The Emperor’s Soul | Short Story Review

I picked up The Emperor’s Soul as part of my first time read through Sanderson’s Cosmere. I recently read and loved Elantris. Just like Elantris, The Emperor’s Soul is set in the same world: Sel. Sanderson’s short story was published in 2012 and won the 2013 Hugo Award. Depending on what version of short story you have, the page count can very. My version is 124 pages. You can find The Emperor’s Soul in Arcanum Unbounded, which is a collection of Cosmere short stories.

Arcanum Unbounded Praise

Before I get to the review, I want to give Arcanum Unbounded some praise. This is probably one of the most put together short stories collections I’ve seen. Most collections just put all of the stories together in no particular order even some are out of chronological order. What I liked about Arcanum Unbounded was the format. I will admit I have not read every story in this collection only because these stories take place in other worlds and as part of other series. For an example, Edgedancer is a novella related to the Stormlight Archive, which I haven’t read.

Each story either starts with an awesome picture or a beautiful map of that world’s solar system. After the artwork, the story follows. At the end of each story is an Postscript where Sanderson’s talks about what inspired him to write this story. Overall, I thought this made this short story collection worth the purchase. I recommend picking this up if you are a big fan of the Cosmere and want to dive deeper then just the main series and standalones.

The Review

I went into this story completely blind. I knew it is part of the same world as Elantris and is a fan favorite. But I had no idea how great this story really was. We follow Shai, who is a thief and forger. I immediately was invested in this story based on that alone. It reminded me of the show White Collar. In White Collar you follow Neal Caffrey, who’s a con-artist turned informant for the FBI. There are so many similarities between the show and this short story.

Some things I really like was the strong female character and the unique magic. The magic really made it interesting and drove the plot forward. I liked the format this story had. There is a time frame for which a magical task needs to be completed. Every chapter was a particular day leading up to the deadline. This format drove the pacing of the story. Right away we discover how high the stakes are for the Shai and how impossible this task might be. Nothing is more fun to me then watching a main character try to beat the odds.

Overall, this story was phenomenal. You really don’t need to read Elantris to follow The Emperor’s Soul. It only takes place on the same world but both events are separate of each other. This is definitely a great standalone short story in the Cosmere and makes me really excited about how everything is interconnected in some way. I personally wouldn’t recommend this as your first entry into Sanderson but if you some how pick this up as your first experience for Sanderson you wouldn’t be disappointed. I think these stories are the type of thing one who loves Elantris, Warbreaker, Mistborn or Stormlight Archive would seek out. But with that said, this story is worth the time. It’s beautifully written. The character Shai is amazing and the magic system is mind-blowing. Easily the best short story I’ve read this year. 5 out of 5 stars.

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