Brandon Sanderson’s masterful THE EMPEROR’S SOUL successfully delves the complexities of the human soul

Credit: Ceridwen via Wikimedia Commons

QUIRKY OPINIONS loves Brandon Sanderson’s Hugo Award winner THE EMPEROR’S SOUL.

I. Love. This. Book. Just love it.

I first time I read THE EMPEROR’S SOUL was about a couple of years ago and I was completely blown away. So obviously, I never reread it because why would anyone want to reread an awesome book? And yes, that was sarcasm.

But there was a reading challenge on Goodreads that I participated in and I needed to read a book with the title starting with the letter E (the last time I read the book was also because of this challenge) so I decided that it was time. And I am just as blown away this time. For one, this novella has the most awesome plot.


Now, we’ve all noticed that there are very few high fantasy standalones, compared to series. It’s because they’re really hard work. You have to build a world, establish its rules, and introduce characters and an interesting plot that’s relevant to the world that’s been created. You also have to move the plot along and give a resolution. All without making the whole thing overwhelming for the reader. And to accomplish all of that and more… in a novella, no less. It’s unbelievable. I can’t fathom how Sanderson did, but that’s why we love him. He’s brilliant.

The world building, plot and character development are so seamlessly intertwined that you never feel like you have to take a second to absorb it. The writing is simple yet beautiful and the world is fascinating. And the characters…


I could go on but I don’t want to give too many details. All I really want to say is that this is masterful and I so badly want everyone to read it. Just… please read it. You will not regret it.

Shana Hadi in THE STANFORD DAILY article “Magical realism: How do magical systems work?” discusses the novella.

This is one of my favorite magic systems, as it depends on constructing a narrative to literally redefine an object or person. The protagonist Shai has carved five stamps that rewrite her backstory so that when used, she can assume different identities, such as a talented martial arts fighter or a simple peasant girl. Something very fascinating is its consideration of how art and other objects have a life of their own, and how one’s perspective can reshape its physical manifestation — even knowing why someone likes their favorite color or hates fish is integral to stamp-carving.


One of my favorite books of all time, it delves into the nature of art and the complexities of the human soul, while maintaining its action-based premise (Shai is jailed and has to restore the emperor’s soul when he is left brain dead, and must find a way to escape before she is put to death for “theft”). It’s also one of the few works out there that has no romantic subplot whatsoever! Rather, it focuses on Shai’s granddaughter-grandfather bond with one of the Emperor’s advisors, with whom she reflects on her own Forging abilities and life philosophy. 

At GRIM OAK PRESS, Shawn Speakman shares this video of Sanderson’s Q&A and reading from Emerald City Comic Con.

For more on THE EMPEROR’S SOUL, visit the Tachyon page.

Cover art by Alexander Nanitchkov

Design by Elizabeth Story