Name: The Emperor’s Soul
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Number of Pages: 128 (Hardback)
Published: 17th December 2015 by Gollancz
Genre: High Fantasy
From the bestselling author of the Mistborn Trilogy and co-author of the final three books of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series comes the tale of a heretic thief who is the only hope for the survival of an empire.
Shai is a Forger, a foreigner who can flawlessly copy and re-create any item by rewriting its history with skillful magic. Though condemned to death after trying to steal the emperor’s sceptre, she is given one opportunity to save herself. Despite the fact that 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 from the attack of assassins.
Skillfully deducing the machinations of her captors, Shai needs a perfect plan to escape. The fate of the empire lies in one impossible task. Is it possible to create a forgery of a soul so convincing that it is better than the soul itself? – from Goodreads
This is the first book I’ve read by Brandon Sanderson. I’ve had the first Mistborn book on my TBR list for a LONG time but never got around to reading it yet, so when I happened upon this much smaller novella in the library I snapped it up, eager to discover a new author. I’m so glad I did. The novella is the perfect introduction for a new reader like me. It doesn’t depend on knowing about any of the worlds already created, or at least for me I didn’t feel that anything was lacking because I’d never read any of Sanderson’s other books. And it certainly left me more eager than ever to pick one up.
I loved the writing, and the whole idea of Forging, be it an object or a soul. I found it fascinating that a Forger can rewrite the history of an object to make it visibly different. The challenge of applying this magic to something as complex and individual as a soul is a daunting prospect, but one that lead character Shai must undertake at the potential cost of her own life, for Shai had been caught in her Forging, and is due to be executed. It is only when the arbiters come to realise that her talents may prove useful in solving their problem and set her to work on the task of restoring the emperor’s soul through Forgery that she has the chance to win her freedom.
I loved the scenes between the arbiter Gaotona and Shai. Shai needs a subject on whom to test the stamps she is creating, and Gaotona offers himself, feeling that to subject anyone else to her Forgery would be wrong. This gives them plenty of time in which to learn about each other, for although he may not in theory approve of Shai’s skills Gaotona comes to appreciate them, and tries to convince Shai she could be so much more, a true artist.
Shai is strong willed and clever. Despite the odds being stacked against her, at the mercy of her captors and with the looming threat of execution, she has her mind on the seemingly impossible task of writing a soul for the emperor, but also in planning her own escape. She works to ensure her own safety, and even uses her talents to transform her cell into a place of beauty.
So much is included in such a short number of pages and that makes this a wonderful tale. I would love to read more of Shai and her adventures, and I will definitely be trying other books by Brandon Sanderson, so if you have any favourites feel free to let me know!