An intriguing mystery of a paradise fallen.
I'll cover first the things I liked.
I liked the way this story isn't your typical, defeat-the-villain, twelve-volume, epic oddsey. There are no dragons or vampires (there's a bit too much of that these days). The story satisfies me quite a bit on that level--in fact, I remember reading reviews on Amazon.com, and the most common compliment about this story is its originality.
I liked the main character, Reoden. I liked the way he was resourceful. I liked the way he was clever. I liked the way he kept a positive outlook in spite of being damned for eternity. Not a whiner, he took it all in stride and made the most of his situation. I liked him for his intelligence, and I liked the way he developed during the story. Nicely done.
I like the setup for this story. Sanderson did a good job in the prologue, painting an idylic scene that would last for an eternity, then said, "eternity ended ten years ago." I love the opening line, "Prince Reoden awoke early that morning completely unaware that he had been damned for all eternity." How can you put a book down with an opening like that??? Nicely done.
I thought the magic was nicely done. I like stuff that has runes or glyphs that symbolize things. Kind of hard to picture them being drawn in thin air, though.
I really, really like the mystery aspect to this tale. The Elantrians are fallen exalted mortals. What made them fall? Why is their city crumbling to ruins after only 10 years? Why is it covered in slime? Why does the magic no longer work? I love the way it is Reoden's quest to determine all these things, and he systematically works through his problems one by one. Nice.
I appreciate the amount of time the author spent on the back-story for all the various races and cultures and political manoverings, etc. However at times I felt like I was drinking from a fire hose. I would have gotten into it had it been introduced more gradually. Since I'm not a big fan of Earth history, why would I get into an imaginary history?
What could have been better?
The plot drags in places. The book is filled with scenes that could have been cut, making the whole story tighter and much more intense.
I didn't like how the POV rotated between the three main characters from one chapter to the next. I found myself scanning four or five pages at a time to get through less relevant scenes. There are much better techniques for keeping up the story lines when you have multiple main characters.
It also bothered me that the fix for AonDor was so easy. Why handn't any of the original Elantrians seen the solution and simply fixed it?
Okay. Now for the score.
Did I finish reading the book? 1/2 star. I scanned too much of the text to give it a full star. If you're going to keep my attention for 638 pages, you need to keep things moving along.
Am I interested in reading a sequel, assuming there was one? No. Raoden was the only character that held my interest throughout the story. Hrathen had his glory moments, but he isn't memorable and that's crucial for a villain. Serene was interesting sometimes but by the end of the story I'd had my fill of her.
Was the writing good? Yes. I can't fault Sanderson for that. He did a good job. I never girtted my teeth or felt like his prose lacked skill in any way. I would expect nothing less, since he teaches creative writing at BYU.
Was the story idea interesting? Yes. I loved the mystery of a fallen paradise, and one man's quest to restore its glory. Fresh and original.
Was the ending satisfying? Yes, more or less, although it could have come much, much sooner.
Final verdict: 3.5. I can give this book my solid recommendation. Very original, yet still faithful to the genere. If you've read this book and liked it, feel free to post your comments!