I'm a slow reader. I've been reading Elantris for a while now, and that's not to say it's a badly written book. Quite the opposite actually. Brandon Sanderson is a gifted writer: how he turns a completely new-world fantasy into a real struggle between the religious and the political is mastery. The twists in his plot are worth the detailed slow start of his works. Reading him is actually like running a marathon! Taking it easy in the beginning, making sure all grounds are covered for a very unexpected and unnerving end.
But going back to the first sentence... yeah, a quick run through may be appropriate.
Sarene is our lady lead; strong willed and a self described "assertive" individual, when the more appropriate words would be "pain in the ass." And as in any other world, a woman such as she isn't really the pick of men's hearts. Sarene's kind of used to the idea that men find her intimidating and inaffable. Used to it, but hating the notion all the same.
However, there was a man to love her. Raoden was betrothed to marry Sarene, whom he'd corresponded with only thru letters and a few "phone" conversations. They're marriage was supposed to seal a political (a.k.a. business) agreement between their fathers' kingdoms. (Did I fail to mention that they're royalty? Sorry.) Despite that, however, Raoden was honestly lovestruck by the strong-willed lass. He has excellent qualities of his own, but his unabashed acceptance of the domineering personality that is Sarene stands out most to me.
Unfortunately, he "died" before they met. They were officially married soon as the treaty between their countries was signed, even before an actual ceremony was conducted, and shortly after Raoden was taken by the Shaod and locked up in Elantris. Turning into an Elantrian is a curse in their world, and it's a shameful turn of events that a kingdom's crown prince could just as easily be victimized. Ergo, Raoden's father hides the fact that his son has turned accursed and simply claims he died of a rare and disfiguring disease.
So Sarene, perplexedly, is widowed even before she met her husband. (Now you tell me if that isn't a artful start to a story. Sanderson is genius!)
I do however see a lot myself in the story through Sarene. I relate best with the way she sees herself: deeply opinionated and vocal with her thoughts, honestly trusting only a few close constants around her, and believing she's meant to be alone forever. In her eyes, hope for a life with a partner died when news of Raoden's death came. In her eyes, she's destined to be the strong-willed old maid.
But a line from the one of Sarene's constants, Duke Roial, gives her, and my own doubting, hope for the future:
"You're an excellent judge of character, Sarene - except your own. Often, our own opinions of ourselves are the most unrealistic. You may see yourself as an old maid, child, but you are young, and you are beautiful. Just because you've had misfortune in your past doesn't mean you have to give up on your future."
I've said it before and I'll say it again, inspiration come in many a-strange form and today's came from the fictional works of a novelist in a far away land. I haven't finished the story of Sarene yet, but I'm a hundred percent sure it's not going to end sad and lonely, whether it involves Prince Raoden or otherwise.
And so my reading continues. There will be more thoughts from the pages of Elantris to come but for now, this entry ends with a newfound hope.
Addendum: Slow reader my ass. Finished the book in a matter of hours after writing this entry. Adventure in Elantris done. *sigh* The curious will be happy to know that Sarene and Raoden lives happily ever after.