The Emperor’s Soul

And now for something completely different, a regular review using what was my standard structure for the first 175 or so reviews I did prior to starting my re-read of The Wheel of Time.  But while it’s a regular review, it’s for a novella rather than a full novel.  When looking through my stack of books to read after finishing New Spring yesterday, I came across a couple of novellas by Brandon Sanderson and decided to read The Emperor’s Soul today, and it was good fun.

Book StatsThe Emperor's Soul

167 pages


Stand alone


The main character in the novella is Shai, a Forger who uses a creative and unique brand of magic to make copies of objects so that she can steal the originals.  Along with being a skilled artist, Shai does an excellent job of understanding people that she interacts with.  Really the only other main character in the novella is Gaotona, one of the primary politicians in the empire.  While Gaotona is almost completely opposed to Shai in how they look at Shai’s craft, in many ways they are very similar people.  They are both very observant and really care about doing their job to the best of their ability, watching their interactions throughout the novella is really what drives the story.


The story is set within the world of Sel, where Elantris took place, but it doesn’t involve the city of Elantris or that magic system at all.  There are a couple of small references to Elantris to show that it’s on the same world, but you don’t need to have read Elantris to enjoy this story.  While the world is the same as the one for Elantris, the majority of this story takes place within a single room of the palace.


The blurb on the back of the book sums the story up quicker than I could, so I’ll sum that up.  Shai is captured trying to steal the Moon Scepter, a relic of the empire, and before she is to be executed, Gaotona and the other arbiters come to her with an impossible task.  Shai is to try and Forge a copy of the emperor’s soul so that he may stay in power.  Shai has no option but to agree, and so she starts to work on her task.


This is a very different sort of story for Sanderson, in large part because it’s short.  There was a single chapter in A Memory of Light that was probably twice as long as this entire story, yet he is still able to tell a complete story with interesting characters.  He still has his trademark of a very unique magic system, and it’s very interesting to see how it works out.  Forgery allows the user to change the history of an item, in one example Shai uses it to change her worktable from an old neglected piece of junk into a good table that has been well cared for over the years.

While the magic is interesting, the characters are what make this story work.  More than anything else, this is what makes Sanderson an effective writer and what makes me enjoy all of his stories.  If you’ve never read any of Sanderson’s work because you don’t want to invest in a huge novel, this would be a good place to start reading his work.

Overall Grade

A much quicker read for a Sanderson novel, but still a very solid story.


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  1. I read this, literally, days ago and loved it! I thought Shai was an excellent character and I could read much more about her and return to her world any time.
    Very impressively written. I’m not usually into short stories but this is really good.
    Lynn 😀

    • I generally like Science Fiction short stories, I think that for the most part Fantasy takes a little more time to set up the world than SciFi does. But this story was really interesting, and it was constantly explaining what the magic can and can’t do, so it worked out really well. That and Sanderson wrote it, so I was sold pretty early on.

      • One aspect that I really enjoyed was the fact that although they put Shai in the dingiest and most disagreeable room possible she ended up with grander rooms than anybody else! What a way to get one over her captors.
        Lynn 😀

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