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This is a book I will have to re-read. I'm surprised I haven't bought my own copy already.
I only picked it up out of interest in reading that Brandon Sanderson was the heir to the Robert Jordan series, tapped to complete the Wheel of Time series from Jordan's notes and drafts.
Elantris was the capital of Arelon: gigantic, beautiful, literally radiant, filled with benevolent beings who used their powerful magical abilities for the benefit of all. Yet each of these demigods was once an ordinary person until touched by the mysterious transforming power of the Shaod. Ten years ago, without warning, the magic failed. Elantrians became wizened, leper-like, powerless creatures, and Elantris itself dark, filthy, and crumbling.
Arelon's new capital, Kae, crouches in the shadow of Elantris. Princess Sarene of Teod arrives for a marriage of state with Crown Prince Raoden, hoping -- based on their correspondence -- to also find love. She finds instead that Raoden has died and she is considered his widow. Both Teod and Arelon are under threat as the last remaining holdouts against the imperial ambitions of the ruthless religious fanatics of Fjordell. So Sarene decides to use her new status to counter the machinations of Hrathen, a Fjordell high priest who has come to Kae to convert Arelon and claim it for his emperor and his god.
This is a fantasic story. Full of all sorts of rich, well realized imagery and ideas. A city of "gods" become cursed. A kingdom where royalty is apportioned based on the rise and fall of economic status. A warrior religion bent on conquest.
His depiction of family life, his sparring, clever characters ... it is a story that works on many levels. For some reason it reminds me of the Princess Bride (not just because it is about, well, a Princess who is sent to be a bride) - it has a lot of the same enjoyable qualities. Humor, adventure and lots of plot twists. Excellent, excellent book. It has made me hunt down other books by Sanderson. I've got the first of the Mistborn books and have read the first story about Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians.....