Debut author Sanderson serves up an epic fantasy novel that is (startlingly) not Volume One of a Neverending Sequence.
Ten years ago, the magical city of Elantris fell under a curse, and the land of Arelon it once ruled has hit hard times. The mysterious transformation known as the Shaod, which falls on Arelenes at random and used to turn them into spell-wielding Elantrians, now leaves its victims half-dead husks, exiled to live in the ruined city. Even Prince Raoden, transformed overnight, finds himself imprisoned with the others—but he’s soon rallying the downtrodden and seeking out the source of the curse. Meanwhile, his betrothed, Princess Sarene of Teod (Sanderson’s got a tin ear for names), sets about modernizing the backward Arelish court, and thwarting the schemes of the spy-priest Hrathen of Fjorden, who plots to convert Arelon to his harsh Derethi faith. Sanderson offers an unusually well-conceived system of magic, but he cuts his characters from very simple cloth: only the Derethi agent Hrathen develops any intriguing depth or complexity. Still, the pages turn agreeably, the story has some grip and it’s a tremendous relief to have fruition in a single volume. (Not that sequels won’t be coming.)
A cut above the same-old, but hardly a classic.