I have yet to find a Sanderson novel that I don’t particularly like and Elantris is no exception.
Basically, Elantris focuses around the titular city; once a place of wonder and magic which. Ten years ago, all that ended and now it’s populated by essentially zombies: those without heartbeats who cannot die and cannot heal. We follow a few different story lines–a princess from another land engaged to the prince who gets Elantrisified in the very beginning of the story; an attempted religious coup from multiple fronts; and the politics of a kingdom/city trying to heal after massive upheaval.
This is his earliest work and in some ways it shows. He actually commented recently on the Writing Excuses podcast that he co-hosts that he’s learned a lot about pacing since writing Elantris. Towards the end, I definiately noticed it. In the last 10% or so of the novel, everything comes to a head all at once. I think it could have been even strong had some of the storylines come to fruition earlier.
I did like a lot of the characters. Sarene reminds me strongly of Shallan from The Way of Kings (perhaps because it’s the most recent other Sanderson novel I’ve read), but I think I actually like her more. Raoden seems almost too good to be true, but keeps just enough human trivialities (especially when interacting with Sarene), that I still like him. I particularly grew to like Hrathen. It’s always interesting to see how fantasy novels interact with religion.
More than anything, I wish this novel had a sequel. Well, it sort of does in The Emperor's Soul, although that it in a completely different part of the world. It looks like there is a true sequel in the works though (FAQ). Awesome.