Sunday, May 19, 2013

Review: The Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson

The Emperor's Soul--Brandon Sanderson
October 2012 by Tachyon Publications
175 pages--Goodreads

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 is Sanderson's usual storytelling, but condensed; rather than juggling three or four intertwined plots and dozens of characters we have one main character, one plot arc.  The story is straight forward, but not oversimplified.  From the intriguing beginning to the satisfying conclusion, we experience all of Sanderson's skill and style.

We once again get an excellently crafted magic system.  Soulstamping, like all of Sanderson's magic systems, has rules and limitations that make sense and pose challenges.  Shai is limited in what and how she can forge.  Sanderson never has his characters wave a magic wand to fix everything inexplicably.  It is much more satisfying when a character has to be creative to work around the limitations in order to find a solution, rather than just poofing everything to perfection.

And the characters are excellent, as always.  They are real.  Even with the limited amount of time we have to work with in this novella, Shai, Gatona, and the other characters are real, not one dimensional caricatures.  They each have motivations, desires, personalities, histories.  No one is evil just for the sake of being evil, and no one is angelically good.  Everyone has a purpose to what they do.  That skill in characterization is what keep me coming back for more.

My only regret is that The Emperor's Soul isn't loner.  Sanderson didn't cut the story short or leave dangling plot strings or anything like that.  Everything wraps up well and the story is just as long as it needs to be.  I just want more.  I enjoy Sanderson's storytelling so much, that only getting 200 pages leaves me wanting more.  I'll just have to go reread Mistborn.

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