A heretic thief is the empire’s only hope in this fascinating tale that inhabits the same world as the popular novel, Elantris.
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.
As much as I enjoy Brandon Sanderson’s series (his plot twists between installments are unparalleled), he truly shines when he’s writing standalones. The Emperor’s Soul is a masterpiece, fast-paced and tightly written, counting down the days until protagonist Shai is set to die.
In a short space, Sanderson builds readers a world. One with magic and history and a fraught political system. Whereas in his series Sanderson tends to the extremes with details of world-building, here he tells readers what’s necessary—and it works. He focuses on explicating Shai’s Forging, as other characters ask her about her magic and her work, and brings in information about other types of magic or other characters only when pertinent to the plot. The information is amazingly complete without being overwhelming.
The story is also characteristically thoughtful. Sanderson explores human motivations, the origins of prejudice, and the definition of art. As Shai strives to craft a soul, he asks what it is that makes us human and how much we should be allowed to play with other people’s lives. Important issues and fundamental questions lie deeply embedded in this compelling and fast-paced tale.
This is the place to start for anyone looking to begin reading high fantasy. Sanderson is a skilled wordsmith with a breath-taking imagination. But he also looks to the core of human emotions in ways that will remind readers of J.R.R. Tolkien or Chaim Potok.