- Paperback: 176 pages
- Publisher: Tachyon Publications (10 October 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1616960922
- ISBN-13: 978-1616960926
- Product Dimensions: 12.4 x 1.5 x 20.1 cm
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #4,33,633 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Emperor's Soul (Hugo Award Winner - Best Novella) Paperback – 10 Oct 2012
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"The forgery was a masterpiece, an almost perfect replica of a priceless work of art. The minor inconsistencies were all but impossible for even an expert to detect. However, Shai had been betrayed. Now awaiting execution, Shai would be reprieved if she could do the impossible. As a Forger, Shai is a skillful artist who can apply complex magical glyphs to rewrite the history of the item to change it completely. Although Forgers are despised, the Empire needs Shai to accomplish the unthinkable: to Forge a new soul for the Emperor. Verdict: Sanderson, the best-selling author of the Mistborn Trilogy and The Way of Kings, has set this novella in the same world as Elantris, one of his earlier novels, but it is totally independent. Fantasy fans will love both the compelling story and the creative magical setting."
--Charles de Lint, Fantasy & Science Fiction "The Emperor's Soul is a worthy addition to Sanderson's bibliography: a new magic system with some interesting implications, a couple of fascinating characters, a focused plot, and a subtle link to the much larger picture he's been painting for years."
--Tor.com "With a fascinating study of clashing beliefs, another inventive magic system, and highly entertaining action sequence, The Emperor's Soul is the book I would recommend to anyone who wants to find out for the first time what Sanderson is all about."
--Fantasy Book Review "This story had such a wonderful balance with the world, characters, and magic building, that I truly hope the author will explore it more...."
--Open Book Society, five-star review "The Emperor's Soul is fast-paced, clever, and fun...."
--Fantasy Book Critic "This is a fantastic novella set in the Elantris world. Despite it's short length this story was complex, intriguing, and just absolutely magical and engaging."
--Hidden in Pages "An excellent fast read, highly recommended for readers looking for unique story worlds and magic systems. It won the 2013 Hugo Award for a Novella, and that really says it all."
--Flight of the Dragon "It truly is a work of art."
About the Author
Brandon Sanderson is a New York Times bestselling author of the Mistborn Trilogy and Elantris. He has penned the Wheel of Time series, the final volume of which was published as three novels: The Gathering Storm, Towers of Midnight and A Memory of Light. He writes stories on the genre of fantasy, thriller and science fiction.
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And his novella "The Emperor's Soul" introduces a fasincating new kind of magic -- Forging, in which a person can overwrite reality with what might have been. It's only a novella, but Sanderson proves that he doesn't need a 400-page tome to write a powerful, action-packed story with a well-developed heroine.
The expert Forger Shai is in prison, awaiting execution by the Rose Empire, when she's offered a chance to earn her freedom. The Emperor has been assassinated, and while they were able to fix his body, his mind is now gone. His advisors have bought some time by claiming that he's grieving for his wife, but that will only last ninety days.
They need Shai to do something terrible: Forge a new soul for the Emperor. Not only is it considered an abomination, but it's incredibly difficult.
Shai has no choice, so she begins learning everything she can in order to create a soulstamp for the Emperor -- which is no easy task, since she has to know what kind of person he truly was. But the hardest task may be planning her escape, especially since she's now enmeshed in a deadly political scheme.
Brandon Sanderson is a master of the doorstopper fantasy epic, but "The Emperor's Soul" proves that he's just as good in shorter works. And while the action rarely even moves outside of Shai's room, he manages to give the feeling that we've dropped into a rich, well-developed world that is just begging for exploration.
He also creates a really fascinating magic system -- it can turn any item/person into what it MIGHT have been. For instance, a broken window can be turned into the stained-glass masterpiece it once was, by suggesting to it that it was repaired by a skilled artisan.
But as he sketches that out, Sanderson weaves around lots of political intrigue and scheming, so that Shai has to constantly be two steps ahead of people who want to harm her. Not only does she have to grapple with the malevolent Frava, who wants Shai dead and the Emperor as a puppet, but a bone-and-blood-sorcerer who can track her down if she escapes.
And as the ninety-day period twists down to its end, Sanderson ramps up the tension. The climax is an eruption of action-packed martial arts, traps and grotesque sorcery, in which we see Shai using her skills on herself.
Shai is a truly likable heroine -- she's clever, tricky and knows plenty about human psychology, but she also has a kind heart. Her appreciation for the art of Forgery, and in making things better through it, has some intriguing implication for the new Emperor. And Gaotona is a fascinating foil for Shai -- an elderly, rather fussy man who sees Forgery as an abomination, but is clear-sighted and honest enough to learn about it from Shai.
"The Emperor's Soul" is a beautiful, rich little piece that shows Brandon Sanderson's skill, and introduces us to a new world that I hope he will revisit. Definitely a must read.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The Emperor's Soul is set in Sel, the same planet as Elantris (though very far apart from where Elantris takes place). The magic in this world takes the form of elaborate seals, the inspirations for which were drawn from the red signature seals commonly found on East Asian artwork. Though in our world it only leaves an impression of authorship, on Sel, an intricate seal can be used to change the history of an object in a process called Forgery, thus changing its present state. A battered old desk can be Forged so that it had a caring owner in the past, transforming it into a sturdy, well-maintained version of itself. The book follows the captivity of a talented Forger who is faced with an impossible task; Forging the soul of the emperor, who has been rendered brain-dead by an assassination attempt.
I found that a usual problem with Brandon's other novellas is that they feel like a chapter in a larger novel; interesting, but without a strong conclusion which leaves too many open plot lines and a sense of frustration when it ends. However, The Emperor's Soul focuses on one self-contained event (that of Shai's captivity), so despite the short length of the book, the conclusion of the novella gives a sense of immense satisfaction to the reader.
To express myself in a more succinct way, The Emperor's Soul feels like it was _meant_ to be a novella, rather than a novel put on a diet against its will. The book is jammed packed with emotion and tension, but it works well because it is short enough that the reader isn't emotionally exhausted by the end of it. Every character introduced pulls their weight in carrying the plot along. No words are wasted while the book makes surprisingly deep inquiries into the complex motivations of each character. The entire book just feels _tight_.
In the end, all I really want to say is, well done, Mr. Brandon Sanderson! You've successfully mastered the art of the novella.
Brandon Sanderson is in top form as usual, despite the shortness of this novella. Shai is a thief and has no compunctions about being opportunistic, but her driving force is her pride in her art. She's proud and tenacious - almost to a fault. I wouldn't exactly say she's lovable, but who doesn't love a good noble thief? The supporting characters, with the exception of Gaotona and Emperor Ashravan, don't really have enough time to be developed, but that's understandable for a book less than 170 pages long.
I loved the examination of identity in this book. In order for Shai to be such a good Forger, she has to be extremely good at observing both people and objects - the little things that influence them, their motivations, how they can be manipulated. She needs to be able to produce her desired changes with the minimum of effort required for it to appear natural (think about the complexity of planting an idea via a dream in Inception - it's the same concept.) Shai does this instinctively, and it greatly adds to the complexity of the plot and the world building. Of course, she also does it deliberately, and how she pieced together Ashravan's life from notes and interviews is fascinating.
I was slightly dissatisfied at the end because it was over too quickly and I wanted more! More of the characters, more plot, more of the world. I can't really complain about that, though - this is a novella, and I knew that going into it, and Sanderson does a great job with it. The only thing that felt rushed was Shai's task [SPOILER WARNING] - she said it would ordinarily take her two years at least, but she manages to complete it in three months - why was she able to do it so much faster? I would've liked some sort of explanation. [END SPOILERS]
I hope Sanderson writes more books featuring Shai and the Empire - perhaps even coming into contact with characters from Elantris.