The Emperor’s Soul: A great introduction Brandon Sanderson

The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson fantasy book reviewsThe Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson

Set in the same world as Elantris, The Emperor’s Soul tells the story of a Forger named Shai who is called upon by the ranking bureaucrats of the Empire. The Emperor has suffered a traumatic brain injury in an assassination attempt, and rather than have him step down, which would mean a demotion in their own power, the Guardians decide that they will call on the power of a Forger, someone who can magically imprint upon objects a new identity with their magically carved seals, to forge the soul of the emperor. The penalty for failure will be Shai’s death. However, she knows that if she succeeds, she will be killed anyway because her talents are considered blasphemous, and no one can ever know what she has done.

This novella is the first experience I have had reading the work of Brandon Sanderson, and I can see now what all the fuss is about. Sanderson has a unique, well thought out magical system, thoughtful worldbuilding, and interesting characters. The interplay between Shai and the various Guardians and guards results in interesting discussions about the nature of reality, whether or not reality cares if you believe in it, and what makes a soul.

This is a difficult review to write for two reasons. First, it’s a novella, so I don’t want to write too much in case I give away something. Secondly, most of the action is psychological, which is difficult to discuss, other than to say I found this book thought-provoking while also being an enjoyable read. I would be interested in seeing if Sanderson brings Shai back as a character in other books. Sanderson has definitely joined my list of To Read authors (though I think it would take more than Sanderson’s skill to make me pick up the WHEEL OF TIME books again) and if you are not familiar with him, I think this novella would make a great starting place.

When Shai is caught replacing the Moon Scepter with her nearly flawless forgery, she must bargain for her life. An assassin has left the Emperor Ashravan without consciousness, a circumstance concealed only by the death of his wife. If the emperor does not emerge after his hundred-day mourning period, the rule of the Heritage Faction will be forfeit and the empire will fall into chaos. Shai is given an impossible task: to create–to Forge–a new soul for the emperor in less than one hundred days. But her soul-Forgery is considered an abomination by her captors. She is confined to a tiny, dirty chamber, guarded by a man who hates her, spied upon by politicians, and trapped behind a door sealed in her own blood. Shai’s only possible ally is the emperor’s most loyal councillor, Gaotona, who struggles to understand her true talent. Time is running out for Shai. Forging, while deducing the motivations of her captors, she needs a perfect plan to escape…

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RUTH ARNELL is a professor of political science in Idaho. From a young age she has maxed out her library card the way some people do credit cards. Ruth started reading fantasy with A Wrinkle in Time and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — books that still occupy an honored spot on her bookshelf today. Ruth and her husband have a young son, but their house is actually presided over by a flame-point Siamese who answers, sometimes, to the name of Griffon.

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One comment

  1. OooH I just love Brandon Sanderson, and am quite looking forward to going through all the Wheel of Time books just before the last one comes out next year. His magic was really clever in the Mistborn Trilogy as well. Thank you for alerting me to this latest edition of his work.

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