Title: The Emperor’s Soul
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Published: October 2012
This one was a recommendation by Jenn from Dreamer Documents. Thanks, Jenn!
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 counselor, 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…
Characterization and badassery
Shai is intelligent, scholarly, resourceful, tough, and kicks major butt when she needs to. All the things I like. The characters really come to life and by the end I wanted to see more of Shai, which is always a sign of a good story.
Plot and pacing
A very interesting worldbuild and magic system. While this story is firmly fantasy without a sci-fi element, I do get a sci-fantasy feel from it because the inner workings of the magical elements are exposed. They ascribe objects with an anima and the idea of what they “want” to be, which I found an engaging and different approach. I like how much effort Sanderson put into the rationale behind all the elements in the story, which is exactly what makes it work. (This reminded me of my own method of worldbuilding, so it really struck a chord with me.)
Being a novella, there isn’t as much space to tell a fully-fleshed-out story, so Sanderson didn’t have any time to waste on low points. And he didn’t. Each scene has a purpose and the plot pulls forward nicely.
Prose and editing
Very good. No complaints here.
This whole story plays it straight, without humorous elements.
This is the kind of book that’s a gateway into reading more books by the same author. If you haven’t read Brandon Sanderson before, chances you’ll be reading more of him after you read The Emperor’s Soul.