This satisfying debut novel begins ten years after the magic that once made Elantris, a radiant city of benevolent demigods, inexplicably fails. This capital of Arelon and and its magnificent inhabitants are reduced to rotting monstrosities. The city of Kae, lying in the shadow of ELantris, becomes the capital, but a mysterious malady still randomly afflicts individuals, including the crown prince, Raoden. Like others so affected, Raoden is cast into Elantris and considered dead in Kae. Princess Sarene of Teod arrives to wed the prince and is told he is dead, but that she is considered to be his widow. This political convenience is needed to preserve an alliance between Arelon and Teod, the last two countries outside the grasp of the religiously fanatical Fjordell Empire. Hrathen, a priest of the empire, arrives on the scene to convert the heathen Kae. Machinations and a non-stop single-volume story ensue. Sanderson still has room to improve his prose, but his imaginative chops are apparent.