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Author Topic: Elantris
Meredith
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I recently started ELANTRIS by Brandon Sanderson. I'm having a little bit of a hard time getting into it. I'm keeping at it, because I sense a good story there if it ever gets started. And I'm asking myself why it's so hard to get into.

I think it's because the POV character changes with every chapter. I find myself wanting to skip ahead to the next Raoden chapter, in search of the central conflict. I have a sense where it's going, but it's so slow getting me to that conflict, or really any conflict other than Raoden doesn't like what's happened to him and his father is a jerk.

BTW, I also caught a couple of said bookisms. ". . . she informed . . ."


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Books that do that drive me crazy. I loved ELANTRIS, though, in spite of the way Sanderson kept doing that.

My recommendation, Meredith, is to do what I do when I can't stand it any more: skip to the chapter that continues with the characters I've been reading about until I am satisfied with what is happening to them (in other words, until I find a stopping place in their story that I can deal with), then go back and read the chapters about the other characters until I can care enough about them to be willing to follow the story in the order the author wrote it.

I hope that makes sense.


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KayTi
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I think ultimately the storyline follows the girl more than the guy, but she doesn't get introduced right away. Stick with it, it's a really really interesting story and worth your time.

But I do agree with you. I don't care for the multiple-POV novels, I much prefer a tight third single POV character, with occasional other characters interspersed for just a bit to show us some part of the action we need to see but our character wasn't present for.

I'm reading some books right now that have the main character in first person, then there are chapters every so often featuring the other characters, but it's told in third close for their chapters. It was jarring at first, but I'm glad the author did it because it's a clear demarcation of which character I'm reading about. And thankfully, it's only done occasionally - most of the chapters are told from the 1st MC POV.


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Meredith
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I'm finding this very interesting. Every novel that I've written so far has several POV characters. Except in SEVEN STARS, which is still only 30K into the first draft, I do stick pretty much with one POV for the first several chapters, though.

The last book I read that I really enjoyed was PALLADIN OF SOULS by Lois McMaster Bujold. She stays in one POV throughout the story. It does have some disadvantages, though. There area a couple of really interesting or exciting things that I would have liked to "see", but I had to be satisfied with being told about them as the MC heard about it because she wasn't there.

I don't think I mind multiple POV characters as long as there's one clear MC and I get to settle in with that character before going visiting.

It's definitely interesting to see the effect all the shifting around right at the beginning has. But I don't think that's the only problem I have. Like I said above, I'm still in search of a central conflict or problem that I really care about. Sarene doesn't seem too broken up that her "husband" is dead. The king is such a jerk that I really don't much care if Hrathen overthrows the kingdom. And Raoden is still floundering around without any clear purpose other than not to stub his toe again.


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MAP
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I had a tough time getting through Elantris too, for many of the same reasons that you are having. All I can say is keep going. Sanderson makes it all worth the trouble. I love that book.
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InarticulateBabbler
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I loved Elanris...but I like the whole darkness of the theme. It reminded me of The Dark Crystal mixed wih the Spanish Inquisition, but I really loved the magic system (I'm a visual guy).
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JenniferHicks
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I didn't finish Elantris. I know a lot of people who love the book, which is why I picked it up in the first place, but it was moving way too slowly for my taste. The issues I had with the pacing, I attribute to the multiple POV structure.

I understand why Sanderson was chosen to finish Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. They write in the same way. (I gave up on Jordan, too, but it took me several books to do it.)


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Meredith
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quote:
The issues I had with the pacing, I attribute to the multiple POV structure.

I agree, at least in part. I'm just starting to get to where Raoden looks like he's going to do something. I wish Sanderson had left Hrathen out completely until I had a stake in Raoden and kept Sarene to a minimum. I like her character, but I'm not sure I really need to know all about her uncle's family and their dinners at this point. Or that she can't paint. Then the story wouldn't be moving so glacially slowly.

After the story gets going, I'm not sure I'd mind some POV shifts between the three characters. But not in the first few chapters. Get one story really rolling first.


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JenniferHicks
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Meredith, you're right. My problem also was that Sanderson devoted several pages at a time to things that did not seem to move the story forward. Or even if they did, like the dinner scene, they went on too long. But that's just my opinion, and I know many people would disagree.

I'm afraid as I have gotten older, I've lost tolerance for stories that don't get to the point quickly. In the novel I'm reading now, "Boneshaker," Cherie Priest keeps the story moving at a break-neck pace. If I ever attempted to write a novel, I would aspire more toward the "Boneshaker" model than "Elantris."


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dee_boncci
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I might need to reread Elantris. I read it a couple of years ago and thought it adequate, but not enough to get me to buy another of his books. But he seems to have a very devoted following on here. Perhaps I missed something.
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InarticulateBabbler
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Brandon Sanderson mentioned that it took about 5 novels to get into the swing of things. So, even if you thought Elantris too slow, don't give up. It's his first published novel. Mistborn, The Well of Ascension and The Hero of Ages are brilliant. I've been amazed, re-reading Mistborn to my kids, how every sentence and scene have effected the outcome--and my expectations. Knowing what's ahead only shows how important the beginning is.

Besides, I have never found an author without at least one book which is not to my taste. I've read every book by David Gemmell (who had over thirty international bestsellers), and there was one I liked far less than the others.

[This message has been edited by InarticulateBabbler (edited March 03, 2010).]


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Meredith
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I'm continuing on, even though it's still frustrating. Just as soon as Raoden starts getting something moving, we're off with Sarene teaching the palace women to fence. Now, Sarene's ability to fence might or might not ever come into the story, but I don't think the other women are going to actually fight anybody.

MISTBORN is in my to read pile. But I think I'll take a little rest before going on to that. I picked up THE LIGHTNING THIEF at the grocery store last week. That would certainly be a change of pace.


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Meredith
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Well, I finally finished Elantris. It was slow going there for a while.

My final impression: There was a good story there, but he sure got in the way of it a lot. I think this might be one that the author wishes he got the same opportunity movies sometimes have. Twenty years later, they get to release the "Director's Cut."


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KayTi
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Did you sneak in the Lightening Thief while you were at it?

I have a hard time with big fantasy books like Elantris, because they just take so darn long to read! I've read Tigana, as well as the Assassin's Apprentice series in the last year (and elantris) and found that I get frustrated when I'm in the middle of a book for more than 7 days in a row.

Mid-grade and YA fiction is my preferred genre (preferably sci-fi, though there's not much of it so I have to read a fair amount of fantasy) now. I write YA/mid-grade so it's a good thing. I like how fast the pacing is, I like how the authors usually figure out some great ways to explain a character, and let us sink our teeth into that characterization over time by reinforcing those characteristics through what the other characters say/do. Plots don't have to be simple in YA/Mid-grade, though some do lean simple. Some authors pander and talk down to the readers quite a lot, which annoys the living daylights out of me, but others don't. Lloyd Alexander's Prydain chronicles, for example, excellent. Anything by Shannon Hale. I'm reading a fantastic series now that started with the book STONEHEART. The writing is just beautiful, and the author doesn't talk down to the readers at all (to the point that I almost wonder if the kids who read it can really follow some of what the author is saying due to certain kinds of metaphors and a pretty tricky plot.)

I still read grown-up stuff too, but prefer these faster reads. I've found Elizabeth Moon's books read more quickly than others. I think it helps that they're sci-fi...something about SF makes them move more quickly. I wish the adult fantasy authors would take some cues from the children's authors, though, because Lloyd Alexander, for instance, has created a perfectly imagined virtual world with incredible detail, history, backstory, but he does it in about 250 pages instead of eight hundred!


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Meredith
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quote:
Did you sneak in the Lightening Thief while you were at it?

Nope. Started it this morning. I only read in short snatches during the day--unless a story really grabs me and makes me want to come back to it. Elantris . . . didn't do that, which is why it took so long. Lois McMaster Bujold's Chalion novels did force me to keep reading. I've got the first of her Sharing Knife series in my to-read pile, along with SOULLESS, and Sanderson's MISTBORN. But I'm not ready for more Sanderson, yet.

By the way, it seemed pretty clear from the ending that he was setting up for a sequel. Not sure I'd read one if it came out. Not unless the writing was a lot better, anyway. Anybody know if he plans a sequel?

[This message has been edited by Meredith (edited March 17, 2010).]


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Smaug
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Someone told me The Lightning Thief was a big Harry Potter rip-off. True or not?
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Meredith
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quote:
Someone told me The Lightning Thief was a big Harry Potter rip-off. True or not?

I don't know that I'd call it a complete rip-off. It's hard to miss certain parallels.

The protagonist is a 12 year-old boy with a troubled past (in his case, he keeps getting thrown out of schools for "special" kids) and an abusive step-father. Instead of revolving around the school year, the stories seem to revolve around summer at Camp Half-Blood. Percy is an immediate celebrity when it turns out his father is Poseidon. And so on.

But there's enough that's different, too. And IMO, LIGHTNING THIEF is no where near as good a story as HARRY POTTER. There's not as much depth and the events often seem random, episodic rather than all tying together at the end.


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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I second what Meredith said.
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Robert Nowall
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I'm afraid that's what a lot of publishers do---see what's a big success, then say "me, too," and go out and find something like it. Sometimes that "something" manages to be interesting in itself...certainly I've enjoyed a lot of ripoffs of Tolkien...but a lot of times they just lay there, as literary effort, and, also, in sales.

In a way, I regret not being able to take advantage of this myself...but, on the other hand, maybe I should regret nothing and stick to what I want to write.


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KayTi
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I really enjoyed LIGHTENING THIEF and the other books in the series, and didn't see any similarities (other than obvious young protag - but seeing as how i read almost exclusively in the YA/mid-grade age range, ALL protags are of this age range...) with HARRY POTTER until someone pointed them out to me.

I believe the author was trying to write for the American middle-grade market, and write something appealing and fun and fast-paced. I agree with previous posters about the fact that sometimes the action seemed disjointed, but you can't argue with the fact that there is a LOT of action (which is a hallmark of currently published middle-grade boy-protag fiction, in my experience.)

The series has caused a lot of young boys to read, and read more, to be excited about books, and to do shocking things like ask to borrow books on greek mythology from the library! This is all good stuff. I think perhaps my enjoyment of the books is partly derived from having shared them with my kids, but I have noticed something about myself/what I read lately - unless it's really terrible, I pretty much always love what I'm currently reading. It often applies back to things I've read in the past, too (PERCY, for example) but other works I can look at later and realize I didn't love them in retrospect, but if you'd asked me while I was reading, I would have professed my love for them. Some I have a love/hate relationship with, some I read because I feel that I must (e.g., I finished the Inkheart series because I felt I needed to, but I really didn't enjoy it.) But the ones I really hate I put down now (maturity! not enough hours in the day to waste on books I'm not enjoying!)

Does this happen to anyone else? Is it my own affliction or a common occurrence?


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cynicalpen
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I found this to be a very clever, fresh, creative take on an already exhausted genre up until the end. Was it just me or did the climax appear and vanish in almost no time?
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Meredith
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I believe his writing buddies referred to it in one of the Writing Excuses episodes as the "Brandon Avalanche". Apparently, it's better in the published version than it was in the drafts.

[This message has been edited by Meredith (edited January 27, 2011).]


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cynicalpen
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I don't understand your link, did you copy and paste the wrong url?
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Meredith
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Apparently I did. I thought I'd copied the Writing Excuses URL, but apparently my clipboard still held the preditors and editors link from the above topic on querying agents. And I didn't catch it.

Fixed now.


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cynicalpen
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Thanks for the post that was a pretty funny episode.
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