Brandon Sanderson's writing is very enjoyable to follow. The moment I started reading "Elantris", I got sucked into the story immediately. Sanderson doesn't spend numerous pages building up tension and introducing characters. Readers are drawn right into the main story from the beginning of the novel.
Elantris was known as city of gods. Its inhabitants had power over natural elements and could shape reality to whatever suited them best. The also had very powerful healing skills. Their power ended suddenly with an event that came to be known as "Reod". As a result, they lost all their skills and become cursed with a disease called "Shaod". Those who became ill lost their hair, their skin was covered in black patches, and their hearts stopped beating, but their bodies and minds would not die. Despite that, even the smallest injury caused great pain. People who became ill in this way were thrown into the city to continue their pathetic existence there. Elantris turned into a shadow of its former glory.
There are three main characters and the narrative is broken into three main point views. Each offers a completely different approach to the main story.
Raoden, the prince of neighboring city of Arelon, becomes an Elantrian at the beginning of the novel. He refuses to give in to his new reality and tries to bring a sense of purpose to his new hometown. He is relentless in his attempts to discover the true nature of Reod and to establish some kind of order.
Sarene is Raoden's bride-to-be. She is arranged to formally start her politically arranged marriage with the prince but arrives in Arelon only to find that her husband has just become an Elantrian. She uses all her energy to immerse herself in the intrigues of Arelon's political games. Her sharp mind and youthful energy stand in contrast to the apathy emanating from Elantris.
Hrathen is a high-ranking priest of Dorethi who arrives in Arelon with one goal. He is to convert the citizens to his religion and has only three months to achieve that. Hrathen is an experienced priest and his previous mission ended in the ruin of the entire country as it was forcefully converted into Dorethai. This time, he wants to avoid bloodshed.
The book reads very well and I really liked the idea of sending people who are dead to a separate city guarded from the outside. It is an original vision of purgatory. What I didn't like though was the language used by some of the characters. Some of the dialogues sounded too modern and seemed a bit artificial when the protagonists kept using sarcastic remarks. They felt a bit out o place.