I’m sure I’ve mentioned it on ever Brandon Sanderson book I’ve reviewed, but I love his story telling. Sanderson writes grand sweeping novels with complicated worlds, and I have yet to meet a hero I don’t love. So when a tiny novella came out last year, I eagerly pre-ordered the book and read it the first chance I had (it made a great read-at-lunch book). The Emperor’s Soul takes place in the same world as the book Elantris, but adds a level of depth unexpected in a story so short.

The Emperor's Soul

The Emperor’s Soul

Where Elantris followed a princess trying to save her world, The Emperor’s Soul follows Shai, a notorious forger who got caught. Having a main character who is, by some accounts, a bad person with no morals doesn’t change the insane connection I felt with Shai. She may be part of the underground black market in expensive forgeries, but she is also intelligent, fiercely independent, and loyal to her family and teachers.

Shai does have to face punishment for her crimes, but like any good Sanderson story the punishment isn’t what Shai or the readers expected. To pay for the crime of forgery…she must create a forgery of the Emperor’s soul. What Shai and the rest of the world don’t realize is that the Emperor was hurt, and the only way to save him is to create a new soul that defies everything their religion stands for. If Shai can create this impossible soul stamp by the time he is expected in public again, she will be allowed to live.

If you keep up on things in the sci-fi/fantasy world, you already know that The Emperor’s Soul has been nominated for a Hugo Award for best novella. I haven’t read any of the other works nominated this year, but I hope Sanderson wins because this story was great. With very  little action compared to his normal battle-filled books, Shai still lives an exciting and dangerous life. It tackles issues of morality versus the law in a direct but subtle way, by viewing the world’s religion almost as an archaeological study would (Shai does not subscribe to the same religion as the Emperor and his government). And because Sanderson’s writing is never dull, there is even a story behind how the novella went from concept to award nominee in just over a year.

The Emperor’s Soul may not be the length or scope we’ve come to expect from Brandon Sanderson, but it’s just as well written and thought out as his other books.

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