Elantris Reread: Chapters Fifty-Seven to Fifty-Nine

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.

Last time on Elantris: Romance and Revelations…

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.

Chapter Essentials

POV Character(s): Sarene, Raoden, Hrathen

A map of Kae and Elantris City from Brandon Sanderson's Elantris


Chapter 57

Hrathen eyed this pretender, feeling an odd surge of hatred as he saw the way that Sarene looked at the man. Hrathen could see the love in her eyes. Could that foolish adoration really be serious?

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.

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. …. We only get a few small clues as to his attraction to Sarene, and this chapter probably has the most of those.

—Annotation, Brandon Sanderson

Back to the text:

Hrathen’s own relationship with the girl had been one of antagonism, not of affection. Why should he be jealous of another man? No, Hrathen needed to be levelheaded.

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.

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.

—Annotation, Brandon Sanderson

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.

Hrathen was shocked by the transformation, but he was even more shocked when the people of Arelon did nothing about it. Sarene gave her speech, and people just stood dully. They did not stop her from crowning the Elantrian king.

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.

Three months was not enough time to build a stable following.

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.

A hundred torches winked into existence from within dozens of different tents.

L: Oop. Remember all those merchants who were mysteriously sticking around? Well… guess now we know why:

That was why so many Fjordells had come to the Arelene Market despite the political chaos, and that was why they had stayed when others left. They weren’t merchants at all, but warriors. The invasion of Arelon was to begin a month early.

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.

Ah, and Hrathen’s three month timebomb. It’s always nice when you can have a timebomb go off early.

—Annotation, Brandon Sanderson

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!

Hrathen stumbled back in horror. He knew those twisted figures. Arms like knotted tree branches. Skin pulled tight over strange ridges and unspeakable symbols.

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.

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.

—Annotation, Brandon Sanderson

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.

I’ll even start throwing in viewpoints that aren’t of the core three, which I hope will 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.

—Annotation, Brandon Sanderson

Chapter 58

Raoden awoke to strange sounds. He lay disoriented for a moment in Roial’s mansion. The wedding wasn’t slated to happen until the following afternoon, and so Raoden had chosen to sleep in Kaloo’s rooms back in Roial’s mansion instead of staying at Kiin’s house, where Sarene had already taken the guest bedroom.

Here’s Brandon’s note:

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.

—Annotation, Brandon Sanderson

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:

They were bare-chested, and their eyes seemed to burn. They looked like men, but their flesh was ridged and disfigured, as if a carved piece of metal had somehow been inserted beneath the skin.

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.

—Annotation, Brandon Sanderson

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.

Raoden froze. He recognized this demon. Though its body was twisted like the rest, its face was familiar. It was Dilaf, the Fjordell priest.

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…

“Make certain you deliver these tonight,” Sarene said, pulling the lid closed on the final box of supplies.

The beggar nodded, casting an apprehensive glance toward the wall of Elantris, which stood only a few feet away.

“You needn’t be so afraid, Hoid,” Sarene said. “You have a new king now. Things are going to change in Arelon.”

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.

It was a slaughter. The strange warriors killed dispassionately, cutting down man, woman, and child alike with casual swipes of their swords.

P: Very dark and violent, but it kind of has to be, I think. It gives the payoff more meaning, makes it more impactful.

So, this is where the book turns a little violent. … 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.

—Annotation, Brandon Sanderson

Things are looking dire for Sarene, but then…

Her uncle held an enormous axe, large as a man’s chest. He smashed it into the creature’s back as it wiggled across the stones, reaching for its sword.

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.

“Lukel, collapse the entryway,” Kiin ordered.

Lukel complied, throwing the lever Sarene had always mistaken for a sconce. A second later there was a mighty crash from the entryway, and dust poured through the kitchen door.

L: Clever! Leave it to a pirate to always ensure that they’ve got a getaway plan.

P: But Raoden!!

Etched into the steel was a heraldic Aon—Aon Reo. The character meant “punishment.”

The Aon Reo from Brandon Sanderson's Elantris

L: Wow, that’s certainly a complicated one.

P: Imagine drawing that in the air with your finger and having to keep it perfect.

“They called him Dreok,” she whispered. “The pirate Crushthroat.”

“That was always a mistake,” Kiin said in his raspy voice. “The true name was Dreok Crushed throat.”

“He tried to steal the throne of Teod from my father,” Sarene said, looking up into Kiin’s eyes.

“No,” Kiin said, turning away. “Dreok wanted what belonged to him. He tried to take back the throne that his younger brother, Eventeo, stole—stole right from under Dreok’s nose while he foolishly wasted his life on pleasure trips.”

L: Talk about a surprise! Poor Sarene never saw that one coming!

P: Nope. And suddenly Eventeo is tainted.

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.

—Annotation, Brandon Sanderson

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.

Dilaf strode into the chapel, his face bright with satisfaction. One of his monks dropped an unconscious Raoden next to the far wall.

“This, my dear Hrathen,” Dilaf said, “is how you deal with heretics.”

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!”

Of all the titles in the hierarchy of the Derethi church, only two outranked gyorn: Wyrn, and gragdet—leader of a monastery.

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.

Horrible images washed through Hrathen’s mind. Images of priests chanting over him; memories of an awesome pain rising within, the pain of his bones reshaping. It had been too much—the darkness, the screams, the torment. Hrathen had left after just a few months to join a different monastery.

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.

“Oh, Hrathen.” Dilaf laughed. “You never did understand your place, did you? Wyrn didn’t send you to convert Arelon. …he sent you to inform the people of their impending destruction. You were a distraction, something for people like Eventeo to focus their attention on while I prepared for the city’s invasion. You did your job perfectly.”

L: What a twist.

P: Poor Hrathen, bested again.

The world needs to know what happens to those who blaspheme against Jaddeth.”

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.

“You will slaughter them all? You would murder an entire nation of people?”

“It is the only way to be certain,” Dilaf said, smiling.

L: Oh god I’m sorry I have to.

P: I don’t know whether to laugh or scold! 😂

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.

—Annotation, Brandon Sanderson

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.

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 do, 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.

—Annotation, Brandon Sanderson

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!

Chapter 59

L: The POV-switching speeds up even further as we continue on into the Sanderlanche, and with good reason.

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.

—Annotation, Brandon Sanderson

L: But what about the triad structure, Past!Brandon?

P: He likes to keep us guessing.

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.

—Annotation, Brandon Sanderson

P: There you go!

The blow to his head had done something to his brain. He could barely keep himself upright, let alone speak. The worst part was, he knew it would never improve.

He could not heal—now that the dizziness had come upon him, it would never leave.

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.

She opened her mouth to speak, knowing that her words would probably be the last Raoden ever heard.

Hrathen stood by, a dismayed observer, as Sarene fell into Dilaf’s trap.

L: She had the best of intentions, but sadly Dilaf outsmarted her.

P: The slime ball appears to be good at doing that.

Wake your soldiers and gather them on their ships. I will arrive in Teoras one hour from now, and if they are not ready to present a formal surrender, I will kill the girl.

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.

“You will kill the Teos as well,” Hrathen said in Fjordell.

“No,” Dilaf said. “Others will perform those executions. I will just kill their king, then burn Teod’s ships with the sailors still on them. Once the armada is gone, Wyrn can land his armies on Teod’s shore and use the country as a battleground to prove his might.”

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. 😔

“You are a monster,” Hrathen whispered. “You will slaughter two kingdoms to feed your paranoia. What happened to make you hate Elantris so much?”

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.

The still disoriented Raoden was stumbling toward his wife, who was being held by a quiet Dakhor. The prince reached out to her, his arm wavering.

“Oh,” Dilaf said, unsheathing his sword. “I forgot about you.” He smirked as he rammed the blade through Raoden’s stomach.

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!!

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.

—Annotation, Brandon Sanderson

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.

“You will find the Elantrians near the center of the city, in a place that seems more clean.”

“We found them, my gragdet,” the monk said. “Our men have already attacked.”

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.

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