From Elantris to The Way of Kings; a Brief Look at Sanderson’s Writing

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First let me say that this is more on an opinion piece than a review of either novel. I first read The Way of Kings several months ago, and just finished Elantris yesterday, and I couldn’t help but notice there were a lot of interesting similarities between the two novels. In the following post I’ll take a brief look at these similarities to try to understand them better.

The World

Both Elantris and The Way of kings take place in seemingly large and diverse worlds full of many distinct countries and cultures. However, I don’t recall there being a great many similarities between the nations in Elantris and The Way of Kings. Since I’m not trying to nitpick and find things to complain about where there are none I’ll move on.

The Characters

Raoden and Kaladin

The characters and viewpoints of the novels is where I noticed the most similarities. While they might have very different backgrounds, Kaladin and Raoden serve nearly identical purposes in each of their respective novels. They have each been reduced to members of the absolute lowest position in their societies, Kaladin a slave and Raoren an Elantrain. They each assume leadership over their peers and seek to improve their lives. I won’t go into detail here, but i think anyone who has read both novels can agree with me that they fill the same role.

That being said however, they do have different personalities. Whereas Kaladin is depressed and often pessimistic, Raoden seems and eternal optimist, never giving up and never letting his comrades despair.

Sarene and Shallan

I might be stretching things a little with this next comparison, but reading Elantris I couldn’t help but feel that Sarene was, in many ways, an older and more confident Shallan. In fact, Shallan and Jasnah combined might make for a very convincing Sarene impersonator.

Galladon and Rock/Gaz

Again, I think I might be taking things to far here, but it seems to me like the combination of Gaz and Rock fill the same role in The Way of Kings that Galladon fiils in Elantris. Gaz shares Galladon’s pessimism, and Rock provides the exotic eccentricities.

The viewpoint(s)/Themes

In both Elantris and The Way of Kings there are two main character groups; The nobility, and the slaves/damned wretches. The very highest and lowest of humanity. In both novels we see the main characters of each group struggle to improve the lives of their people. Whether it be Raoden trying to rebuild Elantris, or Kaladin desperately struggling to keep his men alive. Sarene seeking to reform the Arelesh political system, or Dalinar Kholin attempting to do the same.

Yes, though both novels have different themes, (though I do dislike trying to find themes and seek out deeper meaning in books (for philosophical reasons)) they each make use of similar characters and viewpoints to explore said themes.

Final Thoughts

Of each of the similarities I found between the two novels, I always found myself preferring The Way of Kings version of said similarity. This  may be partly do to the fact that I read The Way of Kings first, but I genuinely believe that The Way of Kings is a better novel. Don’t get me wrong, I think Elantris is an excellent book, but The Way of Kings, at least to me, feels much more refined, more real somehow.

Lastly, let me say that I don’t mean this post to be a criticism of Brandon Sanderson’s novels, I liked both quite a lot, I was simply interested to see how The Way of Kings seems to have refined and added to certain character types and concepts originated in Elantris.

Whether you agree or disagree with me, feel free to leave a comment and tell me what you think.

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