The Emperor’s Soul (Elantris Universe) by Brandon Sanderson

Posted: February 18, 2017 in Book Review, Uncategorized
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‘The woman is a danger…What she does is an abomination.’”

About :

Shai is a MaiPon Forger in a country that despises Forgers as abominations. When she gets captured during a routine palace art theft, she scrambles for an escape plan; but before she gets the chance to spring herself from prison, her captors change the game.

‘She is a valuable tool. This woman can save us. We must use her.’”

They visit her prison cell and demand that she complete a job for them, a job so secret that Shai knows she will be murdered at its close: reforge the emperor’s soul. The Emperor’s Soul is a Fantasy Novella written by Brandon Sanderson and published October 11th 2012 by Tachyon Publications. Hugo Award for Best Novella (2013), Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Best Fantasy (2012).

Thoughts :

This novella opens with the emperor’s staff debating the fate of their captive Forger, and this first layer of cultural tension immediately intrigued me: What is Forging? Why do they hate it? And why must they use it to save the country?

Nearby in prison, Shai desperately seeks a way out of her cell before the next day’s scheduled execution, and her technique introduces readers to the unique Asian stamp magic of the novella:

To Forge something, you had to know its past, its nature.”

At this point (on like page four), the cultural tension and the magic already have me intrigued. Then the emperor’s councilors arrive and explain the situation to Shai and to readers: the emperor has been attacked and needs a new soul to survive.

Whoa. What?

They grant Shai a stay of execution for the next hundred days, during which she must create the soulstamp—a task that will involve a huge amount of complex, untested magic.

Her ambitious artist’s soul longs to create the perfect soulstamp, but she knows she must prioritize one thing over this primal urge toward faultless creation: she must escape before those 100 days are up or she will never leave the prison alive. The 100 day countdown heads each new section, and I totally felt the squeeze by the end of the novella.

Over the course of the story, Shai uses her magic in a variety of ways: transforming her room, making various stamps to reforge the emperor’s personality and history, etc. But a constant war rages inside her between the need to create a perfect soulstamp and the need to escape with her life. Her escape plan is just one more layer of mystery that kept me reading.

The final layer that got me fully invested in the story relates to the characters. In order to escape, Shai knows she’ll need to do something that makes her cringe: she’ll have to manipulate the elderly Arbiter Gaotana who visits her cell to test the soulstamps.

Gaotana seems to have the most integrity of all those palace staff, as he alone regrets the need to forever silence the young Forger after she completes the stamp. So when he criticizes Shai’s choice of profession—thief, Forger, abomination—Shai feels his disappointment keenly.

Why? Gaotana thought again. Why would someone capable of this artistry, turn to forgery?…Why not be a true artist?”

Aarcanum-unboundednd now she has to trick him—just to escape with her life? It made my heart hurt just thinking about it!


I love the human psychology and the theme of cultural misunderstanding in The Emperor’s Soul. And, of course, I love the Asian-inspired stamp magic. It ties in with the “form” type magic present in Stormlight Archives, I think, too—or it sounds like it does, anyway. In fact, I love the format and pacing and characters and everything about this story! I’m so happy it was included in Arcanum Unbounded: The Cosmere Collection, even though it was published previously. I kinda wish we could hear more about Shai because her potential as a heroine is limitless; but I understand that Sanderson wants to finish a few series before starting an entirely new one, haha.

Recommended To:

Although the novella is set in the same universe as Elantris, the reading order doesn’t matter. In fact, this might be a great introduction to Sanderson’s work, if you’re not ready to jump into The Way of Kings. There’s no fat to trim.

*****5/5 STARS

  1. This was indeed, as you say in the final part of your review, my introduction to Sanderson’s writing and the reason I finally lifted my reservations (since I didn’t enjoy Jordan’s WoT series and Sanderson was involved in finishing it, some of my lack of enjoyment shifted to him – silly me!).
    When you say that this story is somewhat tied to the Stormlight Archive series just made “The Way of Kings” move higher in my reading queue…. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Christy Luis says:

      That’s awesome that you read this novella first! You chose well! I haven’t start WoT yet, so you’re making me really curious about whether I’ll like it or not 🤓

      Yes please read it!!! Haha. The basis of the Forgery magic–wherein every object has a sort of “awareness” about its self and its history, which Forgers can subtly alter–is present in the WoK as well. It’s called something different and they don’t use stamps, but they can do similar things…it’s all very mysterious still!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The Emperor’s Soul is proof that Sanderson can write an incredible story with rich world building and fully fleshed out characters whether he’s writing 1000+ page epic tomes or 100 page novellas. This is the only novella/short form fiction I’ve ever given 5 stars to 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jen says:

    I didn’t even realize that Sanderson had a novella for this series, and I don’t think Chelsea knew that either, so I’ll definitely let her know! Does this character appear anywhere else in the series, or is she just in the novella?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Christy Luis says:

      Oh good!! Isn’t it so exciting? 😀 Most of his adult works take place on different planets in the same solar system called “The Cosmere.” Future books will connect the planets of the Cosmere through interplanetary travel–they’ll go from Fantasy to Sci-Fi. I’m so excited!!

      So far, this is the only story about Shai (at least that I’m aware of; I haven’t finished the collected works, yet), but Sanderson left her story open to the possibility of future works…I hope he does write more about her because she’s awesome 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. nikihawkes says:

    I loved this one too – I’m so glad you liked it!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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