Previously on Elantris: Rebecca revealed some psychological issues via her weird crush on Hrathen, the religious extremist from Fjorden.
This week, we’re back to Raoden. He’s having a rough time.
The Elantrian Sarene saw being escorted to the city is currently clawing at the gate, crying. Across the courtyard, Galladon and Raoden wait for her to take a step in one direction or the other, like Raoden did the day prior. When the woman steps left, Galladon compliments her on her choice.
Some burly dudes emerge from the shadows to take her basket of goodies. Raoden wants to be a hero, but Galladon stops him because of the threat of more perpetual wounds. I either hate hero complexes or I think the characterization here is too obvious, but I’m not sure which it is.
We learn that there are three groups currently controlling Elantris, and going right, left, or forward from the gate determines one’s fate:
“…Now, if she had turned right—like you did, sule—she would have been at the dubious mercy of Shaor’s men. If she had gone forward, then Aanden would have had claim on her offerings. The left turn is definitely best—Karata’s men take your food, but they rarely hurt you….”
Raoden and Galladon talk some more about the everlasting pain of living as an Elantrian. Originally, Raoden assumed that Galladon had been living in Elantris for a few years, but it turns out people usually don’t last that long before going insane. Like, imagine a stubbed toe lasting an entire day though. I would welcome the bliss of the void so hard.
Raoden is sad that the new woman is stuck in Elantris after living a somewhat full life, and he feels he should have been able to help her. He’s reminding me very strongly of Kaladin from the Stormlight Archive here in his desire to protect everyone regardless of practicality. Honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me if we’re seeing a bunch of early blueprints for characters that were done better in later universes. In my experience, as a writer improves over time, it becomes somewhat disappointing to look back on the unrealized potential of certain characters. I have two or three of my own that I’d like to remold someday.
Back in Elantris, Raoden cracks a joke, and Galladon kind of hilariously pivots it into a conversation about fear, wherein Raoden admits that he’s just frontin’. His new living situation scares him, but hero complexes have a way of keeping one busy.
One of the leaders of the gangs of Elantris, Aanden, lives in the university section of the city strictly because the paper of books and scrolls is edible. Raoden is mortally offended that so much knowledge has been lost to a man’s stomach, but like — why didn’t anyone retrieve the books when Elantris fell? In ten years, someone could have thought of this. Even if they didn’t want to take care of it right away because magic plague or whatever. I’m more offended that everyone decided all that ancient knowledge was disposable. THIS IS WHY SOCIETY IS DYING.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, Elantrian flesh tastes terrible, which is why no one has resorted to cannibalism to fulfill their endless hunger. Yeah, Sanderson, we get it; you think of fucking everything.
And it’s really good. Ugh.
Raoden is not okay with hunger being an excuse for things. (Told you he was mortally offended about the books.) He boldly declares that this behavior is unacceptable, inexcusable, and WE MUST CHANGE like every newly politically active 16 year old.
Okay, we scene jump to some exposition regarding how quickly Elantris has decayed, and I want to touch on the brown slime that keeps coming up (although not literally). Everything is covered in this shit, and I’ve forgotten what it is since the last time I read this book. Raoden mentions every five seconds that the slime is getting him dirty but like…what is it? WHY IS MY MEMORY SO BAD??
Galladon and Raoden walk through Elantris with excessive caution so as not to wound themselves further. No Elantrian could ever have a cat, because I swear to god, the minor injuries I pick up every day just from being within two feet of a cat…I’d go insane in less than a week. Those who have succumbed to the pain of their injuries are called the Hoed, and they chant things and crouch in the shadows and stuff. These are their stories:
Raoden spends some time on the walk thinking about his friends outside, with whom he apparently had “clandestine” meetings. That sounds cool — where’s my flashback? He also laments his canceled marriage, since he didn’t get a chance to meet Sarene even once to confirm whether she’s truly as witty and interesting as he thought. He thinks she’ll end up marrying someone else and never even come to Arelon, so I’m guessing he wasn’t privy to the way his marriage contract was written.
Finally, we get some background on the fall of Elantris. No one knows what caused the Reod, although Derethi priests like Hrathen said it was the wrath of god at the time; Elantrians themselves were considered gods, you might remember, and so any other religion could easily dismiss them as heathens at their downfall. I’m serious — religious extremism is so predictable.
Raoden remembers how quickly it all happened — a chasm appeared in the south of Arelon after an earthquake, and suddenly everything in Elantris stopped working. Even now, Raoden thinks the city is decaying at a more rapid rate than warranted. It’s probably that bullshit slime.
Galladon leads Raoden to the marketplace section of the city, where a guy named Shaor is king. His name is almost exactly the same as the thing that makes people Elantrians, the Shaod, which just pisses me off.
Shaor’s style of rule attracts the most wild and uncontrollable Elantrians, but everyone in the city is also realistic — they try to avoid fighting (and injuries) as much as possible.
In the university section, Aanden Book-Eater is in control, and in the palace portion of the city, a lady named Karata rules. Karata seems to hate her fate more actively than most — she’s been caught trying to escape the city 3 times. The dude that eats books claims to have been a noble on the outside, so I look forward to Raoden investigating him later.
What else do we learn? There’s a well in the middle of the city with a river running under it. Also, seons lose their minds when their master is taken by the Shaod, and Raoden is sad about his BFF Ien.
Galladon says it’s going to rain and that they should get to shelter, so Raoden asks where he lives. At first, Galladon doesn’t want to volunteer that info, but eventually he leads Raoden to his little hovel:
It looked like a learned man’s study. There were Aons—the mystical ancient characters behind the Aonic language—painted all over the walls, and there were several shelves of books.
Raoden gets very excited and wants to learn more about Aons, the symbols used in Elantrian magic. Galladon, the cheeky bastard, goes, “Like this?” and uses his finger to draw a symbol in the air that leaves a white afterimage.
The Aons. Historically, only the Elantrians had been able to call upon the power locked within them. That power was supposed to be gone; it was said to have failed when Elantris fell.
Galladon smiled at him through the glowing symbol that hovered in the air between them.
Lol, I bet Galladon was living for that reveal.
And Here’s Matt with the Gay Perspective:
Is anyone else curious about the Elantrian’s sex lives? They still feel their emotions and hunger, so one would assume they still have sexual desires. Branderson, you think of everything, so there is no way you didn’t think of how the Shaod-infected would bump uglies. But you didn’t mention it. You coward! In general, he never really talks about his character’s sexuality. It doesn’t need to be gross, like Rothfuss, but hey–it’s still part of people’s lives. To me, it’s not good sex unless I’ve risked a mild concussion on my headboard; do the Elantrians just “soak” instead?
Don’t look that up if you love yourself. And don’t judge me, dear readers…
Now on to less perverted thoughts: This chapter was pretty much a giant pile of exposition. Sanderson is setting up little pieces here and there for the big reveals later! What is with that slime? Who were these gang leaders? Why is there one well in the city? What is up with Galladon’s ability to use the Aons? Sanderson is masterfully weaving intrigue and world-building. It’s easy to get lost in that and forget Sanderson’s other shortcomings. Like his blunt and obvious foreshadowing.
Discuss your thoughts on Elantrian sex below! Or other stuff. There are no rules.