From #1 New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson, The Emperor’s Soul showcases a fascinating magic system as the clock ticks down for a condemned criminal.
When Shai is caught replacing the Moon Scepter with her nearly flawless forgery, she must bargain for her life. An assassin has left the Emperor Ashravan without consciousness, a circumstance concealed only by the death of his wife. If the emperor does not emerge after his hundred-day mourning period, the rule of the Heritage Faction will be forfeit and the empire will fall into chaos.
Shai is given an impossible task: to create—to Forge—a new soul for the emperor in less than one hundred days. But her soul-Forgery is considered an abomination by her captors. She is confined to a tiny, dirty chamber, guarded by a man who hates her, spied upon by politicians, and trapped behind a door sealed in her own blood. Shai’s only possible ally is the emperor’s most loyal councillor, Gaotona, who struggles to understand her true talent.
Time is running out for Shai. Forging, while deducing the motivations of her captors, she needs a perfect plan to escape…
“No matter how good you were, someone was better. Live by that knowledge, and you would never grow so confident that you became sloppy.”
I really enjoyed this novella. It takes place on the same world as the story of Elantris, but it is unconnected to that story as it takes place in an entirely different part of the planet and it has the feel of a Stormlight Archive story. While this is a standalone story, I don’t believe it should be read as your introduction into Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere. It feels more accessible because it is shorter while still being a full story. However, there is a lot of information in this story about the magic system of the Cosmere and how investiture is used and such. While it is a tighter story and smaller, I just cannot recommend this as a first. I think many would be bored at all the magic talk if it is their first.
The Emperor’s Soul is, at its core, a story of what does it mean to be a person. What is a soul? If your personality created, are you still a person? If you change your soul, even temporarily, are you still the same person when you come back? It is all so interesting. Shai doesn’t care about that, she wants the challenge of being able to recreate a personality from notes, and to be able to survive afterward. But, the argument still exists: is the Emperor still a person?
Shai is an interesting character. She loves what she does, she finds enjoyment in it, and she is good at it. Unfortunately, she is vilified by others for it. She refuses to give it up for anything, it is a part of who she is. Gaotona is an interesting father figure, in that he tries to be a father figure to everyone. It doesn’t exactly work, but that is the way he wants to see himself. The other characters aren’t overly interesting, mostly straightforward and not really worth mentioning. Except the Emperor, but is he even a person anymore? Is he a character? Up to you to decide.
This is a great novella that adds a lot of depth to the Cosmere. You don’t have to have read Elantris, you don’t have to have read Stormlight Archive, you don’t have to have read Mistborn. This is a standalone. You would just get more out of this had you read one of those before.
To read more reviews for this series, check out the Cosmere series page!