New York Times best-selling author Brandon Sanderson is widely celebrated for his Mistborn Trilogy and contribution to the final three books of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. In The Emperor's Soul, a Forger named Shai can copy and re-create any item by using magic to rewrite its history. After being condemned to death for attempting to steal the emperor's scepter, Shai is given one final chance. She' ll be allowed to live if she can create a new soul for the emperor, who hovers near death.
©2012 Dragonsteel Entertainment, LLC (P)2012 Recorded Books
Say something about yourself!
Since finding Brandon Sanderson when he began his work finishing the Wheel of Time series, I have been grabbing as many of his books as I can. With one exception, I have found his books to steadily increase my expectations for the next one. I have always shied away from novellas in the past, because they seemed to be incomplete fragments of stories, that served as lead-ins to a book series. This one absolutely took me by surprise with its freshness, and its ability to completely engage my imagination. While this story truly stands very well on its own, for attentive listeners, there are tie ins to the Elantris book. I won't expound on them here, but will leave the fun of you listening for them untainted.
I had not heard anything narrated by Angela Lin before this, but found her reading to be very well done, even comparable to Kate Reading. She helped make a great story even better.
5 stars is i love and i will read agani and again. 1 is i hate and i never want to hear about it ever again. YES = :))) - NO= :'(
To start it with, it is a really good novella. Loved the new way of thinking in it and how to change history for anything..... i don't want to spoil it or anything but lets just say that certain people could learn how to change the history of creating a certain object to change its present state. its very interesting.
Narration was good, and the story was great although it was short , it still felt a satisfactory.
Have a listen to it and enjoy it, Brandon Sanderson is my top author and his imagination is unlimited.
I'm a bibliophile since early childhood. Love speculative fiction, odd premises, mystery novels that teach about different places and times.
I loved this book for several reasons. It looks into an artist's soul in a way that is illuminating. It looks into who we could have been if we were someone else. And it's a look at court life that is probably quite accurate if distasteful. It made me wish the world worked the way that the writer described.
I'm the managing editor of the Fantasy Literature blog. Life's too short to read bad books!
Originally posted at FanLit.
Shai is a forger, able to magically change any item by rewriting its history. For example, she can turn a battered piece of furniture into the beautiful object it could have been by bonding with it, understanding its past and how it sees itself, and then altering the past enough to change the furniture’s destiny. Unfortunately, forgery is despised by the empire because forgers often use their skills to counterfeit famous artists’ work. In fact, Shai is currently in prison for doing just this — she was caught trying to steal the emperor’s scepter so she could replace it with her own forgery.
Usually in a case like this Shai would be executed, but the emperor’s closest advisors decide they need her forbidden skills instead. The emperor has recently survived an assassination attempt, but his doctors were only able to save him by giving him a new brain. Now he lives, but his brain is empty — his memories and personality are gone. His arbiters, whose positions and livelihoods are dependent on this emperor’s reign, want Shai to do something illegal; they want her to recreate the emperor by forging his soul.
Of course Shai must take this job, or she’ll be executed, but she knows that despite the arbiters’ promises, she’ll be killed when she’s done because they don’t want anyone knowing the truth about the emperor. Shai works diligently to do the job they want, but she also plans for escape. Yet as she continues to progress, her artist’s pride begins to enjoy the challenge. Does she have the skill to produce the ultimate forgery? And does she really want to, or should she use this opportunity to remodel the emperor?
I’ve come to expect a lot from Brandon Sanderson: unique and fascinating detailed magic systems, interesting settings, likeable characters, and the perfect amount of truly funny humor. Sanderson’s new novella, The Emperor’s Soul, partially meets my expectations. Shai is likeable enough, though she’s not especially memorable. I missed Sanderson’s sense of humor in this novella, not because I think every story needs to have some humor, but because I particularly like Brandon Sanderson’s sense of humor and look forward to that element in his work.
Sanderson’s magic system is inventive and intriguing and allows us the opportunity to think about some ideas that I find really interesting, such as how personalities are formed. However, Shai’s detailed explanations of her craft and all its rules tend to dominate and bog down the plot and, because this book is so short, it feels unbalanced. Furthermore, unlike Sanderson’s previous magic systems, I can’t say that I truly believed in this one. For one thing, if Shai is forging objects by changing their histories or their construction, won’t this have other far-reaching effects on the world and not just the object being forged? If the battered piece of furniture is altered so that it thinks it was loved and cared for, or so it was made from different materials, then not only its history is changed, but there are people or objects involved whose histories are now perceived as different, too. Sanderson addresses this with rules (e.g., the forgery won’t take if it’s too far from reality) but I wasn’t completely convinced.
Even more problematic, though, is trying to forge a personality. In order to do so, Shai must understand the emperor. She makes clear that this is difficult and takes a lot of time and research because people’s motives and desires are intricate and conflicting, but it’s really so much more than that. Not only can we not understand our own motives and desires, we don’t really even know what they are and they’re dependent on too many factors — our genes, our prenatal environment, our upbringing, and so many factors that we can’t possibly identify. We wouldn’t be able to do this for ourselves, much less someone who we can only know from reading histories and a diary. Especially if that person had a brand new brain that was wiped clean of all the factors that built the personality in the first place. It just doesn’t work.
But still, if we can put aside our doubts, Sanderson’s story is enjoyable and makes a great thought exercise. For example, Sanderson made me wonder what makes art beautiful. Why is an original work of art so much more appealing than a perfect copy? It’s got to be more than just the way it looks. Also it was interesting to consider how people’s personalities are gradually changed over time by outside influences and how in some cases that’s a good thing and in others it’s not.
I’m being a little tough on The Emperor’s Soul, but that’s partly because my expectations are so high for Brandon Sanderson’s work. The man writes great fantasy and it’s exciting to see him trying new things, including two shorter stand-alone works this year. More newness is expected for next year and those books are already on my TBR list, as is everything Sanderson writes.
I listened to Angela Lin’s pleasant performance in Recorded Books’ audio version of The Emperor’s Soul which I can heartily recommend for those who want to read Sanderson’s latest novella.
Very pleasant to listen to!
As is with many of Sanderson's works, this book leaves you wanting more. I loved this book. It was an out of the box concept and very well written. It takes a lot for me to be draw into a book but this one had my attention from the start and held it.The end did not disappoint. Loved it!
The story had a lot of depth to it, despite being fairly short. Sanderson has really matured as an author (comparing to the first Mistborn book), and it's great to read almost anything by him.
The book is pretty unique - but it did remind me a little of the Gentleman Bastard series by Scott Lynch - where they would create various personalities for use in their various schemes. In this story, this is done magically, but it had a slightly similar feel.
Epic fantasy junkie but I love a good mystery.
I absolutely loved this story. The narration wasn't my favorite but it didn't take much from the story. I would love to here more about these characters.
Instead, it's another masterpiece from Sanderson. As always, expect cool magic, interesting characters, and an undercurrent of thoughtful moral questions typical of his later works.
This Fantasy novella is a treat for anyone who loves character based fiction.
The Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson, read by Angela Lin, published by Recorded Books (2012) / Length: 3 hrs 55 min
This is a standalone novella. (It takes place on the same world as Elantris, which is part of Sanderson's larger Cosmere, but is unconnected.)
If you are someone who prefers books with lots of action, then this probably isn't for you. The only action is fairly brief, and doesn't come until towards the end. I, however, loved it for the way it explored both character and (non-romantic) relationships.
My question in the title has a double meaning. It stands both for Shai's profession as an art/soul forger and for forging in the sense of "making or shaping." One of the underlying themes of the story has to do with how the Emperor's soul developed the way it did the first time, and how the littlest decisions can put you on a path.
I have added the Diversity tag since, like many of Sanderson's other works, this has fantasy versions of Asian characters and cultures. (He spent two years in Korea as a young man.)
Shai: I always struggle with protagonists who are criminals. I don't believe that crime should be portrayed as fun, harmless or even just acceptable. This book doesn't really go into that; it is more about what constitutes art and the ethics of that.
The aspect of Shai I found most interesting was the way she (beyond temporarily changing her own soul magically, or even just using a typical con artists ability to play a role) would reframe her own reactions by mentally chosing to become someone who was capable of dealing with her current situation calmly.
Gaotana: I love his complexity. He just wants to do what is best, but is also judgemental.
I usually include a section on the romantic relationship in this section. There isn't one here, but relation- ships are nevertheless a central theme. Gaotana is the hub around which things turn. His relationship with Shai, and with Ashravan. There is also a subtle message about the way we see people vs the way they are.
Allthough he is the next thing to dead from before the book starts, Ashravan, remains a central character. I like that, Emperor or not, he actually loved his wife.
As usual, Sanderson builds a unique magic system with internally consistent rules and natural drawbacks. I love the discussion as to whether there is less merit to a work of art created using magic than to one created with actual paints. I'm sure this parallels arguments that digital artists deal with.
The novella takes place almost entirely within the palace, and mostly within a single room, and yet there is a feeling of a whole world behind it. And Shai's talent gives a natural opportunity to explore the objects in the room and what she can do with them.
I am not a big reader of short fiction. This novella was the perfect length for me though. The beginning sucks you in as everyone is afraid of something. It then takes its time to explore the themes, before ending with a perfect blend of action and emotion.
HIGHLIGHTS / CAUTIONS:
--Shai & Gaotana's last moments together
--The very end with Gaotana alone
I COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT: a bit of fantasy language swearing (and the explanation of the word's meaning) / the concept of the blood magic *shudder*
OTHER CAUTIONS(?): It is mentioned that a married guard is having an affair / There is some brief somewhat brutal violence
Character voices differentiated = Yes / Opposite sex voices acceptable = Yes, I especially enjoyed Gaotana's voice which really captured the essence of his character / Phrasing, Pacing & Pronunciation = Good, I think I heard 2 small mispronunciations / Emoting = Good / Speed = listened on 1.25, my usual.
This story was so well written. So imaginatively brilliant. Both the writer and the narrator are awesome story tellers. Angela Lin brought the story to life. This one is a keeper, one to re-read and listen to again.
Report Inappropriate Content