The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson might be a novella, but it packs a full-length punch. A stamp and history based magic-system combines with an outlaw girl’s past and a dying emperor to make a brilliant and fast-paced fantasy story.
Brandon Sanderson is in the middle of several long projects right now, and so released two novellas this year instead of a novel, one (Legion) that is more sci-fi, and The Emperor’s Soul, which is very obviously fantasy. However, Sanderson is never content with recycled ideas, and even though The Emperor’s Soul is much shorter than any other book of his I’ve read, the story and magic system were just as amazing as I’ve come to expect :D. Also, The Emperor’s Soul is in the same world as Elantris, which you only notice if you’ve read the other novel, which is pretty awesome.
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Title: The Emperor’s Soul
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Pages: 167 (paperback)
Rating: ★★★★★ - Epic-ly awesome
A heretic thief is the empire’s only hope in this fascinating tale that inhabits the same world as the popular novel, Elantris.
Shai is a Forger, a foreigner who can flawlessly copy and re-create any item by rewriting its history with skillful magic. Condemned to death after trying to steal the emperor’s scepter, 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.
Probing deeply into his life, she discovers Emperor Ashravan’s truest nature—and the opportunity to exploit it. Her only possible ally is one who is truly loyal to the emperor, but councilor Gaotona must overcome his prejudices to understand that Shai’s forgery is as much artistry as it is deception.
Brimming with magic and political intrigue, this deftly woven fantasy delves into the essence of a living spirit. — Goodreads
- This magic system is possibly the best yet! Stamps are crafted that subtly change the history of an object in order to change the object itself. So if you want to improve the appearance of the vase next to you, you make a stamp that changes the quarry the stone came from, or changes the artist that made the vase. In order to make stamps that work, you need to know, or be good at guessing, an object’s history and how to actually make the stamps. So brilliant!
- For a novella, The Emperor’s Soul does an impressive amount of world-building, and making it set in the same world as Elantris really helped this aspect. We now know that the world of Elantris has this other society somewhere across the sea, and I really hope there are more stories to come :D.
- We really get to know the main character, Shai, and bits about secondary characters through Shai’s eyes. The things we learn about Shai’s motivations and dreams are quite moving and things you wouldn’t really think about the stamping magic implying immediately. This all leads to a very well thought-out character development throughout the novella and well-rounded characters despite the length.
- I wish it was longer! Or I guess I wish there would be more? The Emperor’s Soul was very well-paced given the length, but I wish we could have learned even more about the society that Shai moves in.
- Similarly, Sanderson generally has many subplots twisting around each other, and the length of The Emperor’s Soul kept that from being a possibility. Therefore, there weren’t really any epic plot twists, as there usually are in Sanderson’s novels.
- Sanderson has so many projects going on that I doubt he’ll be able to continue to expand this world much in the near future, but that is honestly my biggest complaint :D.
As can be expected from Sanderson, The Emperor’s Soul has a freaking brilliant magic system, strong and thoughtful character development, and interesting world-building. The only complaint is a typical one of novellas: why isn’t there more of this awesomeness?? If you like intricate subplots and plot twists, and novella will probably disappoint you, but if you want to read about a really cool idea and some really touching characters in a fantasy world that another awesome book is in, pick up The Emperor’s Soul.