The Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson
Shai is a Forger, a foreigner who can flawlessly copy and re-create any item by rewriting its history with skilful magic. Condemned to death after trying to steal the emperor's sceptre, she is given one opportunity to save herself. Though her skill as a Forger is considered an abomination by her captors, Shai will attempt to create a new soul for the emperor, who is almost dead.
I received the recent edition of Brandon Sanderson’s ‘Legion and The Emperor’s Soul’ which contains the two short stories bound within the recent Shardverse-published books, allowing me the first chance I’ve had to read ‘The Emperor’s Soul’, continuing my Brandon Sanderson orgy.
For me, the highest praise I can think of for work is this: “I wish I had written that” and “This inspires me to write something similar.”
These I can easily ascribe to my feelings upon finishing the Emperor’s Soul.
In very few pages Sanderson manages to weave a complete yet intricate tale of magic, theft, and human connection, with none of the flippancy short-stories and novellas sometimes convey.
The story itself is relatively brilliant, especially given the conceptual-intricacy of trying to tell a short story about a new magic system with characters that need to be engaging. Sanderson manages to weave together the necessary components to make the main character immediately captivating and genuine – despite her background – and her nemeses, at least the main two, intriguingly three-dimensional.
There is not much I can say about the story-proper that won’t give it away – as with most Sanderson stories, the discovery is part of the joy. Consider it a fantasy-set con of the highest order, relishing in personal achievement, and the thrill of cutting it close to the bone.
The Emperor’s Soul is no doubt available in a matter of formats, so you really have no excuse but to go pick it up as soon as you can. It might only take you an hour or three to read, but it’ll be well worth it when you finish.
Joshua S Hill, 9/10
The ever prolific Brandon Sanderson is back again, this time with a novella from his Cosmere titled The Emperor's Soul. After a few adept attempts at writing short fiction, The Emperor's Soul is in my opinion the first piece of short fiction that Sanderson has gotten just right. With a fascinating study of clashing beliefs, another inventive magic system, and highly entertaining action sequence, The Emperor's Soul is the book I would recommend to anyone who wants to find out for the first time what Sanderson is all about.
The story follows a young girl named Shai, a Forger who is imprisoned after an attempt to steal a famous sceptre on display in the emperor's palace. Shai has the ability to alter any object by creating a stamp that forges a new history for the object it is applied to. For example, a plain old wooden table can be transformed into a masterpiece by altering the history of the plain old wooden table to say it was created by a master carpenter. When an assassination attempt leaves the emperor in a vegetative state, Shai is offered her freedom in exchange for a stamp that will alter the history of the emperor so that he is able to recover from his vegetative state. But crafting such a stamp is highly complex and controversial process, and Shai knows she is a loose end that the emperor's council will be desperate to get rid of.
I really enjoyed this story, not only for the plot points from beginning to end, but also for all the themes that the story generates along the way. The idea of forging a person's soul generates a theological debate about the nature of a soul which Sanderson embraces whole heartedly. Sanderson also generates debate about the nature of art, whether forgery can be considered art or not, and why a skilled forger would not create their own art. There are many arguments generated, and Sanderson presents both sides in a surprisingly balanced fashion, never giving preference to one side over the other and giving the reader all the information they need to form their own opinion. I felt connected with both main characters used to explore these debates, and Sanderson delivers an ending that gives a great pay off for both characters.
Speaking of the two main characters, Shai and Gaotona are a fantastic pair of polar opposites who are connected by their passion for knowledge and understanding. These fierce enemies at the start build a unique relationship, and watching both of them grow throughout the story is rewarding in itself. Sanderson tries to introduce more characters and tries to give them importance in the story, but these characters end up feeling a bit tacked on and they take away from the main character conflict between Shai and Gaotona.
The Emperor's Soul is a fantastic addition to Sanderson's already bulging bibliography. At 175 pages, it is on the short side, but unlike his previous attempts you really feel like you get a full story in these 175 pages. For those big Sanderson fans, there are a number of neat little Cosmere Easter eggs scattered throughout this story, but you don't need any knowledge of prior Sanderson works to fully appreciate this novel. This is an easy recommendation to every fantasy reader out there.
Ryan Lawler, 9.1/10
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