The Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson: Book Review

Publisher: Tachyon Publications
Publication Date: October 2012
Number of Pages: 175
Series Notes: One Shot
Reason for Discovery: Friend's Recommendation

From GoodReads' The Emperor's Soul site:

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 has a ton of elements I like in a good story: female protagonist, crime/thieving (I love a good mystery, whether it is told from the investigator's point of view or the criminal's), and believable, quiet magic. In this world, the main character Shai is able to make changes to the soul of objects (and people) to reshape them. For example, she can make an old, battered table into a beautiful and cared-for table. Because The Emperor's Soul is a novella, you are left with more questions than answers about Shai's art. Normally this would be frustrating for me; however, I think knowing too much could break the magic. As I write this review, my thoughts return to the Myst books by Rand Miller. In those stories, the characters can create livable and fantastical worlds simply by describing them in empty journals.

I wish Brandon Sanderson had written more about Shai. I would have liked to know what had happened to her after this story ended. This story could have easily been extending into a second book or just a longer book (instead of a novella).

4 out of 5 pens


Sheila @ The Deliberate Reader said...
October 10, 2013 at 9:39 AM

I wonder why he wrote this as a novella - from your review it certainly seems like there would be enough to make it a full length novel. It sounds like one I might have liked, but I think I'd have liked it more if it was more developed .

Kimberly @ Caffeinated Reviewer said...
October 10, 2013 at 8:04 PM

Oh this sounds wonderful the only thing disappointing is that it is only a novella. You do make it sound fleshed out, and I can handle an open ending. Lovely review Pam, adding this to my list!

Unknown said...
October 10, 2013 at 9:37 PM

I don't know why he wrote it as a novella. It might have been a pallet cleanser for writing larger books. It just won a Hugo.

Unknown said...
October 10, 2013 at 9:38 PM

Sanderson is a great writer. This novella just won a Hugo too.

Tabitha (Pabkins) said...
October 11, 2013 at 8:24 PM

I absolutely LOVED this novella. I loved that it was a novella - but you're right there could have been more. But what I found amazing was that he so thoroughly put you in this world and gave you everything you really needed for the story - to me it was amazing and I didn't need anything else - I Just WANTED more stories after. But then I love short stories and novellas so I think it was a masterpiece

Unknown said...
October 11, 2013 at 9:03 PM

Lots of people would agree with you about this book, because it just won a Hugo! :) This book is set within the Elantris universe (another book by Sanderson) just in case you are looking for more. Sanderson says that this novella and his Elantris books are set in very different regions, but some of the magic may be the same.

Berls said...
October 11, 2013 at 11:02 PM

Oh this sounds fascinating! I love a good novella - it feels like less pressure LOL and it's even better when it's feels full like this one seems to. I can handle an open ending - Great review, adding it to my tbr!

Alysia said...
October 12, 2013 at 12:19 AM

What a great cover. I love short books. You can jump in and be done in no time.

Unknown said...
October 12, 2013 at 2:39 AM

The cover really is gorgeous! My friend really wanted me to get into Brandon Sanderson, so she purposely gave me this book of his to read. Most of his books are quite long. Now that I am hooked on his writing, I have to start reading his longer books. Now I just need to find the time!

Unknown said...
October 12, 2013 at 2:39 AM

I need to start reading more novellas. I feel so accomplished when I can read a book in one sitting. :)

Tabitha (Pabkins) said...
October 21, 2013 at 2:28 PM

Oh I know it won a HUGO - I got to hold Brandon Sanderson's hugo LOL check out my World Con - Tabitha partied til she dropped post. I'm a huge Sanderson fan. I loved Elantris and the Mistborn books, and Warbreaker. I think the only one I haven't read now is his The Way Of Kings because I'm waiting for him to have the next one or two out because Epic Fantasy is best read back to back in my opinion.

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