I will never doubt Brandon Sanderson again. At the beginning of Elantris I was thinking, "This is pretty rough. How did he debut with something this long and average?" Then I hit the midpoint of the story. Let's just say the last three hundred pages are some of the best I've ever read, each one taken individually. I'm going to be a punk and go with a horrid pun: Elantris is epic.
There are three main POV characters in Elantris, for the most part rotating one chapter apiece. It was a cool approach. At first it was a little annoying, but by the magic (yes, another horrid pun) midpoint the pacing adjusted to fix the problem. All three characters are dynamic, unique, relatable, and complex. What more can you ask for? Hrathen's parts were my least favorite.
The plot in Elantris has many facets. Each line is related, albeit varied. The two main lines exist in Elantris and outside of Elantris. I loved the former. The latter was somewhat less great, yet still good. Subplots really boosted the characters' appeals. The pacing ramped up in the second half, which in combination with some of the best foreshadowing I've ever encountered, led to sheer awesomeness.
Elantris is never given a full description; it doesn't need one to be cool. There's a lot of flesh to this story's world, full of interesting cultures at the edge of sight and religious tension you can almost feel. I've seen more unique settings, although I never felt like setting held the story back in any way.
Elantris is probably tied for my favorite book. The first half could have had a massive overhaul, but you can't argue with the second. It was powerful. Bloody powerful.