This is quite the week, Cosmere Chickens. The Sanderlanche is in full effect: Betrayals! Revelations! Secrets and war and death, oh my! All of this and more awaits you in this week’s installment of the Elantris Reread. Once again, my faithful cohort Paige and I are joined—sort of –by Past!Brandon, speaking to us from the annals of history. (That’s a fancy-pants way of saying that we’re using some quotes from his 2006 annotations of Elantris in order to broaden the depth of our reread and to shed some additional light on aspects of the book you might not even be aware of, like deleted scenes, character backstories, and story-crafting stuff.)
There’s a lot to delve into this week, and I do mean a lot, so pull up a chair and join us, and try not to let the dark events get you down. Remember…things are always darkest before the dawn.
(Non-)Spoiler warning: This week’s article has no spoilers from other Cosmere works. Read on fearlessly, chickens!
Trigger warnings: War, body modification, genocide.
Now that Sarene (and everyone else) finally know that Raoden’s NOT dead, we get some lovey-dovey time between the two of them before they realize that Telrii’s been killed. There’s a power vacuum…and only one man can fill it! However, Dilaf’s not about to let Raoden seize the throne quite that easily. He (somehow) dispels the illusion that Raoden has been using to mask his appearance, revealing Raoden’s Elantrian nature to the entire throne room. Sarene saves the day, however, with a smooth speech that wins the people over to his side regardless of how he looks.
POV Character(s): Sarene, Raoden, Hrathen
L: Look at that green-eyed monster coming out! Watch out, Hrathen. Your jealous side is showing…
P: You almost feel sorry for him. Outmaneuvered—not once but twice!—and, apparently a bit heartsick.
Back to the text:
L: Oh dear. Love is rarely level-headed, nor logical, when it chooses to pounce on us. I almost—almost—feel bad for him.
P: Great minds think alike, Lyndsey! That was exactly my thought above! And you’re spot on about love being neither level-headed nor logical. It’s often cruel and unforgiving.
L: Challenging in a lot of ways. I wonder what the women of Fjorden are like…? We never get any hints or clues as to what women’s place in their society is, so we don’t know just how different Sarene is from the women that Hrathen’s used to encountering. But I’m willing to bet that she’s far more bullheaded and competent than any woman Hrathen’s ever met.
P: And he seems to like it.
L: Gods forbid the people should judge someone based on their worth rather than what they are.
P: It was surprising to me how they accepted him, too, but not as surprising as it was for Hrathen, knowing how much the people loved Raoden before he disappeared.
L: Well, he’s right there. Building trust and loyalty within a community, whether it be religious or any other type, takes time.
P: Three months is absolutely not enough time, especially when it comes to people’s lifelong religious beliefs.
L: Oop. Remember all those merchants who were mysteriously sticking around? Well… guess now we know why:
P: Ugh, this must feel like a massive betrayal to Hrathen. He spends months trying to convert people to his religion only to find that an invasion was already planned.
L: Very clever trick, Past!Brandon. Build up the reader’s expectations and tension towards a specific deadline, then break that self-imposed deadline and make it happen earlier in order to surprise them.
P: Starting this Sanderlanche off with a bang!
L: That’s certainly a grotesque mental image. The Dakhor monks, known as the Order of Bone, aren’t playing around. As a reminder, Hrathen was trained at a different monastery—Ghajan, specifically—as a simple soldier. And we’ve seen how terrifyingly effective he is. So for him to be frightened of these monks…they must be as diabolical as they appear.
P: A grotesque and horrifying mental image. The thought of those creatures slaughtering innocent and defenseless townspeople is just awful.
L: Brandon’s got a cool thing he does with the structure of the story here that I’d like to talk about briefly.
L: I really love it when he does things like this. He did something similar in A Memory of Light, where the chapter (singular) about the last battle is all one single huge chapter. It was a deliberate choice, meant to make the reader feel as if they had no logical stopping point—just as the characters couldn’t stop in the middle of the battle—and hence feel just as exhausted when they reached the end as the characters themselves. This meta approach and subtlety of structure is one of the things I love best about Brandon’s works. He’s manipulating you without you even realizing it’s happening, much like filmmakers use lighting techniques to achieve similar effects (which I believe we’ve talked about in this reread before).
P: He knows his craft very well and gut-punches us as often as possible in these Sanderlanches.
Here’s Brandon’s note:
L: Nice thematic book-ending. Poor Raoden, though. He’s finally found peace, or so he thought. About to marry his princess love…crowned king…finding some answers about the Dor at last… and now THIS:
L: My actual expression reading that last line.
P: I’m laughing at your GIF but I totally feel you. But he’s right. We wouldn’t be as horrified by them if they were wearing cloaks or tunics.
L: ::GASP!:: Well! THAT explains a thing or two! (And yes, I’d completely forgotten this. Go me.)
P: Don’t feel bad, I’d forgotten, too! Though how I could, I don’t know… I just read this three or four years ago.
L: Pretty sure the last time I read this was when we did the gamma read for the tenth anniversary edition in 2015…
L: HOID ALERT! Interesting to note that this is his very first appearance. Little did we know, when this book was released, just how important a character this lonely hooded beggar would become.
P: And what was his purpose in Kae, I wonder, other than to deliver these weapons for Sarene?
L: He was probably researching the fall of Elantris, knowing him. I bet the Shaod would be irresistible to him, from a researcher’s standpoint.
P: That’s likely. Hoid is a curious one.
P: Very dark and violent, but it kind of has to be, I think. It gives the payoff more meaning, makes it more impactful.
Things are looking dire for Sarene, but then…
L: Aw yeah! PIRATE KING KIIN TO THE RESCUE! Honestly I’d love to read a spin-off book about this guy and his earlier adventures.
P: I love this scene! But it’s disheartening to see the effort it takes to kill one of the creatures.
L: Clever! Leave it to a pirate to always ensure that they’ve got a getaway plan.
P: But Raoden!!
L: Wow, that’s certainly a complicated one.
P: Imagine drawing that in the air with your finger and having to keep it perfect.
L: Talk about a surprise! Poor Sarene never saw that one coming!
P: Nope. And suddenly Eventeo is tainted.
L: If you’d like to read more about Kiin’s backstory, I recommend clicking the annotation link right there and reading up on it, because it’s pretty cool.
L: Gotta give the man this… he knows how to make an entrance. Took that one straight out of the Grade A Villain playbook.
P: I keep expecting him to say “Mua-ha-ha!”
L: Well, that explains why Dilaf was always so annoyed by Hrathen’s orders. He outranked him this whole time and was having to pretend to be his subordinate.
P: Yeah, that would chafe a bit. Also, I think he’s utterly bonkers.
L: Not only was Hrathen an subordinate, he hadn’t been able to cut it in Dilaf’s own monastery. Oooh, it must have rankled Dilaf to take orders from someone who flunked out of Pain University!
P: As previously stated… bonkers. Gotta be, to willingly endure pain like that.
L: What a twist.
P: Poor Hrathen, bested again.
L: Yikes on bikes. Using genocide to instill loyalty in the people you’ve conquered? Remember that Grade A guidebook on Villainy? This is the master class.
P: Outright slaughter like this is just abominable. And they won’t stop with the people of Kae, they’ll take Elantris next.
L: Oh god I’m sorry I have to.
P: I don’t know whether to laugh or scold! 😂
L: I hate to give Hrathen even a morsel of empathy, but he’s right.
P: Which is why we weren’t made to hate Hrathen. He often showed some good.
L: Looking back on what you’ve read, did you notice, Cosmere Chickens? Or did Brandon manage to slip it by you as intended?
P: He definitely makes me read faster and faster as the book progresses. Not sure I’ve noticed, though!
L: The POV-switching speeds up even further as we continue on into the Sanderlanche, and with good reason.
L: But what about the triad structure, Past!Brandon?
P: He likes to keep us guessing.
P: There you go!
L: Oof. That’s a horrifying thought. It sounds like he’s had a concussion… and to have the symptoms of one of those in perpetuity? No thanks.
P: Poor Raoden, enduring so much, though it takes place in short order.
L: She had the best of intentions, but sadly Dilaf outsmarted her.
P: The slime ball appears to be good at doing that.
L: He really is a terrifyingly effective villain.
P: I know he’s been incredibly dislikable through the whole book, but I feel that we have too little time to actively hate him.
L: I agree with you. We don’t fully realize the extent of his evil until the very end.
L: Has anyone told Dilaf that he doesn’t have to be 300% evil? 100% is enough, my dude.
P: I feel that 300% is a conservative assessment. 😔
L: At least Hrathen recognizes that he’s a monster. That’s… a slight relief.
P: It’s absolutely a relief! To know that he’s not going along with it and is actively defying Dilaf is good to see.
L: … There… there are no words.
P: Another very apt gif! There really aren’t, though. It’s no wonder Raoden immediately turned into a Hoed.
And Dilaf’s smirk! I have rage!!
L: You’ll forgive us if we don’t trust you after what you just said, Past!Brandon…
P: Seriously. I’m waiting until next week to read on. I’m exhausted.
L: SEE? See? This is why we have trust issues!
P: Poor, poor Elantrians. 😢
We’ll be leaving further speculation and discussion to you in the comments, and hope to join you there! Next week, we’ll be back with chapter sixty.