The economy of Arelon is one of the interesting features of this book. Even still, I’m not certain if I made things a little too odd here. The idea of nobility being tied directly to money is described so often by the characters that I worry that readers will think the system too foolish to have arisen. However, I think that by establishing the king as a former merchant—and by pointing out how the system was created quickly, to fill the void after the fall of Elantris—I manage to keep the economic and social situation in Arelon within the realm of possibility.
I think that too often fantasy writers are content with simply throwing in a slightly-original spin on magic—ignoring the fact that their cultures, governments, and religions are derivative. There is this idea of the ‘general’ fantasy world, and writers draw upon it. However, I think an interesting cultural element can be just as fascinating—and as useful to the plot—as an interesting magic system. In the best cases, the two are inter-woven, like what one can find in brilliant genre books like DUNE.
Of course, the strange economic/governmental system of the book is only a descendant of another strange economic/governmental system. Sarene and Lukel discuss a few of the problems presented by having a race of people who can create whatever they want through use of magic. I don’t get to deal with that aspect of AonDor very much in this particular book, since the novel is set during a time when the magic of Elantris doesn’t work. However, there are a lot of interesting ramifications AonDor would present for a book set during Elantris’ heyday. What good is gold if someone can create it from nothing? In fact, what good is a monetary system at all when everyone can have as much food as they want? What need is there for invention or ingenuity in the face of a group of people who can re-create any good, no matter how complex, with a mere flick of the magical wrist?
The truth behind the Elantrian magical abilities is far more limited than Sarene or Lukel acknowledge in this chapter. If one were to go back fifteen years, one would find that the Elantrians who had the skill to fabricate complex materials ‘out of nothing’ were actually quite rare.
As we learn later in the book, AonDor is a very complicated, difficult skill to master. As I was writing this book, I imagined the complicated Aons that Raoden eventually learns how to draw being only springboards to massive equations that could take weeks to plan out and write. Fabricating something very complex would require a great deal of detail in the AonDor recipe.Even still, I think the tension between the Elantrians and the merchants is a natural outgrowth of this situation.
The scene where the children talk about art is one I nearly cut from the book on a couple of different occasions. I worry that this is one of the scenes that contributes overly-much to the ‘Kiin’s family is out of place’ feeling that people occasionally get. In addition, I worry that I made Kaise TOO intelligent here. Three things make me retain the scene. First, I think it’s kind of amusing. The second is a spoiler, so I won’t say much on it—just let it suffice that I wanted to give Kaise and Daorn some good characterization.
For you spoiler readers, those two would be the main characters of any sequel I wrote to ELANTRIS. I’d set the book about ten years after the ending of this one.
The third reason for retaining the scene is because I put it in, in the first place, quite intentionally. Kaise, and to a lesser extent Daorn, are a small reaction against ENDER’S GAME. When I read that book, and some of Scott’s other works (which, by the way, I think are all brilliant) I got to wondering if children who were as smart as his really would act the way they do in his books. Not to disagree with one of the greatest sf minds of our time, but I wanted to take a different spin on the ‘clever child’ idea. So, I presented these children as being extremely intelligent, but also extremely immature with that intelligence. I’m not convinced that IQ brings maturity with it, and think there’s only so much ‘adult’ you can have in a kid. So, I put in Kaise and Daorn to let me play with this idea a little bit in ELANTRIS.