I was a little worried when I started this fantasy fiction that I would not like it. I did have a hard time getting into this, especially when it came to the bad religion. Elantris has several reviews out there that say it is Sanderson's worst work or that it is slow and rough and less polished than his other books, but I did not find that to be the case at all with this dramatic tone. It is very slow and the main character is more of a politician than I am usually used to, although when court intrigue is so important that makes sense here.
I am biased towards Brandon Sanderson and predisposed to like anything by him but I still think this is a fantastic book that introduces cities and towns I had not come across before. The last quarter of the book with the return of magic was good but it is sometimes a bit of a yawn getting there, although well worth it. I will say that the city life of Elantris is different from Sanderson's other books. How the curses are handled by no means make this a bad story. The action created by our woman of steel protagonist is not over-the top, but is still very important both to her personally and to the kingdom as a whole.
I am not often a huge fan of novels that switch perspective quite a bit or that have transformative magic. It takes longer for me to get invested in an individual's story when it is interspersed with two other individual stories, although our widow had me from the very beginning. I can understand why an author would choose to do this, and I must say that Sanderson switched perspective masterfully, especially for our woman ruler. We follow three repeating perspectives: Raoden, the engaged prince of Arelon who was just thrown into Elantris; Sarene the engaged princess of Teod who arrives in Kae to marry Raoden and finds him dead; and Hrathen, the high priest of the Derethi church in Kae whose goal is to convert all of Arelon to Derethi. I enjoyed each story individually, and the world-building that tied all three together.
The imaginary places are very unique and very political. It has an original magic system, a highly developed world and fleshed out characters, and the plot is not one I had read before. The entire book is almost completely politics, but is is all interesting, especially with the priests. I never found the story to be dragging or the prince to be dry. The magic system develops slowly; it isn't until the end that the princess understands the depth and vast implications. There is very little action about the religious fanaticism until the very end, but I did not mind that at all.
While reading about the religious fanatics I was constantly referencing the maps and the Ars Arcanum in the back, which I recommend utilizing to help keep locations and magical terms straight. I found myself mostly captivated by the talk of the rulers. I would highly recommend this book especially if you are trying to read a romantic love story in your fantasy, and do not let the heavy political intrigue, the general lack of action, or the large amount of new words turn you away. .