Elantris - Brandon Sanderson

Cover of Elantris

Elantris is Brandon Sanderson's first novel.  I checked it out because I enjoyed Mistborn, and I liked Elantris as well.

Elantris is the city of gods.  However, one decade before the book takes place, the gods fell from grace, losing their magic and throwing the world into political turmoil.  

The book follows three people: a prince-turned-fallen-god, a princess, and a monk who overthrows nations.  Many books with multiple POVs switch about ad-hoc, and that works fine, but in Elantris, each chapter rotates between those POVs in order.  It's an interesting strategy because the structure creates a sense of anticipation: I read each chapter knowing who the focus would shift to next, and I was always looking forward to that (well, less so for the monk).

There was a bit of the predestined-hero trope -- protagonists that are brilliant, charismatic, and born into greatness -- but they were unique enough to be interesting.  Yes, the prince is a charismatic leader, but he's more the rebellious son of a usurper than the most recent in a long, noble line.  And yes, the princess is the most recent in a long, noble line, but she is more of a hard-working political mastermind than a waif who waits for her prince to save her.

The personalities of the characters extends into the plot.  None of the protagonists has much of an aptitude or appetite for violence.  Unlike many fantasy novels, there isn't an explosion or stabbing every 5 minutes.  Instead, the prince tries to fight against hopelessness by being an inspirational leader, and the princess and monk face off in their political schemes.  There is still some fighting and backstabbing and magicking, but it was more the exception than the rule.  The focus was on peacefully building a better society.