I had a hard time getting into this book, but once I did--wow! Elantris by Brandon Sanderson is a deep commentary on fear, lust for power, and humanity.
But first, The BLURB:
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.
But neither Sarene nor Hrathen suspect the truth about Prince Raoden. Stricken by the same curse that ruined Elantris, Raoden was secretly exiled by his father to the dark city. His struggle to help the wretches trapped there begins a series of events that will bring hope to Arelon, and perhaps reveal the secret of Elantris itself.
My REVIEW:The setting of this book is the ruined city that once was the shining example of all things wonderful in the world, and which is now a tomb for the living dead. There are three main characters, which was a little offsetting at first, but as I got into the tale, I saw the reason for it, and the story couldn't be told any other way.
Prince Raoden wakes up to find himself afflicted with the curse of 'the shaod,' the physical manifestation of the once beautiful, but now terrible, change. Despite being heir to the throne, he is declared dead and secretly thrust into the city with little food. He finds many reasons to fight against his lot, and struggles to raise the inhabitants of Elantris from the anarchy they have fallen into in their hunger and despair. Raoden is driven to find an answer, to discover the answer to why the Aons no longer work, and to restore their power, thereby returning Elantiris to health.
Sarene is a princess who is married by proxy to the now officially dead Prince Raoden. She arrives in Arelon, a widow before she has even met her husband, and, despite some roadblocks, immediately takes charge, as she is the only one really suited for the task. She sees the reality that the Arelon nobility ignores, and begins her efforts to both improve the lives of her new people, and head off the impending doom represented by a foreign religion that is poised to take over Arelon. When she realizes what Elantris conceals, and that her husband is there, she takes decisive action, sending food and other encouragement.
Hrathon is the high priest in charge of converting Arelon to his religion and placing a puppet on the throne. His own sense of honor and nobility get in the way of his duty, which sets things up for a spectacular finish. He is complicated, both likable and unlikable.