Where do I begin? I think since I read the Mistborn books before this (his fantasy debut) it gives me a bit of an edge. I can see some of the theories and ideas that he formed in Elantris taking fuller life in the Mistborn books (especially in regards to religious ideals and political upheavel). Though Elantris has nothing to do with Mistborn beyond its the same genre and author, at their core I think they dealt with the same things. How religious fervor can blind followers, how unstable a government is with a weak King (or ruler), how even seemingly evil men can be shielding a far worse menace.
There are some troublesome spots, or at least character motivations that weren't fully developed. Dilaf, a Derethi priest, for instance gets an eleventh hour change of status that is plausible (given the overall nature of the Fjordell government), but his blind hatred of Elantris is only given a cursory glancing. The reason is mentioned earlier in the book offhandedly by Raoden, but the connection to Dilaf isn't made until very close to the end of the book. There is also the matter of Adien, one of Sarene's cousins, who gets a brief 'This is why he was like this all this time' and then 'Now he's better'. The question of the Aons is also left dangling--where do they come from, how are they made?
Throughout we 'see' events from three different third person viewpoints. Raoden, stuck in Elantris after he is struck down by the mysterious Shaod. Sarene, after she arrives in Arelon to find herself a widow before a bride. And lastly Hrathen, a High Priest of Derethi who is determined to convert the populace of Arelon quickly to avoid the bloodshed that could follow otherwise. This gives us a rounded view of events occuring throughout all of Arelon, but also offers insights when paths intersect (or collide in some cases). Where Sarene sees the game of matching wits with Hrathen as a game necessary to save others, Hrathen sees her as an opponent who challenges him and makes him think. He respects her even as he curses her interference. Where Sarene thinks giving food to the Elantrian citizens is a helpful offering, Raoden bemoans the bad timing of the charity.
In the end I enjoyed the book immensely and can fully appreciate everything that Sanderson took from this and expanded upon in the Mistborn books.
This book is excellent in storytelling and pacing. The worldbuilding is excellent, and I kept reading to the end to discover the answer to the puzzle of Elantris. My only disappointment is that I didn't really bond strongly with any of the characters. I expect others won't have that problem. Overall, it was well worth reading. Genre Reviews http://genrereviews.blogspot.com/