December Countdown, Day 6 : Christmas stocking

December book meme (details here).  Christmas stocking – stocking fillers – a novella or short story:



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.