The Emperor’s Soul is a 2012 fantasy novella from Brandon Sanderson set in the same world as his debut novel, Elantris (which I highly recommend). It features some amazing cover art from artist Alexander Nanitchkov, who has done a wide variety of cover and other illustration work for over 20 years.
The story follows Wan ShaiLu (Shai), a very talented Forger—someone who can rewrite the history of any object by creating a detailed “soulstamp” and imprinting the object with it. She is caught in the emperor’s palace while attempting to replace the Moon Scepter with a near-perfect forgery. She is then compelled to assist the arbiters of the ruling faction to cover the fact of the emperor’s assassination by creating a forgery of his soul. Shai agrees even though they give her only 100 days to complete a process which would normally take years.
While the story is set in the same world as Elantris, it requires no knowledge of the previous story. It is set a fair distance away from the events in that book. Sanderson does an excellent job weaving the story and showing how the magic works. The world feels extremely deep and rich, the characters are not flat, and each have their own motivations for what they do. Gaotana, one of the arbiters, is especially well done, as Sanderson shows the progress and changes made in his life through his interactions with Shai as the story unfolds.
I mentioned in my review of Sanderson’s novella “Legion” that I thought that story felt too short. This is not the case here. Sanderson does an excellent job encapsulating the entire story and making it feel complete this time around. Sanderson is truly and solidly establishing himself as a top-tier writer, whatever the length of the story.
The Emperor’s Soul is available in print as well as ebook format, and I highly recommend it to both fans of Sanderson and fans of excellent fantasy in general.
Release Date: October 10, 2012 (USA)
ISBN: 1616960922 (9781616960926)
Publisher: Tachyon Publications
Violence: 2 (some martial arts fighting, some minor torture)