The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson

Last night I finished reading The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson and I have to say before I write one more word that I loved it.  This is only a short novella but wow, such a great story and the character building is excellent.  I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this book and I will without a doubt be reading it again.

Firstly, a brief outline of the story.  At the start of the story, Shai is being held prisoner with the threat of imminent execution hanging over her head.  She’s a forger- similar to how we understand the concept except using magic Shai carves seals which when stamped onto an object change it’s appearance.  It’s based on the concept of everything, every day objects, having a memory and being able to manipulate this to change the appearance of the object.  Shai’s captors however have other plans.  They offer Shai the opportunity to stay alive.  In return however she needs to forge something that seems impossible.  The Emperor lies unmoving in his rooms following an attempted assassination and his advisors have an unusual proposition for Shai.  They want her to forge a soul.  Never attempted before Shai has no idea if this will work and so as to add a little more stress the task must be completed in three months.

Why did I love this story.  To be frank I can’t really pin it down.  It’s not like there’s an epic story taking place here after all.  But I just really enjoyed it and do we always need an epic story?  Apparently not.  Shai is wonderful to read about.  Seeing her take on this task, watching her inner turmoil about whether to attempt to escape or see the task through to eventually becoming overtaken with the overwhelming desire to succeed.  The other characters are also easy to imagine, Gaotang particularly was easy to get along with and Zu was absolutely awful, just as he was supposed to be.  What I liked about the way Sanderson wrote Zu was the way he stayed true to his character.  At the start I had that ‘hello’ feeling – I was assuming that Zu would eventually turn his feelings around from hate to love but he didn’t and I love that Sanderson didn’t fall into that particular cliche.

I think for a short story, clocking in at under two hundred pages, this is so beautifully self contained.  It doesn’t feel as though anything is missing.  Sometimes when you read a novella like this you feel unsatisfied but that definitely isn’t the case here.  Obviously I could have continued to read about Shai because I was enjoying her story so much but as it is this doesn’t feel incomplete, it also doesn’t feel as though it’s been pared down.  It’s a perfectly sized package.  It’s well written, the world building is simple but effective and the ending is awesome.

In case it’s not obvious already, I did really love this.  I’ve probably not given a very articulate review of exactly why but I hope that if you read this, in spite of my incoherent babble, you’ll go ahead and pick it up too.

I’m adding this to my Once Upon a Time event being hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings under the auspices of fantasy.  Go and check out the event details here and I hope you can join in with the fun.  Happy reading.

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16 Responses to “The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson”

  1. Redhead

    it’s been a while since I read it, but I do remember really enjoying this one.

    • lynnsbooks

      I know – I read your review ages ago and so wanted to pick this up! Then I saw it on sale for a song – £1.99 – you can’t possibly refuse can you?
      Lynn 😀

  2. Michael

    Sanderson hasn’t disappointed me so far. Sounds like I may need to add this to my TBR list/pile.

    • lynnsbooks

      You definitely should give this a try, I’m not exaggerating, it was really good.
      Lynn 😀

  3. cherylmahoney

    I keep thinking I should explore Sanderson, but I have this impression he writes massive novels. This might be a good gateway one!

    • lynnsbooks

      This is an excellent novella and self contained. I understand it is from the same world as one of his series – but I haven’t read the series in question and it was very enjoyable on it’s own.
      Lynn 😀

  4. Lynn E. O'Connacht

    Oooooh. That sounds fantastic! I didn’t really get on with the Sanderson I’ve tried to read before, but… No reason not to try this! I like quieter more introspective fantasy and this sounds like it should fit right in with that. (And I don’t think you were incoherent. <3)

    • lynnsbooks

      I really enjoyed this and Shai is a great character to read about. I
      Lynn 😀

  5. Divers and Sundry

    i found your link at the once upon a time review site. i’ve never read anything by this author, but i think i’ll see what my local bookstore has (or has access to, they order, which is a mixed blessing if you’re on a budget 😉 )

    • lynnsbooks

      I bought this one on Kindle as it was very reasonable £1.99. I prefer to have the book to be honest but as this was only a short story I didn’t want to go overboard. This was a really good story though and although I understand it’s set in one of his other worlds it’s not necessary to have read any of his other books. The characterisation in this story is excellent and Shai is a great lead to read about!
      Lynn 😀

  6. TBM

    I’ve heard a lot of good things about this one but still haven’t read it. I love Sanderson. I can’t remember, were you part of the group read of The Way of Kings? I’m so ready for the sequel.

  7. Carl V. Anderson

    Not sure why I didn’t comment on this before, but would have to say now that I agree with you. It is a lovely story. I’ve read it twice now, once to myself and once aloud to Mary and I will no doubt read it again in the future. It is one of those rare little gems that you want to pass on to everyone and say “READ THIS!!!”

    • lynnsbooks

      Exactly. I get almost anxious because I so want people to pick this up. I don’t know why, although obviously I do think Sanderson is a master, but more than anything else, something really appealed to me about this story and really stirred my imagination and emotion.
      I loved it – actually, yet again, Carl – I picked this one up from you! So many, many thanks. And, if I can get just one other person to read this I will feel pleased!
      Lynn 😀

      • Carl V. Anderson

        I wish I could remember who read it and got me excited about it. I was already planning on picking it up because it was a) Sanderson and b) short but I had delayed until reading some gushing review around Christmas time and then could wait no longer.

  8. My best reads for 2013 | Lynn's Book Blog

    […] The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson – only a short piece of work but for me a personal favourite of Sanderson’s. […]

  9. Short and Sweet | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson […]

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