I received Elantris as a Christmas gift, but was already in the middle of reading Way of Kings so it has sat on my shelf for the past 6 months. Well I finally finished the other behemoth, which opened up some much-needed space in my reading arsenal.
This is the second true Brandon Sanderson book I've read (4th or 5th if you count the last few Wheel of Time novels). This was also his first published novel, though he's said in his BYU lectures that he wrote 13 unpublished novels prior to it (holy shit). It has a great hook: Elantris was the city of the Gods, golden and beautiful. Abruptly that ends, and the city becomes inexplicably cursed.
There are some problems with pacing. The book starts off with a bang for each character, but after the first few pages it languishes for a while. The hook and premise of the book are strong enough that I obviously continued, but there were a good ~100 pages after the introductions where not much happened. This seems to be a theme with Sanderson: strong opening, followed by a lot of worldbuilding.
But it's a wonderful book. The three characters are all compelling and likable, even the one who is the "villain". Each have complex motivations, and Sanderson avoids all of the cliches typically associated with the genre. The book is long, but the details are all necessary. He weaves the story so wonderfully that each minor details comes in to play in the climax.
Structurally, it's a relatively simple book. There are three characters, and the entirety of the book (with the exception of the last 20 pages) take place in Elantris/Kae. This is a refreshing change for the Fantasy genre, which often has so many POV characters that it becomes difficult to keep track of them all. And along the lines of genre-busting, it's a standalone book. I can't remember the last time I read a single Fantasy novel that wasn't part of a series. That was especially refreshing, especially in an age where I infrequently finish books or series because they're so soul-crushingly long.
Elantris is a great book, and it's no wonder that it's what made Sanderson break out as a writer.