Arcanum Unbounded by Brandon Sanderson

(8.0/10) For any fan of Brandon Sanderson, this book is a must have

Admitting that I am a Brandon Sanderson fan is like an alcoholic admitting he likes a little drink every now and again – we all know it, it’s not news. So I was unsurprisingly stoked when I heard news of Arcanum Unbounded, a collection of Brandon Sanderson’s short Cosmere-related fiction.

Having the book in my hands is even better.

I’m going to take a two-fold approach to reviewing this collection. In this review, I will review the collection as a whole, and mention a few of the standout stories, including the “all-new Stormlight novella” and the “Mistborn novella never before in print” – so stay tuned for those.

The book includes a brief introduction and preface from the author, and is segmented into six sections, each one representing a different system in the Cosmere. Each section includes an introduction from Khriss, “the woman who has been writing the Ars Arcanum appendixes at the ends of the novels” giving a brief overview of the system itself. Throughout the whole book there are beautiful star-system charts, as well as hand-drawn art for each short story. At the end of each short story is a short note from the author regarding the making of that particular story, and its place in the overall universe.

This is the only negative I have about the book, in that some of the notes from the author at the end of the story seem to work overtime in pointing out perceived flaws, which in most cases I never noticed, and retroactively detracted from my enjoyment of what I had just read. But maybe an author is allowed his own obsessive critiquing.

There were some stories that I have already read, including The Emperor’s Soul, but a nice array of new stories that I had never managed to get my hands on, was unaware of, or was simply awaiting printing in a copy I could put on my shelf – now I have what I wanted.

The stories from the Mistborn world definitely shed a lot of light, and might be seen as somewhat self-indulgent – but being someone who always wants more of something he likes, I don’t mind. I rather enjoyed getting to see Gemmel and Kelsier’s relationship in The Eleventh Metal.  However the stand-out from the entire book was Mistborn: Secret History, which most definitely sits in the self-indulgent category, but was nevertheless an absolute blast to read.

My second favourite story was Sixth of the Dusk, which tells a story of a planet we have yet to visit in any other form, and was quite fascinating for the new world it introduced us to, the new characters and the problems they must face, and the larger scope that lays before us, unwritten (as of yet).

Finally is the book’s major selling point, a never-before-seen novella set in the Stormlight world of another Knights Radiant (one who makes a brief appearance in Words of Radiance apparently, though I haven’t gone back to confirm that). It’s not as out-and-out exciting or interesting as the previous two I have mentioned, but it is nevertheless a perfect illustration of Sanderson’s ability to easily move between short- and long-fiction. The story represents a hint of much more to come – as the character is actually (apparently) intended to be a major POV-character in later Stormlight books – and sheds further light on the world in which the series is taking place – which for me, as a massive fan of the series was a true joy.

I wasn’t the world’s biggest fan of the ‘Taldain System’ stories, but that is a matter of personal preference, rather than the story being a ‘dud’.

For any fan of Brandon Sanderson, this book is a must have. But more importantly, I feel that this book is a perfect jumping on point for Sanderson-newbies. Each story is prefaced with a short note about whether it contains spoilers or not, so there is no chance to unintentionally reveal something you didn’t want to know. The stories are a wonderful introduction to the worlds of Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere, and his talent as a writer, and are all individually very satisfying.

 

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