellion–or even bureaucracy. The people of the other nations would govern themselves, but would give devotion, loyalty, and money to Fjorden.

So, these men appropriated the teachings of Shu-Dereth and mixed them with some mythology from the Fjordell Old Empire. The resulting hybridization, added to the Fjordell martial work ethic, created an aggressive, intense religion–yet one that was "constructed" with a logical purpose in mind. The Fjordell priests spent the next few centuries converting and building their power base. The result was the New Empire–an empire without governments or armies, yet far more powerful than the Old Empire ever was.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty-Four

I know it seems like I'm setting Shaor up for a return, but I really don't intend to bring her back. At least, I didn't when I wrote this chapter. The truth is, I just didn't want to write a scene of the madmen returning with the torn up body of a little girl.

However, every time I read this section, I can't help noticing that I left one of the book's most dangerous villains alive (potentially.) Ironically, because it seems so obvious from the text that Shaor is still alive, I think I'd avoid doing anything with her in a sequel. It seems like in fiction, any time you don't see a body, you automatically assume (often correctly) that the villain is still out there somewhere.

However, in this case, it really doesn't make sense to use her again. Shaor wasn't a threat because of any special skills on her part–I see no reason to bring her back.

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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.

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My explanation for the slime, admittedly, relies a bit heavily on "fantasy writer's license." Usually, I resist overdoing things like this. (I.e., simply explaining away events in the world with magical answers.) Though there is a slight logic to Raoden's explanation, it isn't something that would have been intuitive to a reader, given the facts of the novel. That makes it a weak plotting element. However, the slime explanation isn't part of any real plot resolution, so I decided to throw it in. Its place as an interesting world element, rather than a climax, gives me a few more liberties, I think.

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Brandon Sanderson

And, as for the seon explanation here. . .well, I'm afraid that's all you get for this book. I think this is the last (or, rather, only) discussion the characters have about the origins of the seons. It's not much, but that is intentional. When I wrote Elantris six years ago, I wasn't sure if I'd ever even sell the book. Therefore, I didn't want to invest too much thought into a sequel right then. I wanted the book to stand alone, yet I wanted to give myself plenty of room to do interesting things in a series, if it ever came to that. Therefore, I intentionally left a few open spaces in the worldbuilding–things the characters didn't even know.

One of these holes is the origin, and even workings, of the seons. I have some ideas, of course, but you'll have to wait for another book before they get explained. (You can thank Moshe for what you got in this chapter–he was very curious about seons, and he wanted a little bit more. That's why we had the discussion of Passing, as well as the explanation that you don't have to be noble to have a seon.)

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty-Five

The joke is, of course, that Eventeo told Sarene not to do this very thing–not to overthrow Iadon and put herself on the throne. It was back in chapter two, the first Sarene chapter, and he said it in jest. (She broke her promise, though–she said she'd wait at least two months to put herself on the throne. Go read the last page of that chapter if you want to see what I'm talking about.)

Anyway, yes, I killed Iadon off-stage. I didn't see any reason to go on with him at this point. He'd done his damage, suffered his defeat. The best thing for him was to disappear without causing any more trouble, I think.

Well, not without any more trouble, I guess. There is that funeral scene. . . .
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Brandon Sanderson

The Jindoeese food section is another one of those potentially out-of-place sections of the book, but I certainly had a lot of fun writing it. I'm interested in the fact that some more "primitive" cultures often understand the same things that modern medicine and science do, they just can't quite explain themselves to our satisfaction. It makes sense to me that a culture like the Jindoeese might figure out that a diet lower in fats is good for you, but they might not completely understand why. Anyway, poor Eventeo doesn't get to eat butter any more.

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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.

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Brandon Sanderson

About here, I decided to start having Ahan be less helpful in these meetings. The subtext here is that he's been playing both sides, intending–yet never quite managing–to overthrow Sarene's group. Early in the book, he was having fun just playing the game–and he never did anything incriminating against the king. Now, with Iadon gone, he's reworking his motivations. So, that's why he's a bit less communicative in this chapter.

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Boy, I have a lot to say on this chapter. Let's talk about Sarene's engagement to Roial.

Some moments, when you're writing, things just click together. The moment when I came up with this plotting element was one such moment. I hadn't actually planned this into my outline. Suddenly, as I was writing, I realized just how much sense it made, and how wonderful it would be to force the characters to have to go through this. Even still, this is one of my very favorite twists in the book.

The scene in the carriage has been there from the beginning, but I did change it slightly in the last draft, adding the section where Roial talks to Sarene about herself. His line "You're an excellent judge of character, except for your own" is something I think needed to be said to Sarene at some point in the book. The actual suggestion that it happen came from my Master's Thesis committee. They–correctly–saw Sarene as someone who had an unrealistic image of herself.

She really isn't as unmarriagble, or as unwantable, as she thinks she is. Even back in Teod, she wasn't regarded quite as harshly as she assumes. However, she's very hard on herself. Someone needed to sit her down and tell her–at the same time acknowledging to the reader–that she isn't half as bad as she seems to think.

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Chapter Thirty-Six

Dakhor. One of the better words I came up for this book, I think.

Be patient with me–I'm going somewhere with this whole Dakhor monastery thing. We'll get there eventually. For now, enjoy Hrathen's visions. Or, rather, be disturbed by them. (Dakhor, if you haven't noticed, isn't a very friendly place. . . .)

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Yes, all this time Hrathen was under the effects of the potion. It was a little bit contrived not to tell the reader that Hrathen had asked for the effects to be temporary, but I figured the drama was worth it. You should have been able to figure it out anyway–it was the only logical reason Hrathen would drink the potion.

Of all the politickings, maneuverings, and plannings in this book, I think this is the best one. In a single brilliant gamble, Hrathen managed to make himself into a saint who is seen to have power over Elantris. He out-witted Sarene and Dilaf at the same time, gaining back everything he'd lost during his arguments and self-questioning. This isn't really a "twist," in my mind–it's something better. It's something that makes logical sense, something that carries the plot forward without having to trick the reader, yet still earning wonder and appreciation.

In my mind, this sort of plot twist is superior to gimmick surprises. I don't often pull it off, but there's something. . .majestic about a plotting device that is obvious, rational, yet still surprising.

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This chapter asks the question "What is a miracle?" You've heard me wax pontificatory too much on religion, so I'll hold off here. Instead, I'll just point out that what Hrathen thinks–that something can be a miracle even if there was nothing "miraculous" involved–makes perfect sense, I think. Look at it this way. A) Hrathen believes (as many in our world do) that God controls everything. B) Hrathen believes (as many in our world do) that God can do whatever he wants without expending any resources or weakening Himself. C) Therefore, it doesn't matter to God whether or not He has to "magically" cause something to occur or not–as long as an event is made to coincide with what He wants to happen, it is miraculous. It's just as easy for Him to make something occur through the natural flow of the universe as it is for him to make it occur through breaking of normal laws.

(This, by the way, is why "miracles" such as faith healings or the like should never, in my opinion, form one's grounds for belief in a particular religion.)

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Chapter Thirty-Seven

We've entered the section of the plot where Raoden has a few short chapters (this one and the one before.) As I mentioned, his major plot cycle–the three gangs–for the first part of the book is over. Right now, the most important things are happening on the outside of Elantris, so Raoden gets a slight breather to study.

That said, the realization that happens here–that Raoden isn't bad at dealing with the pain, he's simply facing something that the others don't have to–is an important one. There needed to be some progression here, even if it does take away Raoden's main character conflict. (Now he doesn't have to worry that he's inferior.) However, this conflict is replaced by another little timebomb–now Raoden has to worry about being destroyed by the Dor before he can finish his studies. It gives him a sense of urgency, makes things a little more difficult–which is why I introduced this plotting structure in the first place. As I've mentioned, I was worried that there wouldn't be enough tension in his chapters once the gangs were defeated. Hence the Dor attacks.

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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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Chapter Thirty-Eight

Ah, we needed some more Lukel. He hasn't been around enough lately. I'm glad I had the presence of mind to throw in a character to balance out Shuden and Eondel's solemnity. Lukel doesn't really have much part in the plot, but he's always there to throw in a nice quip or two. His annoyance at being told his face is too pink here is probably one of his best moments.

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I brought in the Patriarch for a couple of reasons. Though Joshua wanted to cut him (my agent is quite the headsman) and suggested that I have Omin reveal the proclamation, I felt that I needed someone with a little more authority to fill that role. Plus, Elantris is a book about religion, and I wanted to look at the idea of having a religious leader who isn't necessarily as. . .wise as his people would like. By giving the Korathi religion a man like the Patriarch at its head, I could show a different aspect of faith in the book–the idea that a religion is more than its leader, and faith is more powerful than one man. I think that for any religion to last, it needs to be able to survive IN SPITE of the people who run it, rather than just because of them.

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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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This chapter is supposed to be something of a small redemption for Iadon. First off, we have his proclamation, which gives validity to his structure of rule. I think everything in the Arelish government makes a lot more sense now that we understand why Iadon did what he did.

The second bit of redemption comes at the burial site, where Sarene watches the barrow being built. Her thoughts don't excuse what Iadon did, but I hope they give something of an explanation. I like this scene because of the way it feels–there is a reverence about it which gives the proper atmosphere for a funeral.

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You'll notice in the "Sarene prays in the chapel" scene that I take care to describe how high-necked, long-sleeved, and generally enveloping Sarene's dress is. Hopefully, this doesn't look suspicious. However, those of you who are watching carefully probably realized what was going to happen at the wedding. This was just too good an opportunity to pass up–for the surprise factor, for the wrinkles it throws in to the plot, and because it lets me mix Sarene and Raoden again.

This prayer scene also offers our first, and only, real look into Sarene's religious mindset. Her faith is probably one of the only simple aspects of her personality–she believes, and it doesn't need to go much further than that for her. That's why I had this prayer be so simple. Sometimes, a simple thing can be far more powerful than a complex one.

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Chapter Thirty-Nine

I did this triad a little differently. You might notice that the Hrathen chapter starts off right where the Sarene chapter ends. Again, I eventually decided to be more loose with the triad system than I'd originally intended. It would have been to limiting to force all three chapters to happen during the exact same time. So, instead I have them all happen on the same day, usually overlapping, but not always.

Anyway, this chapter was a nice little place for Hrathen to feel proud of himself. You may have noticed that the chapters are speeding up–getting shorter, things happening faster–as the book progresses. This is an aspect of my style, and while it's not quite so noticeable in my new books (I've tried to even out my climaxes and surprised better during the last few years,) Elantris is an "Old School" Brandon novel. My books tend to push toward the endings quite dramatically, and you usually hit a place my friends affectionately call "The Brandon Avalanche." Generally, my books tend to go haywire in about the last ten percent, the pace increasing drastically, the viewpoints going wild.

That hasn't happened at this point in Elantris, but we're getting closer.

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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.

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Brandon Sanderson

This scene where Raoden and Sarene meet on equal grounds is, I hope, something that people have been waiting for. I intended the moment when Sarene lets Raoden take her hand to be a major event in the book. The phrase "For the first time" (I.e., she took his hand for the first time) was added at Moshe's suggestion. I'm personally not as fond of it as I could be–my opinion is often times, making a passage shorter actually emphasizes it more. However, I wasn't so set on those four words that I insisted on not putting them in.

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Brandon Sanderson

These two chapters–forty and forty-one–are another sequential pair in a triad, like I did before. I wanted to push out of Raoden's viewpoint as quickly as possible here, because he's already seen Elantris and New Elantris. In these scenes, Sarene's view of things will be more fresh–and therefore more interesting. She can experience some parts of Elantris for the first time, and we can enjoy her realization and discovery.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Forty-One

My biggest challenge in this chapter was to make it believable to a reader that the characters would accept Sarene as an Elantrian. The plotting of this section of the book relies on Sarene thinking that she's actually been transformed–otherwise, she would try to escape, and I wouldn't be able to have the short interlude in Elantris I have here. It's vital to Raoden's plotting, and to the relationship between the two of them, that they have some time to think and to get to know one another.

I had a couple things going for me in creating this suspension of disbelief regarding Sarene's nature as an Elantrian. First, she doesn't really know what an Elantrian should be like–she doesn't realize that her heartbeat or her tears betray her. Secondly, as Raoden will point out in a bit, Sarene has come during the time of New Elantris. There is food, there is shelter, and the pain has mostly been overcome. The differences between an Elantrian and a non-Elantrian, then, are less obvious.

Even still, there are a couple of things I had to explain. The first is Ashe's existence. This is a major clue to Sarene and company that she's not really an Elantrian. Sarene's bodily changes–or lack thereof–are going to be more and more obvious the longer she stays in Elantris. Obviously, I wouldn't be able to pull this plotting off for very long, but hopefully it works for now.

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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.

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Brandon Sanderson

In these chapters, I had to be very careful during the Sarene viewpoints. As I was writing, I had a habit of accidentally referring to Raoden by his real name, rather than calling him Spirit. Sarene, of course, doesn't know who he really is. I found one place where I called him "Raoden" that somehow lasted all the way to the final edit–hopefully, that was the last one.

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Brandon Sanderson

By the way, I took the bit where Sarene judged Raoden's height from real-life experience. My friend, Annie Gorringe, always used to talk about how her near 6' height sometimes made it difficult for her to find men to date. Often, the first thing she'd do when she was interested in a man was judge his height compared to her own.

Watch out, folks. If you know an author, you have to watch your tongues. Anything you say is fair game to be used in a novel, as far as we're concerned.

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Brandon Sanderson

Interestingly, I’ve never annotated about Sarene's nickname before. Only her father uses it, and when Moshe read the draft, he had trouble understanding how to get 'Ene from Sarene. That's probably because he, like most people, pronounced her name like the word serene. That's all right–I don't really mind how people pronounce the names in my books. When I read, I see a name, come up with a pronunciation in my head, then go with that from there on. Nothing can convince me that I'm pronouncing it wrong, not even the author him/herself. (Even still, the names of Anne McCaffery's dragons are jumbled, meaningless noises in my mind. That seemed right at the time.)

Anyway, if you're interested, there's a pronunciation guide for Elantris on the site. Sarene's nickname comes from the Aon in her name: Aon Ene. While in our world, we tend to choose nicknames based on the first syllable of a name, nicknames in Arelish come from from the Aon. Since Sarene's Aon comes late in her name, that's where the nickname comes from. "Ene," by the way, is pronounced "Ay-nay."

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Brandon Sanderson

It's a tie–best cheesy line from this chapter.


He half-smiled, his eyes unconvinced. Then, however, he regarded her with an unreadable expression. "Well, I suppose the time during your Trial wasn't a complete loss. I gained something very important during those weeks."

"The supplies?" Sarene asked.

"That too."


"When I opened my eyes, I thought that time I had died for certain." (Remember, when this happened, Raoden was laying on his back. He opened his eyes, and the first thing he would have seen was Sarene's face hovering above him.)

What can we learn from this? That people who are falling in love are utter cheese-heads.

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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

"Hama," Galladon's word for grandmother, is actually another theft from the real world. One of my cousins has a little son who calls his grandmother "Hama," and I always thought it was a cute nickname. The really funny one, however, is when he refers to my grandmother–his great-grandmother. She's Big Hama. (In keeping with this tradition, Sarene's childhood nickname for Kiin is "Hunkey Kay," a child's version of "Uncle Kiin." This is a spin off of what that same little kid in the real world calls my mother. She's "Hunky BaBa," or "Aunt Barbara.")

What did I warn you about we writers and filching things?

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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.

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Brandon Sanderson

Okay, now, I know you're going to laugh at me here. However, I suppose you deserve to know the whole story of this book. After all, I told you about the whole "Adonis" thing.

Well, the thing is, the first version of the book included about two pages of poetry from Wyrn the King. I think every prose writer goes through a stage where we think, for some reason, that we have a talent for poetry. It's doubly bad in fantasy, where we've all read Tolkien, and felt like adding poems, songs, and the like to our stories.

The thing is, most of us aren't very good at it. Wyrn the King was a narrative alliterative poem patterned after Beowulf, and it was TERRIBLE. I might be masochistic enough to post it in the "deleted scenes" section of the website. I'm honestly not sure yet. (Actually, I wrote the poem as a college assignment. I wiggled out of doing something research-oriented by somehow convincing my teacher that I deserved to do a creative project instead. When I finished, I felt a little bit obliged to stick it in my current book, as I'd told my teacher I would. Sorry, Dr. Thursby, but. . .uh. . .it didn't make the final cut.)

Anyway, there was a point behind sticking the poem in the text, even if I completely overshadowed it by including so many lines of poetry. This section is really all we get in the book itself about Fjorden's past. As I've explained in the annotations, Fjorden switched to Shu-Dereth to do its conquering, relying on religion rather than armies. When they did so, they went back and rewrote many of their great classics. (Orwell would be proud of them.)

This is actually based on some events in our world. Some scholars think that Beowulf underwent similar revision, the monks who copied and translated it adding Christian symbolism to the text. After all, no great artist could possibly have been a true pagan. Everyone knows that Aristotle was a Christian–and he died before Christ was even born!

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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.

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Brandon Sanderson

I like how Raoden and Sarene's relationship is progressing in these chapters. I realize that it's probably moving just a bit too quickly to be natural, but remember that they don't really have much to do all day besides spend time with each other.

All in all, I like that their relationship has an opportunity to really develop and progress naturally. They don't fall in love because they fight all the time (which seems to be the only reason some fantasy characters hook up) or because they're possessed by hormones. Their personalities really do compliment one another, and they get along. They both like politics and keeping secrets for the game of it, and they are both sincere, intelligent people.

In other words, they don't just hook up because–as my friend Alan likes to say–"One of them is the male lead, and the other's the female lead." I'd like to think that there is more to it than that.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Forty-Five

I figured the rats metaphor in this chapter was appropriate. It seemed like the kind of connection that Hrathen would make–and it says something about him that he would think this way. He might be a sympathetic villain, and he might have some measure of nobility, but he isn't by any means unprejudiced. He is, in that way, a product of his culture. You can be a good man and still be prejudiced–I know a lot of people, good people, who simply don't seem to have the ability to see beyond their own assumptions.

So, I contrast this bit of prejudice from Hrathen with a sincere measure of humanity on his part. He's worried about Sarene. Not worried simply because of his desire to use her, not even worried simply because of his latent affection for her–though both are motivations for his actions. He's worried because he feels guilty for using her like he is. It's that pesky conscience of his, messing things up again.

And yes, Hrathen does have some feelings for Sarene hiding inside that armored chest of his. I'm always very subtle in the way I have him show them–for instance, his coming up to the wall to try and see if she’s all right.

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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.

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Brandon Sanderson

Hrathen's deal with Eventeo here is the final piece of his most brilliant plan in the book. He milked those two vials of poison for a whole lot. He managed to regain his own faith, defeat Dilaf, turn himself into a hero, and get Eventeo's promise all with a few clever political twists. After he's pulled off a few tricks like this, three months suddenly doesn't seem like an unrealistic amount of time to convert a nation. (Or, at least, convert its nobility–which, as Hrathen has pointed out, is the same thing.)

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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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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

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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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Forty-Seven

I love this exchange at the beginning of the chapter. We actually don't get many scenes in the book where Hrathen gets to interact with Sarene, let alone her friends. The dialogue in this section is rather spiffy, if I do say so myself. The exchanges feel quick, poignant, and telling of character.

One part of that is probably due to the pair of extremely good metaphors Hrathen makes during the scene. The crushing mountain, the bird banging its head against a stone–these are didactic metaphors, exactly the kind of thing you'd expect a priest to say. He places them quite keenly, and his oration has an effect on Sarene and the others. I'd call this scene the final cap of Hrathen's victories during the last few chapters.

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Brandon Sanderson

By the way, I'm still fond of the fact that Hrathen is more skilled a warrior than Eondel. Eondel's good, but he's not in the same league as a warrior-priest. Besides, Eondel is a leader, trainer, and general–his skillset is different than Hrathen's. If the two were to spar, Hrathen would win nearly every time.

Interestingly, this is one of the first real action sequences we've gotten in the book. So far, all we've really had are: the fencing match between Sarene and Eondel, the place where Hrathen fights off Shaor's men, and a couple of short battles between Raoden's men and Shaor's wildmen. Really not very much. I'm quite proud, actually, of how well I managed to keep up the tension and pacing in a book without much physical action.

Of course, that doesn't mean that I'm not a sucker for some good action. Go read Mistborn if you want to see what I mean.

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Brandon Sanderson

You get a couple nice foreshadowing hints here. First, there's the scene that reminds us that–for some reason–Kiin's family knows an awful lot about Elantrians. We've gotten other hints, but they were back a long time ago. The one I remember best is when Sarene was with the twins on the wall. Kaise and Daorn had some things to say about Elantrians that surprised Sarene, I think.

Also, notice that Ahan is with Telrii. Though it's presented that the group decided that he should go see Telrii, the actual backstory is that Ahan manipulated himself into the position. It's just another small clue as to what he's planning to do.

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Brandon Sanderson

I think this final scene with Sarene in bed is much more powerful since I didn't show the actual conversation with Eventeo. Having it begin with a depressed Sarene, the seon link disappearing, leaves an air of melancholy on the scene that is more telling than the sense of sorrowful confrontation that would have come from having Eventeo explain himself to Sarene.

Obviously, poor Eventeo isn't in a very easy position. I didn't want him to have an easy answer; I think this is a very difficult decision for him to make, and I don't really think there is an obviously right answer–even though Sarene thinks that there is. We'll see later that Sarene doesn't look at things the same way a person who actually has to be a leader does.

I wish I could have made Eventeo a viewpoint character–he goes through a lot of conflict and trouble in the book. Unfortunately, there's never enough room to do all the things that you want to, and I like how tight the book feels with only having the rotating viewpoints.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Forty-Eight

Now we're getting into the most heavily-edited chapters of the book. From here, if you're curious about the Mad Prince version of the book, look in the "Deleted scenes" section. For the rest of the annotations, just realize that what the Mad Prince once did, Telrii now does. There is, of course, a lot of cut material–however, all of the essential elements of the plot still occur.

Basically, the Mad Prince gave aggravation and problems to Hrathen in these late chapters. He'd had so much success with his Elantris-poison plots that I knew I had to give him a few more wrinkles during these chapters. In the original draft, he instigated the arrival of the Mad Prince, then realized that he couldn't control what he'd unleashed.

These were all difficult edits. I still think the Mad Prince worked better in the role than Telrii does–however, the book as a whole works better without the Mad Prince in it. Sometimes you have to cut something good in order to achieve a better over-all effect.

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Brandon Sanderson

So, all of Telrii's characterization through the novel has been pushing toward this chapter. I knew I wanted him to throw a huge wrinkle into Hrathen's plans, and so the basic thing I had to decide was what Telrii could possibly do that would be as disastrous as the Mad Prince's uncontrollability. In the rewrite, then, I made certain to make Telrii a more unpredictable character. He's not just wasteful, he's arrogantly wasteful. At the same time, however, he's not as much a fool as people assume. He likes his spending, but he also likes how that luxury makes him look. It makes other people underestimate him, and makes them assume that he's predictable. That lets him pull little coups like the on he throws at Hrathen in this chapter.

Hrathen is, of course, right. Telrii doesn't have any clue how great a misjudgment he just made. The idea is not that Telrii is brilliant–he's just smart enough, just wily enough, to be surprising. He's just dangerous enough to do something disastrous like this.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Forty-Nine - Part One

My biggest worry about these chapters is that people will look at the map we put in the front of the book and realize that it doesn't match the text. I really do like Jeff's map–it's well-drawn, and it has a very cool feel to it. I love the little city designs; they give the map a different feel from many fantasy maps. Overall, I think this map fits the "mood" of the book quite well.

However, I myself didn't give him good enough instructions on how to develop the map, and now it doesn't completely fit what I talk about in the text. Since the landscape of the land is so important to the development of the book and the magic system, this could be a problem for some readers.

Anyway, yes, Raoden makes the connection here. The Chasm line is what has been missing all along. I tried to emphasize the Chasm several times in the text, reminding people that it's around. However, as I may have said in other annotations (the spoiler sections), I now worry that the Chasm is TOO obvious. Anyway, I suspect the discovery will work for some people, and not work for others. Hopefully, the characterizations and the events in the book are interesting enough that even if some people think this discovery is obvious, they'll enjoy reading anyway.

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Brandon Sanderson

You'll notice that I start this chapter with a block of narrative, going over what has been happening since our last triad. I do this with some frequency in the Raoden chapters. Not everything in a book can be "in scene," and I sometimes find myself throwing in these narrative sections at the beginning of chapters. It's a bit of a triad-break, but not a huge one. After all, you can just assume that the narrative is coming from Raoden as he thinks back about previous events.

Speaking of that, I haven't really talked much about viewpoint in these annotations. You may or may not have noticed that I'm a big fan of strictly-limited third-person viewpoints. Third person past tense has pretty much become the industry standard during the last fifteen years (before that time, you saw a lot more omniscient–look at Dune, and to a lesser extent, Ender's Game.) You almost never see it these days, though, and I personally think that's a good thing. Omniscient is a little better for plotting in some places, but limited is far better for characterization.

Any time you read one of my books, you should remember that I'm almost always in strict limited. Whatever you read in the text, it is something that a character feels or has observed.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Forty-Nine - Part Two

So, in this chapter we get to have a nice look at the "mathematical" style to AonDor. To be honest, I'm not really a math person. I did well in my classes, but I never pursued the skill long enough to get deeply into theoretics. That's why there aren't any specifics in these chapters–I try to give enough to imply that AonDor works like mathematical proofs, but I don't include any specific ratios or equations.

My goal was to get across the "Feel" of the magic without actually having to get into number crunching–which is something at which Raoden's much better than I am. (Though, it's less numbers and more of an understudying of length, location, and combination.)

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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.

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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.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifty-One

This is a different kind of Hrathen chapter. With it, I wanted to set the tone for the final section of the book. Only about 15% of the novel remains, and things are going to change for the last bit. You may have noticed a slight tone shift in this chapter–I made it a little darker, filling it with death imagery. (Incense, ash, darkness, Svrakiss.) I wanted to subtly get across that things are growing more dim for Hrathen and Arelon.

Originally, this scene happened outside, at the Mad Prince's pyre. I liked the death imagery there a little better–Dilaf sifting through the ashes of a funeral pyre made for a very interesting image. However, the visuals in this newer version have their own advantages. I was able to use the lantern to half-light Dilaf's, and the smells from the tent make a nice sensual addition to the section.

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Brandon Sanderson

This scene ends with a question. Hopefully, the reader is reminded that we haven't really seen anything from Dilaf in the last few triads. Hrathen has been in control ever since he left Elantris, and what we've seen of Dilaf has been cursory and ignorable, for the most part.

Now, however, he's back. His low profile in the last chapters was intentional. My hope is that the reader will hit the last few lines of this chapter and think "Oh, wait. I've been ignoring Dilaf lately. That's not a good thing. . . ." In other words, I want them to feel like Hrathen does. He's suddenly realized that he's let a foe slip under his notice for a time, and now he's worried about what Dilaf has been planning.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifty-Two

In a later draft, I added a bit of padding to this chapter–in particular, I included more explanations by Raoden regarding how he'd been trying to meet with Sarene. I was worried that I was pushing the bounds of plausibility too much with Raoden's false persona. One of the main reasons that he left Elantris was to see Sarene again, and it just didn't make sense that he would try to keep fooling her. Moshe noted this as well.

So, we have Sarene refusing Kaloo's letters, and not wanting to let him get her alone. Perhaps this is a little implausible as well–I can't see Sarene avoiding anything that smells of politics. Fortunately, Sarene is also far more impetuous than other "political" character's I've used. I can see her sending away Kaloo's letter because of a mood, or simply because she thought he was trying to taunt her.

Either way, I had to find a reason to maintain the charade through this chapter, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to pull off Raoden's dramatic appearance in the next chapter.

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Brandon Sanderson

The saddest part about Kaloo, I think, is that he's not a real character. I had a lot of fun writing him, and when I was done, I wished that I had a full character to play with. Even in these few chapters, I got across a complexity for him that I thought was most interesting. (His line about acting the fool on purpose, as well as the one "The revolution rolled over us while we were still discussing what to have for dinner" are some of my personal favorites.)

Unfortunately, all of this characterization is undermined by the fact that Kaloo is really just Raoden playing a part. I often develop characters in my mind based solely on their dialect–and everyone has a dialect, despite what you may think. Galladon's might be the most obvious, but–in my mind, at least–everyone in the book speaks a little differently. Roial is dignifiedly mischievous, Ahan favors flamboyant words, Kaloo favors frivolous words, and Ashe likes words that make him sound solemn. Karata is curt, Lukel likes to quip, and Raoden firm.

That's probably why I grew so attached to Kaloo–he had a lot of dialogue, and through that I created who he was in my mind. This tendency of mine to characterize through dialogue is why I had so much trouble cutting Galladon's frequent use of "kolo", which always bothered Moshe. Galladon's dialect is so much a part of who he is that each cut made me cringe.

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Brandon Sanderson


It may seem odd that Roial invites Kaloo to the meetings after just a short time. Remember several things, however. First, Sarene wasn't in the town for very long before she herself got into the meetings. Second, they're desperate for help and new perspectives. Third, Kaloo has been living with Roial, and Roial knew Raoden quite well. I'm not saying that Roial saw through the persona, but he undoubtedly sensed some of the same things in Kaloo that he liked in Raoden.

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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.

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Brandon Sanderson

Speaking of Raoden's honor and truth, I'd like to note something about assassination and killing in this book. As I've stated in earlier annotations, I wanted this book's conflict to be non-violence focused. I think that the characters in this book, therefore, represent a more mature philosophy regarding social problems–a philosophy that could only exist among a people who have spent so much of their lives not having to deal with death and war. A people who have a valid reason for seeing things more like people in a contemporary culture.

As my friend Alan likes to say, however, "Violence may not always be the best answer–but it's usually AN answer." Conflict and social commentary should be based on the characters and their beliefs, rather than forced expressions of the author's message. That doesn't mean that I don't let my personal views shade my writing–I think that level of self-removal would be impossible. However, I do think that the themes expressed in a book need to be reflective of the characters.

I like that I was able to write a novel where the characters came to the conclusion that they'd rather find a way to stop their opponents without resorting to hiring assassins. This, I think, is a noble way of viewing the world. However, the realist in me says that most people–and most situations–won't be so open to this kind of decision. It says something that after working so long on Elantris, I promptly went and made my next heroine (the one from Mistborn) an assassin herself. In her world, life is far more brutal–and these sorts of philosophical problems aren't as difficult to deal with. There, there is too much riding on the protagonists for them to worry about their methods. I think they're still good people. They just have a slightly different philosophy.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifty-Three - Part Two

Yes, Ahan is a traitor. When building this book, I knew that I wanted one of the characters to betray the rest. I also knew that I didn't want it to be the most obvious one in the group. This left me with a problem. I had to provide a character whom nobody would suspect as a traitor, yet at the same time make it believable that he would turn traitor.

The first thing I did was throw in Edan as a diversion. He worked perfectly–virtually all of my alpha readers mentioned that they thought for certain that he would turn traitor. I had Edan run off early because I wanted to lull the readers into a sense of security, thinking that their "traitor" character had disappeared already. I also didn't want to throw Ahan's betrayal in with Edan still there–I think that would have made Edan's purpose too obvious to those who could see the two contrasted that way.

The next thing I did was begin foreshadowing that Ahan acts, and speaks, without thinking through his actions. I mention this a couple of places, including at the eclipse party. I made his character a bit indifferent, a lot blustery, and tried to indicate that he didn't quite see the treason he was engaging in as being as dangerous as it really was.

Finally, I began having him act suspicious. You can go look through the spoiler annotations if you want notes of where I had him doing things like this. Essentially, he acted odd when Telrii was mentioned, and he was the one who went to visit Telrii when the group wanted one of their party to get in good with the enemy.

These are small things, I realize. However, I think they work well enough. I wanted to get across a sense of shock and surprise at the betrayal. I always hate it when traitors are obviously oily men with shifty eyes. I don’t think people trust that kind of man.

Anyway, I think the other thing that lets me get away with Ahan's betrayal is that he doesn't completely change characters with the treason. He isn't a different person–he doesn't suddenly become a "bad guy," like happened in some stories. (Ahem. The TV show 24, first season.) Ahan just didn't think hard enough about what he was doing–he took his actions too lightly.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifty-Three - Part Three

There has been some confusion about Raoden's line "After I left" to Sarene right before they go back into the kitchen. Right here, he's getting ready to tell her that he's really Raoden. He is implying that, after he left Kae (and was thrown into Elantris) he didn't think his group of noblemen would keep meeting. It was supposed to be a subtle hint–Sarene would catch something too obvious, and I didn't want to weaken the drama of Raoden's appearance.

This is a very noble, and a very sorrowful, scene. A lot of emotions fly around in this chapter. Again, if I have done my job and made you sympathetic to the characters and their stories, then these emotions will come off as powerful drama. If I've failed, then all you'll get from this scene is melodrama. I hope it worked for you. I wanted Raoden's final revelation–and return to Kae–to be a dramatic and powerful event.

Originally, this scene happened with the Mad Prince, whom I'd built up as being deathly afraid of spirits and ghosts. When Raoden appears, Eton thought he was a ghost, and ran away. (Ha ha. Another pun off the original title of the book. I felt so clever–then cut it all out.) Anyway, on consideration–and in rewriting these scenes to use Telrii instead–I realized that Telrii's soldiers would never strike down Raoden. His nature as the true king of Arelon would be enough to send them all fleeing in surprise and worry.

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Brandon Sanderson

Some people are very surprised by this chapter. It isn't the most narratively-surprising death I've ever written, but it was one of the more sudden ones. I'm sorry if you really liked Roial.

I wrote this book to be less of a "violent book" than some others I've written or read. However, on reflection, I realize that what I intended by this was to write a novel where the protagonists didn't rely on violence as much as they did on their wits. I didn't mean that I wouldn't let the bad guys be. . .well, bad.

(In addition, by the way, this is part of why Raoden and Sarene are such competent people. They don't have swords or magic to perform flashy fight scenes–so, instead, I gave them competence in relation to their personalities. In part, this is what amuses me by complaints that Raoden and Sarene are too flat as characters. Make a man the most brilliant swordsman ever, but make him emotionally incompetent, and you have a "deep" character. Make a man incapable with weaponry, but emotionally mature, and he's flat. Go figure.)

Anyway, back to the topic at hand, I don't think I'm particularly brutal with my characters. (I'm no David Gemmel, for instance. I swear, the body counts in that man's books. . . .) I am, however, realistic. People die in my books. Sometimes they're viewpoint characters. It happens. From a storyteller's viewpoint, I think it makes the tension more real. There IS danger for the characters. In a more philosophical bent, I think this makes the characters more heroic–they aren't protected from the consequences of their decisions. Even if those decisions are good. Choosing to try and overthrow a dictator like Telrii is a dangerous decision, and if the heroes are going to be considered "heroic" for that action, then I have no right to protect them from harm. Doing so would take away the "will" of my villains.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifty-Four

Poor Hrathen. He's been getting jerked around a lot lately–it's hard for him to react to events before new ones draw his attention. In addition, most of the Mad Prince scenes happened in his chapters. That meant that when I did the revision, he lost the largest number of pages. So, his sections here got even shorter than they had been.

Regardless, things have obviously changed for him again. The guard switch-out here is one of my favorite moments in the book. I like the urgency of Hrathen's realization, not to mention how this introduces the scene into chaos.

Originally, the fight scene here took place in the Mad Prince's tent. I had to stretch a bit to keep the dripping flames from above–I just really liked that image. And, I apologize for actually using the words "Time slowed." That mechanic is a bit over-used in fiction, I admit. However, this is one of my early books, so you'll forgive me, right?

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Brandon Sanderson

And, the body count grows. (Ha ha. One of them IS a count.)

I don't kill for shock value. I don't think that's a good reason to do much of anything. I kill characters because of consequences in the plotting. Eondel, unfortunately, was doomed the moment he decided to exact revenge on Telrii. He didn't have enough men to both get in and out of the king's chambers.

I think this is a legitimate reaction for Eondel, however, based on how his character. He was honest, straightforward, and he respected Roial a great deal. He knew that Raoden would never condone an attack like this, but he also thought that it would be best for the country if he killed Telrii. So, he went and preformed his "assassination." This is supposed to be a little ironic, considering the events and decisions of the last chapter.

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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.

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Brandon Sanderson

Aons are an interesting part of this book–perhaps my favorite of the world elements. If you think about the system I've set up, you'll realize some things. First, the Aons have to be older than the Aonic language. They're based directly off of the land. So, the lines that make up the characters aren't arbitrary. Perhaps the sounds associated with them are, but the meanings–at least in part–are inherent. The scene with Raoden explaining how the Aon for "Wood" includes circles matching the forests in the land of Arelon indicates that there is a relationship between the Aons and their meanings. In addition, each Aon produces a magical effect, which would have influenced its meaning.

The second interesting fact about the Aons is that only Elantrians can draw them. And Elantrians have to come from the lands near Arelon. Teoish people can be taken, but only if they're in Arelon at the time. Genetically, then, the Teos and the Arelenes must be linked–and evidence seems to indicate that the Arelenes lived in the land first, and the Teos crossed the sea to colonize their peninsula.

Only Elantrians can draw Aons in the air, so someone taken by the Shaod must have developed the writing system. That is part of what makes writing a noble art in Arelon–drawing the Aons would have been associated with Elantrians. Most likely, the early Elantrians (who probably didn't even have Elantris back then) would have had to learn the Aons by trial and error, finding what each one did, and associating its meaning and sound with its effect. The language didn't develop, but was instead "discovered."

There are likely Aons that haven't even been found yet.

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Brandon Sanderson

Part Two Wrap-up

Things certainly are moving along now. I told you the book would speed up as it approached the ending.

There were some very good moments in this part. I like how removing the Mad Prince from the book streamlined the pacing, and I think it pushes quite well to the final section. A lot is happening now, so I hope that it's hard for you to get to these annotations—I want you to keep reading the book! You can always re-read it a second time, and look through the annotations then.

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Brandon Sanderson

I worked for a while on the last line of Part Two. Originally, Hrathen thought to himself "Well, this isn't good." However, Moshe disagreed with that line. First, he thought it was too quippish. He wanted something more serious here. Second, he didn't think that these events were actually bad for Hrathen. Telrii, a man who had been giving Hrathen serious troubles, and Eondel, one of his main enemies, had just killed each other. On top of that, Roial—the main rival for the throne—is dead. All in all, a lot of annoying people are dead.

Moshe had a point, though I did disagree a bit. I think Hrathen would see Telrii's death as a wasted investment. He was still hoping to control the man, and having Telrii on the throne and amiable to Hrathen would have been a much better outcome, since it would leave Hrathen looking less powerless before Wyrn.

However, I went ahead and changed the line. It now reads "So much for avoiding a bloody revolution." It gets across the same ruefulness as before, without being as flippant.

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Brandon Sanderson

Also, "The Call of Elantris"—the name of Part Two—is probably the weakest of my three sub-titles. I liked "Shadow" and "Spirit" a lot, and I knew that I had to use something parallel. I named this one "Call" because of the way Hrathen and Sarene both end up getting tossed into the city, then end up using that event to their advantage. Raoden also deals with the "call" of the Dor inside himself during this section, overcoming that particular conflict

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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.

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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.

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Brandon Sanderson

Yes, Dilaf manipulating the Dor is supposed to be a major "What the. . . ?" moment in this book. I'm sorry–I didn't really give you much foreshadowing on this one. There really wasn't an opportunity; this isn't the kind of thing that Dilaf would use very often, for fear of betraying his secrets.

I think it works, however, since this scene is actually supposed to be foreshadowing itself. You'll find out more about Dilaf, obviously, in the next chapter.

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Brandon Sanderson

If we were in Sarene's viewpoint here, we'd probably see her thinking about the time this very thing happened to her–at her wedding.

I think her speech makes some good points. However, I think the people of the city have also been through so much lately that they're ready to accept anything. The combination of moving speech and unresponsive crowd is what let them get away with making Raoden king. Honestly, so many people have been popping in and out of Elantris lately that I suspect the people of the city are beginning to lose their edge of fear. They know that the Shaod isn't contagious, and they now know that many Elantrians aren't dangerous. The would see the illusion drop, and finally make the connection between Raoden and the Elantiran Spirit that helped them distribute food.

In this case, hope overcomes fear.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifty-Seven

As I've mentioned before, I didn't want Hrathen's affection for Sarene to ever be overt in the book. He's not a man of passions, and I think he would be very good at keeping his interest unacknowledged, even in his own thoughts. He has "learned to ignore" the passions of the flesh. We only get a few small clues as to his attraction to Sarene, and this chapter is probably has the most of those.

Still, hidden though they are, I wanted it to be obvious that Hrathen is a man, and does have masculine desires. He's found a woman whom he considers his equal–the fact that she is of a heretic religion would only make her more appealing, I think. Hrathen is attracted to challenges, and Sarene is nothing if not challenging.

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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

Ah, and Hrathen's three month timebomb. It's always nice when you can have a timebomb go off early. Hrathen thinks in this very chapter about how he's got a month left on his deadline. However, I suspect that readers will look at the book and realize that there's less than a hundred pages left. Hopefully, with these chapters–Raoden crowned king, Hrathen apparently beaten–I invoke a sense of confusion in the reader. They'll be expecting something big, something they weren't looking for.

The arrival of the Dakhor monks is it. You'll get some more explanation of this later, of course. Anyway, now you know why I kept mentioning the Arelene market and how unprofitable it seemed. The merchants there weren't even really merchants.

In the first draft, I had the monks hiding on the merchants' ships. In a later rewrite, however, I realized that this wasn't as powerful as if I had them actually playing the part of the merchants. If I had them on the ships, I had to have Hrathen follow Dilaf all the way to the docks. In addition, those monks would have had to spend weeks cooped up in the holds of a bunch of merchant ships. So, I changed it so that the monks were impersonating the merchants themselves–a better plan, I think, on their part. This lets them infiltrate the city, move around and scout the area, and essentially hide in plain sight.

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Brandon Sanderson

Okay, so I'm a prude. I'll admit that. I like my characters to be married before they have sex. Besides, Sarene is right–she deserves a wedding. She's waited since chapter two to have her big, princess's wedding. She deserves something official. So, Raoden and Sarene spend this night apart. Besides assuaging my moral sense of decency, it works much better for the plot to have them apart.

Notice that Raoden awakes here, much in the same way that he did in chapter one. I kind of wanted this chapter to call back to that one. Both chapters open with a slight sense of peace, followed by awful discovery. Both end with Raoden being cast into hell.

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Brandon Sanderson

My only sadness concerning the Dakhor is that I had to wait so long to reveal them. I think that visually, they are very interesting. The concept of a group whose bones have been twisted and deformed by powerful magics brings interesting images to mind.

The Dakhor aren't majorly deformed, however–they still have all the pieces in the right places. Their bones have simply been. . .changed. Expanded in places, simply twisted to form patterns in others. Because of this, of course, they have to run around shirtless. It's more dramatic that way. Besides, we spent all this money on special effects–we might as well show them off.

Of all the things in the book, this one worries the most with its sudden appearance. I really did try to foreshadow this as best I could. If it’s still too sudden for you, I apologize. My suggestion is to just sit back and enjoy the ride.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifty-Eight - Part Two

I don't know if you remember or not, but there was some small confusion on Raoden's part earlier about who Sarene was getting to bring supply shipments into Elantris. They always came and left at night, and didn't want anybody there to greet them. I realize we haven't seen the beggars very often, but I thought I'd use them again in this section. It made sense that they would be the ones Sarene used, assuming she knew about them. I'd say that Ashe found them in one of his information-gathering excursions.

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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.

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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.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifty-Eight - Part Three

Kiin's Background

So, call me melodramatic, but I think the Kiin surprise is one of my favorite in the novel. I've been foreshadowing this one from almost the beginning. And while it isn't a major part of the plot, it does suddenly explain a lot about Kiin's character.

So, in case you couldn't infer it from the text, Kiin is Eventeo's (Sarene's father) older brother. He should have inherited the throne, but he wasted his youth on pleasure voyages and exploration, visiting foreign ports while his little brother stayed behind and helped rule the kingdom. (Their father was ailing, and often Eventeo would have to hold court for him and attend the other tasks of king.)

Some minor crisis arrived at the same time as their father died, and Eventeo–thinking his brother unworthy of the throne–eased into the role of king and was crowned before Kiin was the wiser. Eventeo dealt with the problems of state, and generally was a good king. When Kiin got back from his latest trip, however, he was furious to find that his crown had been stolen from him. He demanded it back; Eventeo refused, and had Kiin banished.

Kiin was popular with the military men, however, because of the heroic figure he cut. He was the adventuring sailor, while Eventeo was a scholarly bureaucrat. Over the next few years, Kiin managed to gather a naval force from pirates, deserters from Eventeo's armies, and mercenary forces. It was during this time he nearly died to the accident that crushed his throat. He took the name "Dreok," after Aon Reo, and sailed against Teod, trying to take the throne by force.

Eventeo won (barely) and Kiin escaped with his life (barely.) He went to Arelon to recoup and plan his next invasion. However, he fell in love with Daora, and slowly began to loose his hard edge. A decade or so later, we have Kiin the chef and home-maker.

I think it's a great backstory because of the questions it leaves. Eventeo did something that might have been right for his country, but something that was legally incorrect. All excuses aside, he usurped the throne. Kiin wouldn't have made a good king–he didn't have practice at administration, and he was a brusque, impetuous young man. However, the throne still should have been his.

Moments like this one–when the secrets, foreshadowing, and hints all click together–are one of my greatest joys in writing. We've got a few more good ones coming up in the book. However, I did go a little overboard in places. We'll talk about that next.

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Brandon Sanderson


So. . .in the original draft, Torena is Eventeo's new spy in Arelon. Do you remember the conversation that Sarene and Eventeo had a little ways back? The one where he told her he had a new spy in Arelon, and refused to tell Sarene who it is? Well, yes. Torena.

When I was writing this book, I went a little bit too far with the hidden pasts and amazing discoveries. I had Torena being the one who came to rescue Sarene from the Dakhor. (She arrived in a second carriage, I think.) However, the Dakhor caught up to them again, and suddenly Kiin appeared to save them.

This scene was terrible. It's not that any of the pieces were bad. It's just that it was too repetitive. First you find out Torena has a secret past, and that she's come to rescue Sarene. Then we find out that Kiin has a secret past and he's come to rescue Sarene. It just didn't work–and the Torena surprise, which was only mildly foreshadowed, ruined the much better Kiin surprise.

So, I cut the Torena parts–and I'm very glad that I did. My early alpha readers said that the worst part about the book was how all of the surprises at the end interfered with each other. Looking back, some of the things I did are embarrassing. I was adding surprises just for the sake of surprises. This is always a bad idea–surprises should be integral to plot and character, just like everything else. We want to find out about Kiin because we like him and are interested in him. We don't really care about Torena.

(In my defense, I originally intended Torena to be a female friend for Sarene, kind of a second sidekick. However, there were already too many people hanging out with Sarene, and I just couldn't work Torena in without complicating things even further.)

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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

I've only mentioned Gragdets a couple of places. Hrathen never thinks much about them, since he doesn't consider them part of the traditional Derethi structure. In truth, they aren't–but they do have authority over a Gyorn in their own small sphere. I don't think that the reader needs to understand the entire social structure of the religion, however. Hrathen understands what is happening, and knows that he should probably let himself be under Dilaf's authority. That should be enough for most readers.

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And, yes, Dilaf always had bones that were deformed. That's why I mention that they're not terribly disfiguring–they would be quite easy to hide under robes. And I often pointed out in the book that Dilaf was wearing his enveloping robes.

Hopefully, these moments–Dilaf's unleashing–have been building for you through the entire book. By now, you should have realized that Dilaf was always the main villain of the story. He's the one with true hatred, and true instability. Hrathen is an antagonist, but he's no villain. Dilaf, however, has been built-up as someone who can do some truly terrible things. Now he’s unleashed, and he has an army of demonic monks at his control.

And yes, we'll get to more about how Dilaf was able to imitate an Arelene later.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifty-Nine - Part One

I think I've noted that my viewpoints tend to speed up as I approach the endings of books. Well, Elantris is a perfect example. We're hopping viewpoints like a crazed body-snatcher. At the risk of sounding redundant, I did this to increase pacing and tension. Quick-rotating viewpoints give a cinematic feel to the story, in my opinion–kind of like cameras changing angles. This keeps things quick and snappy, and keeps the reader reading.

It should be noted that writing and filmmaking are two completely different arts. What works in one doesn't work in the other–action sequences, for instance, have to be written completely differently in a novel than they would be displayed on screen. However, both storytelling forms try to evoke similar feelings in their audiences. So, you can't do the same things in writing as you can in filmmaking–but you can get a similar effect by using different tools. Here, I use viewpoint shifts, which is something a filmmaker can't really access without first-person voice-overs. Viewpoint is, in my opinion, one of the prime unique tools that we have as writers. That's why I think it's important to understand, and to manipulate.

If you're paying attention to such things, we actually get two complete–and well-rotated–viewpoint triads in this chapter. Again, this is to increase the sense of urgency and pacing.

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Oh, and yes, Elantrians can go unconscious. They can fall asleep, after all. The Elantrian brain is the one organ that continues to work very similarly to the way it did before the Shaod. So, taking a large amount of trauma can make it black out. The Elantrian won't remain unconscious forever–but when he wakes up, the actual physical damage will be there. That's why Raoden loses his sense of balance and everything gets fuzzy.

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Chapter Fifty-Nine - Part Two

Kiin gets a little over-confident here by letting the two of them go on top. However, he doesn't know how powerful the Dakhor are. He assumes that his roof is unscalable.

In addition, he realizes how difficult a situation he is in. Dilaf has an army–Kiin's fortress house, no matter how well fortified, can't defend against them for long. He needs to do something, and thinks that maybe the negotiations will offer a way. So, he takes the chance.


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"Failed my love. . . ."

Poor Sarene. Her weddings just never work out. Honestly, I think this might be one of the most traumatic sections of writing I've ever done. (Traumatic for the characters, that is. Like most writers, I'm a closet masochist, and enjoy making my characters–and my readers–squirm.) Things aren't looking too good. Maybe they'll get better in the next chapter.

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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.

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I like finally having a chance to characterize Galladon internally. My sense is that you can never really get to know a character until you can see their thoughts. So, I gave a nice little series of viewpoints to Galladon, partially to show what was happening to Raoden's body, partially so that I could have some last-minute introspection and philosophizing regarding what is happening in the chapters.

Galladon's hope monologue in this chapter is probably the most powerful, and most interesting, section he gets in the book. This piece is supposed to mimic what the reader is feeling–things are going terribly, but Raoden has always managed to pull out a miracle. He may look bad now, but he can still save them. Can't he?

I think Galladon is more pessimistic–naturally–than the reader will be. However, he raises good questions, and his talk about hope–how Raoden's gift to him is the inability to give up completely–is one final showing of the power Raoden's personality has in this book. Perhaps the most amazing thing Raoden does in this book–more difficult a task to overcome than the gangs, more rewarding than taking the throne of Arelon–is make a believer out of a man like Galladon. A man who had given up on hope, but who now continues to believe, even though all is lost.

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Chapter Sixty - Part Two


Lukel isn't as interesting as Galladon, but I still enjoyed giving him a viewpoint. He has the perfect personality to show what I wanted in these chapters. He's not a warrior–like Kiin–or a king–like Raoden. He's just a regular person caught in a nightmare.

I wanted to deal a little bit with prisoner mentality in this scene. People allow terrible things to be done to them in situations like this. Part of it is because they fear what COULD happen more than they fear what IS happening. In this case, hope proves their enemy. The Dakhor stop killing the people and start rounding them up instead. The reason for this is simple–after seeing and hearing such terrible things, the people would run and fight. However, if the Dakhor back off, the people can hope that the worst is over. For this reason, they let themselves get rounded up and gathered in Elantris.

It may seem convenient that the soldiers wait to kill the people, but I think it makes sense. You want to gather everyone in an enclosed place, where they will be trapped, before you begin your slaughter in earnest. That way you can be certain there are no escapees. The only one I fudged here was Kiin. A Dakhor probably should have killed him. However, I've had enough corpses in this book. Randomly killing off Kiin seemed like too much. (Some readers are already in rebellion over the people I've killed–or, rather, will kill shortly. . . .)

Anyway, I get past part of this concern by throwing in the "purification rites" line. This hints that there is some sort of ritual that needs to be preformed before the people can be killed, and therefore explains why the Dakhor don't just slaughter them immediately. (I still think that control is the greater reason, however.) Another explanation of why the slaughter starts is mentioned by Lukel. Most of the Derethi left in Arelon are regular soldier-monks, not Dakhor. They don't have the same. . .zeal for destruction as Dakhor.

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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.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Sixty - Part Three

Dakhor Magic

I actually didn't plan to use the "teleportation" aspect of the Dakhor magic. However, I wrote myself into this chapter, then suddenly realized that I needed to get the group Teod in a real hurry. I couldn't let days pass while Sarene, Hrathen, and Dilaf sailed to the peninsula as I'd originally intended. (I have no idea what I was thinking.) So, I added in teleportation. It ended up working out very well in the book, as it let me add another dimension to the Dakhor magic–that of having it cost a life to create some of its effects.

This, more than anything, should instill in the reader a sense of disgust regarding the Dakhor. I particularly like Hrathen's story about Dilaf making someone die so he could travel to a place fifteen minutes away. It characterizes Dilaf perfectly while at the same time giving a clue to how strict and obedient his order is. This isn't a group of people you want to mess with. It's the ultimate exaggeration of Derethi beliefs on loyalty and structure.

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Adien's Secret

I almost cut this entire twist from the book. I've never been happy with how it worked out, and I think there are–as I've mentioned–still a few too many surprises and twists at the end of the book. (Though, I have fixed it somewhat. It used to be that virtually EVERYONE had a secret past or personality trait that came out in these last four chapters.) Anyway, I don't like the Adien twist–it lacks power since we don't really care about him, and his character–the autistic–isn't terribly original anyway.

I've left the Adien twist in for a single reason. However, it's a bit of a spoiler, so I'll put it invisible for those of you who haven't read the ending yet. You can come back and read this later.

Anyway, Adien is my planned hero for book two. I like the concept of a healed autistic being the hero of the next book. And, since he's so good with numbers, he would be incredibly powerful at AonDor. I think he'd be a compelling character to look at, so I left him in this book in case I wanted to use him in the next one.

Adien has been an Elantrian for some time. That's why Kiin's family knows so much about Elantrians. Read back to the earlier chapters, and you'll see a scene or two where Sarene wonders why they know so much about Elantris and its occupants. They hid Adien's transformation with makeup, and his autism kept him out of social circles anyway, so no one really paid much attention to the fact that he was never around.

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Lukel and the Will to Fight

I wanted to bring the "sheep" idea full-circle in this chapter, and show that people don't just have to go along to their slaughter with docility. I think readers will be rooting for this, and this section–where Lukel and Shuden prepare to attack–gives us a little hope. This is a very tense chapter, and everything is going wrong. I decided I needed a few points of light in the narrative, otherwise it might get too depressing. So, I hint the people won't get killed without a fight.

Besides, this lets Lukel–the regular guy surrounded by mages, heroes, and politicians–be a bit of a hero himself. He overcomes his fear and his lethargy.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Sixty - Part Four

Raoden Viewpoints

It was essential to this chapter that I establish that Raoden can catch glimpses of what's happening around him. I went to a lot of work to get him into place above the city where he could make the connection, looking down on Elantris and the outer cities. The pool, actually, simply grew out of my need to find a way to put Raoden on the slopes of the mountains near the ending of the book. I like how it turned out in the final story–it added a dimension of mysticism to the Elantrian belief system, and it worked very well into the plotting I had developed. My only worry about it is that it was too far away from the Elantris, but we'll talk about that later.

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The Spirit of Elantris

So, this moment–where Raoden is nearly dead, looking down on the cities, and finally makes the connection–was one of the scenes that made me want to write this book. In each novel I write, I have some important scenes in my mind. They're like. . .focuses for the novel. They're the places I know I need to get, and they're usually very dynamic in my mind. In a way, I tell the rest of the story just so I can make my way to these moments.

This book had two main Moments for me. We haven't gotten to the second yet, but this is the first. I hope that you, the reader, arrived at the realization just as Raoden did. I've had a lot of trouble getting this balance right. Some readers figured out the secret early, while others (the larger group) didn't even understand what's going on in this chapter.

If it requires explanation, Raoden is thinking about Aon Rao. Then he notices that Elantris and the cities around it form a pattern–the exact pattern of Aon Rao. The cities form an Aon on the ground. At this moment, Raoden realizes why Elantris fell, and why the Elantrians went with it. If you haven't figured it out yet, I won't spoil it for you.

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I really wanted to bring these Dilaf scenes in and make them personal. That was my prime reasoning behind sending Sarene with him. I wanted the reader to care, and I wanted Hrathen to care–which, hopefully, would make the reader care even more.

Dilaf was very interesting to write as an antagonist. By the time he finally came to his own, I didn't have to worry about developing him as a viable threat. His personality through the entire novel had prepared the reader for the awful moment when he finally got the other characters into his power. And, because Hrathen was so sympathetic a villain through the entire novel, I think I can make Dilaf more raw and unapproachable. It's nice to have sympathetic villains, but with Hrathen in the book, I didn't feel that I needed much sympathy for Dilaf. Also, with one such well-drawn villain, I felt that if I tried to do the same with Dilaf, the comparison would make him come off very poorly. So, I went the other direction, and the contrast gives the readers someone that they can just hate.

If they didn't hate him already, then this last scene with Sarene was meant to push them over the edge. Here is a man who kills for pleasure. No matter how wronged he was in the past, he has no justification for the cruelty and enjoyment he displays in anticipating Sarene's death. This is an evil man.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Sixty-One - Part One

Hrathen's Decision

As I've mentioned, Hrathen has the most progression of any of the characters in this book. It's fitting, therefore, that he should get the best character climax.

Essentially, Elantris–at least Hrathen's third of it–is a redemption story. It is the story of Hrathen trying to make up for the massacre he caused in Duladel. Beyond that, it's the story of a man struggling to understand what faith is, and what that faith requires of him. In the end, his decision to save Sarene comes as a rejection of the sins of his past. And, in a slight way, it is a rejection of the heartless, logical man he assumed himself to be.

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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.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Sixty-One - Part Two

Shuden's ChayShan

The several mentions of the ChayShan, along with both of the scenes where Shuden performs it, were added to the book to give a feeling of scope. I wanted the reader to understand that there are things in this world that are different from the increasingly-familiar magic and society of Arelon.

We'll talk a little bit more about this event in the text. However, realize that the ChayShan wasn't ever intended to be effective or successful–it's not a Deus Ex Machina for the people trapped inside Elantris. It is a hint of things I plan to do with the future of this world.

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Brandon Sanderson

The Women Fighting

Talk of the ChayShan leads us into the scene where Sarene's women decide to fight back. Like the ChayShan, this plotting element wasn't intended to be anything spectacular, or to provide last minute salvation. In fact, the actual battle is kind of short. (My editor, by the way, thinks that I should have expanded this scene, letting the women be a little more heroic. I didn't necessarily disagree, but that edit just never found its way into a revision.)

The women attack because it fulfills the form of this novel. This is a book about people who resist despite hopelessness, and it is about making use of you limitations to overcome your hardships. It's about the spirit of mankind.

Not everyone who does things like this, however, is going to be as successful as Raoden. I wanted the women to fight back here–I wanted them to give a nod to the theme of the book while at the same time fulfilling Sarene's "fencing plot" cycle. The women did her proud–the fought back while their men waited to be slain.

Interestingly, this Lukel scene fulfills the opposite function of what his previous one. Instead of offering a bit of hope when all the other viewpoints look dark, this one turns down while the others are having success.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Sixty-One - Part Three

Raoden's Run

Now, perhaps, you see why I was worried that I had Raoden too far up on the slope. In order for the plot to work, I had to get him down to the city in a hurry so that he could draw the Chasm Line.

If you think about pacing a little bit as you read this chapter, you'll see that a lot more time is passing between sections than I'm implying by the quick cuts. It probably takes Raoden a good twenty minutes of running to get down that mountain. Fortunately, I've established that Elantrians don't get out-of-breath.

He also runs, dragging the stick, longer than I imply. I think the pacing here is important to keep up the tension. However, if you draw the line, you'll see that he had to cross a good distance of land while dragging his stick.

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The Spirit of Elantris (Part Two)

So, my only worry about the climax here is that it's a little hard to visualize. Because I never quite got the map to look like I wanted it too, it's hard to see what Raoden is doing in this chapter. Essentially, he adds the chasm line to the Aon Rao that Elantris and its outer cities form. Because Elantris was an Aon, it stopped working just like all of the other Aons did when the Reod occurred. I've established several times in the book that the medium an Elantrian draws in–whether it be mud, the air, or in this case dirt–doesn't matter. The form of the Aon is the important part. By putting a line in the proper place, Raoden creates a gate that allows the Dor to flow into Elantris and resume its intended purpose.

This is the scene that made me want to write this book. It, along with the one I talked about in the last chapter, formed a climax that I just itched and squirmed to write. (That's always a good sign, by the way.) The central visual image of this book is that of the silvery light exploding from the ground around Raoden, then running around the city. Storytelling-wise, this is the one scene I wish I could do cinematically rather than in text.

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I'm sorry for killing Karata. It felt like the right thing to do right here, even though my readers universally disagree with this decision. This is a very important series of events. If I didn't have any real danger for the characters, then I think earlier events–where characters did die–would come across feeling more weighty. Karata and Galladon throw themselves at a troop of armed soldiers. There was no way for that to end well.

(By the way, none of the readers have even batted an eye about Eshen's death. I guess she got on their nerves.)

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Sixty-One - Part Four

Hrathen and Sarene There is some good, if terse, exposition here with Hrathen sorting through his feelings. I don't think he really wants to come to any answers right now. Logic has lead him astray before, and now that he's doing what he feels is right, he doesn't want to pause to give himself a chance to consider the ramifications of what he’s done.

Again, Sarene has fulfilled her purpose in the book. She's thrown chaos into Hrathen's otherwise-orderly life. However, her chaos here–just like the chaos she caused in Elantris with her food–eventually proves to be a good thing. It inspires change for the better, even though that change is painful.

And, of course, I remind the reader here that there is something odd about Hrathen's arm. I've only mentioned it in a couple of places, so I don't expect people to remember what is going on here. I actually forgot to have the sleeve in the original rewrite. I didn't even think to notice that his Dakhor arm would be exposed to Sarene in this scene. . . .
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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.

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The Salvation of Elantris

Yes, Raoden lets the Dakhor monks go. That's the sort of thing that happens in this book. If you want something more gritty, you can read Mistborn. (Which is gritty for me, though nowhere near the genius sadism of George R. R. Martin's books.)

I like having this scene from Lukel's viewpoint. If nothing else were gained from his other sections, I think the scene of the Elantrians emerging from the flames would be enough to justify his viewpoints in these last few chapters.

So, anyway, that's one major plot line finished. Elantris has been restored. Most fantasies, however, are about characters more they are about plot. I love great twists and revelations–but the book isn't over until the characters are fulfilled. So, onward.

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Brandon Sanderson


Okay, so not all of the random surprises were cut from the book. I considered writing Fjon's appearance out of the book on several occasions, and I also played with several ways of using this scene. Eventually, I settled on what you see now–which was my original version.

I realize this is a kind of "out-of-nowhere" shock. If I were writing this book today, I'd probably have cut this one. I'd also have slowed this chapter down a bit–I think the quick viewpoint jumps are getting a bit tired. They work for a short time, but I've been going with them for too long. (Sorry.)

Anyway, back to Fjon. He has two basic purposes in the book. First is to kind of prove to Hrathen that no amount of logic and planning can prepare him for everything. The second is to set up Wyrn as a more mysterious, and more powerful, character. I definitely meant to imply that Wyrn managed to see, limitedly, into the future and sent Fjon to the place where he'd be able to slay an important traitor to Fjorden. I also thought Fjon's appearance a nice tie back to the early chapters.

Looking back on it now, I still worry about this scene. Perhaps the book would have felt more professional if I'd just taken Hrathen out with a stab from Dilaf or one of his monks. The Fjon shock just wasn't built up enough to earn its place in the book. However, at the same time, a piece of me likes the fact that this one event is completely random. It doesn't detract from any of the characters–which is my main reason for avoiding random surprises. In battles, wars, and political conflicts, sometimes things happen that are completely unexpected. This is one of them.

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And, here we have Lukel joking again. Just like a the end of last chapter, where he faints. Comic relief shouldn't be underestimated, I think. Especially comic relief like this–jests and levity given in-character by people who are trying to lighten the mood of a stressful time. Lukel isn't there simply to entertain the reader, he's there to show a different side of human reaction. I think that if I were in his situation, I'd be trying to find a way to laugh about what happened too.

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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.

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Damsel in Distress

Now, I'd just like to note here that Raoden's just returning a favor. Sarene is the one who gave him the clue that led to his fixing the Aons, then finally restoring Elantris. Now that she's in danger, he gets to rescue her in turn. Just because someone finds themselves in danger or trouble does not mean that they themselves aren't competent.

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Weak Aons

Elantris is like a massive power conduit. It focuses the Dor, strengthening its power (or, rather, the power of the Aons to release it) in Arelon. This far away from Elantris, however, the Aons are about as powerful as they were before Raoden fixed Elantris.

If you consider it, it makes logical sense that the Aons would be tied to Elantris and Arelon, yet would work without them. The Aons had to exist before Elantris–otherwise, the original Elantrians wouldn't have known the shape to make the city. Their study of AonDor taught them a method for amplifying Aon power.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Sixty-Two - Part Three

The Dakhor Monks

In the original write of the book, the Dakhor broke and ran before the Elantiran attack. My thought was that the Dakhor always been so much more powerful than their opponents that they didn't know what to do when faced with someone more powerful than they were. In a rewrite, however, I changed this. I'd spent too much time establishing that he Dakhor were fiercely loyal. I see them as fanatics–people who were either originally like Dilaf, or who became like him through their conditioning. They wouldn't break before a superior force–they'd attack it, even if it meant getting slaughtered.

This revision works far better for me–especially since I can have the scene where Dilaf wishes he could join them. Death is not something that scares a group like this.

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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


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.

#239 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Sixty-Three


Well, Sarene finally gets her wedding. I hope the women don't kill me for showing it from Raoden's bored viewpoint rather than Sarene's excited one. However, there were a lot of things I needed to go over in a relatively short period of time here.

When I was younger, I always got mad at authors for having denouements that were too short. Perhaps I'd be angry at myself, if I were to read the book. (I've always wondered what Brandon the teenage reader would have to say about my current works.) Regardless, I've since become a fan of terse endings. I try to wrap things up thematically while still pointing out all the different ways the plot could go, if more were to happen.

Stories never really end. Any author will tell you this–we've always got more to say. That doesn't mean that there will certainly be a sequel to this book. (See below) It just means that the characters live on in my mind, and that I want to give a sense that the world continues.

#240 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Loose Threads

You'll notice, therefore, that I pile on the lose threads here. The most important one, of course, is the concept that Fjorden has gained access to the Dor (presumably recently.) The Dakhor are a newer development–Wyrn was just getting ready to use them against Elantris when the city fell on its own. (Dilaf wasn't the only Dakhor plant inside Arelon. But, those are stories for another time.) Anyway, I think I gave myself plenty of sequel room here. There are the questions about the Dor, about Fjorden, and about the seons.

That said, I can't honestly promise that I'll do an Elantris sequel. When I was writing during this period of my life (some seven years ago now), I was trying to create as many first books as possible. I was sending them all off to publishers, trying to get someone to bite on one of them so I could start a series. However, since I was a nobody, I had to write each book as a stand-alone as well. Publishers, I was told, like to get books from new authors that could stand alone or launch into a series. That way, they’re not committing to anything drastic, but can monopolize on popularity if it comes.

Elantris turned out to be one of the best stand-alones I did. I kind of like how it doesn't really need anything more to make it feel complete. And, I've got so many stories that I want to tell, I don't know that I'll be able to get back to this one. I guess it will depend upon how well Elantris sells, and whether or not Tor pushes me toward writing more books in this world.

Anyway, I've got plenty of things I could talk about if I do come back.

#242 Copy

Brandon Sanderson


This is the dénouement to the denouement, I guess. We get to end with my favorite character, tying up some of the small loose ends that were related to her storyline. There is some good material here–she points out that Raoden is doing well as king, how Ahan is fairing, and gives a nice prognosis for the future of Arelon.

However, the important part of the epilogue comes at the end. I love the last line of the book, despite the fact that Joshua disagrees with it. (He wanted something else there–I can't quite remember now what his quibble was.)

Anyway, I always intended to end this book talking about Hrathen. He was their savior, after a manner–and he certainly was a dominant force in the book. I wanted to give him one final send-off–to honor him for what he did, both for Arelon, and for the story in general.

#243 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Book Wrap-up

So, that's my book. It may be about seven years old to me now (it was written in '99), but I still retain a great fondness for it. You have no idea how exciting it is to finally see it in print.

Hopefully, you enjoyed these annotations. I want to do them for all of my novels, but we'll see how things go. (Note from future Brandon, who is posting this after he wrote it some months earlier. There WILL be Mistborn Annotations starting July, 2006!)

For now, I've got about 40,000 words here—a good half of a novel for free. Keep coming back to the website for more information, and make certain you check out the other bonus materials. (Deleted scenes will be posted throughout June.)

Oh, and make sure you go by Mistborn when it comes out! If Elantris was this good and I did it seven years ago, think of what kinds of things I'm working on right now!

I did most of these annotations while doing the copy edit of Elantris—which is probably the last good read I'll give the book in the drafting process. Ten drafts. And now I turn away from the book and call it complete.

Thank you so much for reading.

The Elantris project

Begun 9-27-1999 (First Word to Page)

Finished 10-18-2004 (Final Annotation Written)

#244 Copy

Brandon Sanderson


I am not a linguist. I have some understanding of morphemes and the history of language, but only enough to avoid looking like a complete idiot. That’s all right. I am not Tolkien; it was never my intention to create viable languages in Elantris. I was busy enough crafting the story without worrying whether or not someone will be able to someday release an Aonic transition of Hamlet.

That isn’t to say that the languages in my books are not important. In fact, they’re vital. A novel, at its basest level, is constructed of words—and words, at their basest level, are constructed of sounds. The sounds of names and phrases give the first subconscious clue to a character’s motivations and origins. Before you know a man’s thoughts in a book—before you see him act—you often know his name. The sound of that name is your first impression.

Like many fantasists, I use linguistic themes to give characterization to the cultures in my books. Even for the best author, containing an entire world in the meager 200,000 allotted words of a novel is a difficult task. We can’t afford to use names and languages lightly—they must give clues to the nature of the cultures involved, otherwise we might as well call the hero ‘Tom’ as opposed to ‘Raoden.’

#245 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Basic Process

I take several approaches to constructing languages for my works. The first thing I ask myself is how much I’m going to be using this language. How many characters will speak it? Will the setting take place in a land native to that tongue? How important, overall, is language to this particular book?

In Elantris I realized that Aonic was going to be an integral part of the novel. The magical power of AonDor was once accessed through the form of the Aon characters. In this culture, language is a very literal power, and the practice and use of it would denote royalty, high-breeding, and even divinity.

The other languages included were of varying lesser importance. Fjordell—the language of Fjorden’s priesthood—would be second in importance, for it was to be the native tongue of the only non-Aonic point-of-view character. To Hrathen, language was to become a symbol of purity and of the chosen race. It had religious significance, and was to be a subtle model of the elitist culture from which Hrathen hailed.

The languages of Duladen, Svorden, and JinDo were of least significance. They had important characters representing them, but no major point-of-view characters. With the weight of Aonic and Fjordell already bulking up the linguistic part of the novel, I decided I wanted these three languages to provide flavor only. I wanted their representative words and names to give an instant clue to the nature of the society, and then add variety through the novel without becoming unwieldy.

#246 Copy

Brandon Sanderson


In the initial stages of Elantris‘ development, Aonic was one of the more difficult elements to construct. The Aons themselves—then still unnamed—were to become a major part of the novel. I wanted all of the Aonic names—including the names of two POV characters—to include references to the language. In addition, the magic system had complex connections with the Aons, influencing their actual forms and design. Furthermore, one of the greatest puzzles in the novel—that of Elantris‘ mysterious fall—was intimately tied to the power and shape of the Aons.

I began looking for sounds and themes. Usually, when I construct a language, I try to develop something with a few basic sound patterns that are easily recognizable. When a reader runs across a name in the book, I want them to be able to instantly determine which country that name came from. However, the names can’t be too similar, otherwise they will become a jumbled mess in the reader’s mind.

So I started, as I often do, with a couple of names. The first one I devised, I believe, was Raoden. The sound “Rao” (both vowels are pronounced in their long form) struck me. One of the things I wanted from Aonic was resonance with ancient classicism. I wanted the reader to reference a culture with a great, majestic history. Golden age Greece or imperial Rome—lands were gods were very real, and were thought to interfere with the workings of mortals. To the modern mind, these cultures bear a weight of age.

Rao. (Pronounced Ray-Oh). I liked the repeated long vowel sounds—they seemed to bear the weight I wanted. From there, I constructed other morphemes. Ene. Ashe. Dio. I started combining these, constructing a language that references modern Japanese with its combination of a natural tongue and imported Chinese characters.

The result was the Aonic language. Each name or word contained an Aon—a two-syllable morpheme that contained two log vowel sounds—and a non-Aon prefix or suffix. Raoden, for instance, contains the Aon ‘Rao’ with the non-Aon suffix ‘den.’ Seon contained the Aon ‘Seo’ with the suffix ‘n.’ The accent in these words is always placed on the Aon.

Then, like any good modern language, I was forced to bend a few rules. The name of the city was very important to the book, as I intended it to be in the title. I played around with several different words, including one that stayed through the entire rough draft of the novel—a word based on the Aon ‘Ado.’

In the end, however, I grew very partial to the word ‘Elantris.’ Again, this was for connotative reasons. It brought to mind ancient cultures without actually being too similar to any names I knew. The word seemed to have mythic import. Unfortunately, it didn’t contain an Aon. In the end, I went with it anyway. Any good language has sound-changes and broken rules. Elantris, therefore, is based off of the Aon ‘Ela,’ which is a very Aonic sound. When combined with its suffix, however, the secondary vowel is weakened—though not completely. When I say the word in my head, the ‘a’ sound is stronger than it probably is to most readers.

The second bent rule references Sarene’s name. Originally, her Aon was ‘Ana,’ with two long ‘a’ sounds. Unfortunately, ana looked too similar to the word ‘anal’ to me. Eventually, I changed her from Sarana to Sarene. Still, in my head, I pronounce this word ‘Sar-Aynay,’ though the Aonic usage of the name would be more appropriately rendered ‘Sar-eenee.’

With the Aonic language finished, I could easily fill in the names of side-characters and places. I threw out a few sounds—there is no ‘u’ sound or ‘th’ sound in Aonic—and from there could construct hundreds of names from Aonic combinations of sounds. I designed a few of the characters for referencing in the book, and the language grew from there.

#247 Copy

Brandon Sanderson


The Fjordell language was a little more formed in my head in the pre-writing stage than Aonic was. I already had an idea of what I wanted this culture, and its language, to represent. I’ve always been fascinated by the rise of the Roman empire, first in military power, then in theological power. Latin and Catholicism fit very will with Rome’s logical, almost bureaucratic, culture.

I wondered what would happen if a similar train of events had led a more war-like, barbarous culture to power. What would happen if the Scandinavian tribes had been able to unite and conquer all of Europe? The answer was simple, in my mind—they didn’t have the bureaucratic skill to run an empire. It would have collapsed.

And that was where Fjorden came from. I imagined three distinct periods in its history. First, the rise of a war-like tribe to imperial dominance. However, once the empire was established and it ran out of foes to conquer, I imagined the new empire struggling to maintain control. Eventually, the First Empire collapsed under its own weight.

However, this experience taught the Fjordell leaders what it was they did wrong. They learned order, organization, and—most importantly—they learned patience. Under the leadership of an inspired ruler, they abandoned their conquering ways and focused instead on Shu-Korath, a newly-budding religion that combined their ancient pantheistic beliefs with a more modern sense of theological order. This religion, which held the power of forced unity as one of its major themes, appealed to the warrior sense of the Fjordell.

With that, the Second Empire was born. Now, instead of an army of warriors, Fjorden had an army of priests. The empire learned to lead more subtly, using its doctrines to control, rather than its swords.

This country had to sound Scandinavian—the more like Beowulf the better. I had Hrathen’s name from almost the beginning, though I quibbled a little more on Fjorden itself. (I realize the name itself is a little gimmicky, but so far I’ve had good reactions from it.)

Fjorden is defined in my mind more by its sounds than by any specific set of linguistic characteristics. The language prefers guttural sounds. ‘U’ sounds, ‘F’ sounds, ‘H’ sounds, and ‘G’ sounds. I added in a Hebrew ‘Y’ sound in the form of a ‘J,’ and placed emphasis on the ‘Hr’ combination. From this language, we get names like Dilaf, Jaddeth (pronounced yah-death,) and Sycla.

#248 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Duladen, Jindoeese, Svordish

Duladen is a language purely of tonal convenience. My only rule for this language was to use that which ‘sounded right.’ It seemed wrong, in a way, to force any firm linguistic constructions on the Dulas. In addition, Galladon’s use of Dula slang was to become a major mood element of the book. I didn’t have enough time in the book to develop the language in detail, but I needed its sounds to give atmosphere.

Duladen implies a laid-back, loose culture. Its words flow smoothly, and even have a hint of ridiculousness to our English-accustomed ears. Even the Dula word for Hell, ‘Doloken,’ has a kind of rhythmic nonchalance about it. Ironically, the part of the Dula language I was most unsatisfied with was its lead character’s name. I eventually changed it from “Galerion” to “Galladon” to make it fit better.

JinDo is probably the least original of the languages in the book. It is an unabashed rip-off of Chinese, as can easily be distinguished. I did this with some hesitance. I worried that I had too much of a ‘learning curve’ in the setting of the book already, especially with the strange circumstances Raoden was going to be forced to endure. When it came to the JinDo language and culture, I feared that stuffing too much development into such a minor part of the book would make it unwieldy.

JinDo is most important for the philosophers it spawned, three men who eventually became the religious foundations of the continent. I chose an Oriental culture to mimic in this case because of the mystical way in which most western cultures regard Asian-sounding names. Simply by calling something “JinDo” gave it an instant sense of foreign-ness.

I went, perhaps, too far by making the adjectival reference for the nation ‘Jindoeese.’ I probably should have gone with simply “JinDo” as both noun and adjective. Other than that, I am satisfied with the culture, despite its lack of original sounds.

The final language, Svordish, was almost an afterthought. I wanted to make it a dialect of Fjordell, something I could point out to show that all of the nations beyond the mountains weren’t just one big stereotype. By giving Svorden a minor identity of its own—with a side character and the ‘sv’ pattern of sounds—I hoped to give a bit of roundness to the unseen Fjordell empire.

#249 Copy

Brandon Sanderson


That is about it for the languages in Elantris. There are books for which I’ve spent a lot more time on the languages, but there are also books for which I’ve spent far less. Overall, I like how the sounds in this book add to the feel of the various nationalities, though I realize that Aonic names (in particular) are difficult to pronounce at first. If you have your own way of saying them, well that’s just fine. I do the same thing with books I read.

Event details
Name Elantris Annotations
Date April 21, 2005
Location Brandon's website
Entries 249
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