I read this for the group read for the Fantasy Fanatics
focuses around the future of the magical city of Elantris, once home to men who were blessed and turned into god-like beings, until 10 years ago when it changed into a curse, and now men turn into undead creatures whose hearts don't beat and injuries don't heal but slowly drive the person insane. The story is told from the POV of 3 people - Raoden, prince of Arelon (where Elantris is located), who wakes up one morning to discover that he has turned into an Elantrian and so is locked in the city. His transformation is concealed by his father and everyone is told Raoden has died. Then there's Sarene, Raoden's fiance from neighbouring Teod who arrives in Arelon for the wedding to be told Raoden is dead and she is now considered his widow, and struggles to adapt and find her place in this strange new city. And finally there's Hrathen, a gyorn (a high, powerful priest of the Derethi religion) who has arrived in Arelon to convert it to the Derethi religion in 3 months, otherwise the emperor Wyrn will come and convert it by force.
I actually really enjoyed this book, a lot more than I was expecting to be honest. The book starts off at a break neck speed, throwing you straight into the action, and the pace barely lets up. There are a lot of twists throughout the book, some of them were somewhat expected but there were many I did not expect at all. I was gripped throughout the book, and for the last like quarter of the book so much happened that I seriously couldn't put the book down!
Sanderson had obviously thought out the world thoroughly, and it showed in his world building and plot, which I liked. But at the same time, he had a tendency to just introduce terms and ideas without really explaining them. Whilst this did feel a bit immersive and realistic (because we don't explain every term we use), but at the same time it was a bit confusing.
The characters were a big plus for me. I loved the main 3 characters and their storylines. I liked Raoden's optimism and determination to make Elantris a better place, and I liked how he gradually uncovered the reason why Elantris fell and fixed the Aons etc, even if it did feel a bit easy at the end when he needed it. Also I felt his recruiting of all the other Elantrians and elimination of any threats was a bit easy too. Sarene was a good, strong and intelligent woman, who was basically a bit of a detective trying to suss out everything that's going on in the Arelon court and trying to save the monarchy, but at the same time, Sarene's pride annoyed me a bit in the way she would keep going on about how she was so much more intelligent than everyone else and stuff. Hrathen was also an interesting character, one that I expected to hate in the beginning but who grew on me throughout the course of the book, and I liked how Hrathen slowly doubted his mission and his religion and stuff, but was still intelligent and cunning. One thing that did annoy me a bit about all the main characters was the sort of implication that they were the only ones intelligent enough to see and understand most of what was going on in the novel.
Most of the novel was taken up with debates about religion etc., and full of political intrigue which I loved but I know won't be for everyone. There isn't much action at all in the novel until the end. I also felt that, while the ending was gripping, it did all happen fairly quickly and there was a bit of unexplained deus ex machina going on to fix everything and give everyone a happy ending. There were some things left unexplained as well, or people who's endings we didn't really get to discover which I found kind of annoying but I can forgive. Especially since Sanderson is apparently working on a sequel (even if it won't be available for a few years yet). 7
Overall, I thought the book was really enjoyable and interesting, even if it wasn't perfect, and it could be quite confusing at times with all the different names and terms just thrown in.