I’m kind of kicking myself right now because I found this wonderful little story via a review and recommendation by someone from the WordPress community and I can’t – for the life of me – remember who it was. I normally like to call out anyone who’s made a recommendation that turns into a wonderful read and I just can’t this time. Whoever you were, my very sincere thanks.
I’ve never read Brandon Sanderson and I’m not sure how that’s happened. He seems to be very well regarded and he’s certainly been successful. My sister loves him and swears by “The Stormlight Archive” – some of her favorite books. So…Sis – this one’s for you. If you haven’t read this book – go download it to your e-reader and give it a try. It’s a novella – little over 100 pages – it’s a quick read that you’ll finish in an hour and a half with your morning coffee before the rest of the house gets moving – and I think you’ll really enjoy it.
I was really impressed by how much Sanderson was able to accomplish in so few pages. He managed to define four really interesting characters – Shai, the forger – Gaotono and Frava, the Arbiters – even Ashravan, the Emperor, despite the fact that he’s lying in a coma until the final few pages of the book. He presented an interesting system of government in enough detail to make it real. He constructed a pretty novel system of magic that he rooted in a real life experience (side note – if you pick this up, make sure to read the Postscript and the Acknowledgement as they provide both Sanderson’s thoughts on inspiration and his source for this story). He constructed a very active narrative that grabs you early, moves you along and never really lets you go. Finally, he serves up a beautifully hopeful story about the nature of art, redemption through second chances and the subtlety of human connection. I honestly can’t think of a better way to spend a brief hour and a half of your life.
I’ve never spent much time reading novellas – always gravitated to novels – enjoying the room they gave authors to create, develop and play with their world, their story and their characters. I have to say that my reading this year is really forcing me to re-evaluate – both this book and the two novellas in “The Murderbot Diaries” that I’ve had the pleasure of devouring. I can see how how much harder it probably is for an author to craft a truly enjoyable tale in a very short format. Every chapter and every sequence of the narrative has to matter. There’s no room for misses. Sanderson does an exemplary job in this respect with “The Emperor’s Soul”.
On top of both the challenge and potential reward of the format, publishers are putting some of these stories out in beautifully bound editions. I really enjoyed this edition’s size – it fits comfortably in your hand the way a full length hardcover novel never does – and the cover art was really elegant. This is a purchase I’d recommend for collectors and I’m glad it’s now on my shelf.
The final bit of good news – I enjoyed this so much that I’ve gone back and ordered Sanderson’s debut novel – “Elantris”. If I enjoy it as much as I did “The Emperor’s Soul”, I’ll be moving right along to “The Stormlight Archive”. See Sis – there’s hope for me yet. 🙂