Published by Tachyon Publications on October 11, 2012
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A heretic thief is the empire’s only hope in this fascinating tale that inhabits the same world as the popular novel, Elantris.
Shai is a Forger, a foreigner who can flawlessly copy and re-create any item by rewriting its history with skillful magic. Condemned to death after trying to steal the emperor’s scepter, she is given one opportunity to save herself. Though 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.
Probing deeply into his life, she discovers Emperor Ashravan’s truest nature—and the opportunity to exploit it. Her only possible ally is one who is truly loyal to the emperor, but councilor Gaotona must overcome his prejudices to understand that Shai’s forgery is as much artistry as it is deception.
Brimming with magic and political intrigue, this deftly woven fantasy delves into the essence of a living spirit.
The Emperor’s Soul was not the first story I’ve read by Brandon Sanderson, but if I’m being honest it was the second. I’d picked up the first Alcatraz book and read it with my daughter when I learned that Sanderson had been picked to take up the mantle of completing Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. While Sanderson could tell a terrific kids story, I never got around to reading his Wheel of Time books, nor the rest of his books because, well, they’re really long books. So when I picked this book up on a whim, I thought I would enjoy a quick read and that would be the end of it.
And then the book sat on my book shelf. I was afraid to read it. I’ve heard it said that Sanderson is one of the best fantasy writers of our time and that sets some extremely high expectations, and there is always the fear of being let down when expectations are that high. But finally, I had enough of waiting and I started reading.
The Emperor’s Soul tells the story of Shai, a forger who is awaiting her execution after being caught trying to steal the emperor’s scepter. The day before her execution, however, she is given a chance at redemption and the greatest challenge of her life–she must forge a new soul for the emperor.
What I found to be so intriguing about this novella of less than 200 pages was that the majority of the story took place in a single room, yet was still captivating and I had a hard time putting it down. The way magic was used in creating forgeries was lovely and unique, and had the feeling of simplicity even though Shai had said that it was anything but. In order to create a forgery, one must know the history of the item in question, and she must then craft something that was plausible, or contained some element of truth.
The world itself was beautifully rendered with subtle hints at the larger world beyond the room Shai is held in, beyond the castle walls. There are, of course, references to the politics in this world which is only to be expected when the health of the emperor’s soul is the only thing that has stayed Shai’s execution. There are subtle hints to the rivalries and tentative alliances between the different countries.
It does feel like this had the potential to be a much longer story, but at the same time it doesn’t feel like we were cheated either. Sanderson told this story, and he told it well. I would definitely love to see a follow up to this story, to see if Shai succeeded with her changes to the soul, to see how she is doing after everything that has happened, even to see how the emperor’s advisers have managed since the emperor’s return.
While this book sat on my shelf for a while, I’m glad I finally read it. It was definitely worth the read, and I would recommend this to fantasy fans of almost all ages.