BOOK REVIEW: The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson


This is a guest post by Donald Tombia.

Let’s start with accolades, shall we? Brandon Sanderson is one of our world’s most prolific writers (don’t know how he will fare against writers from planet Zoph and Ererimbot). Since the start of his expansive literary journey with the novel Elantris, Brandon Sanderson has gone on to enthrall readers with the Mistborn series, The Rithmatist, Steelheart, Warbreaker, Words of Radiance etc. All his works have been considered Epic. Brandon Sanderson has lectures hosted on He churns out works with intricate world building and novel magic systems so fast, a few have questioned his humanity e.g. the enigmatic Patrick Rothfuss, author of The Kingkiller Chronicle.

Yes, Brandon Sanderson writes Fantasy fiction.

Yes, The Emperor’s Soul is Fantasy fiction novella..

The Emperor’s Soul follows an age-old generic tale: miscreant is captured by the law. Now the law requires miscreant’s services, which are rendered for a price. That’s the language of the Catch Me If You Can movie starring Leonardo Dicaprio & Tom Hanks. But Brandon Sanderson goes all fantasy on this tale. He raises the world building and magic system to an all-time high. Literally, the writing is so fluid, the prose so easy, the flow so compelling that you find that you’ve finished this short piece while seated in Lagos traffic without being present in Lagos traffic.

There will be zero spoilers in this review.

The Emperor’s Soul started with this paragraph: SHAI PRESSED HER FINGERNAIL into one of the stone blocks of her prison cell. The rock gave way slightly. She rubbed the dust between her fingers. Limestone. An odd material for use in a prison wall, but the whole wall wasn’t of limestone, merely that single vein within the block.

We are immediately intrigued by the protagonist and hero of the story, Wan ShaiLu. Why is she in a prison cell? More importantly, why is she noticing the materials used in making the prison walls? This first paragraph is well written with great promise. Shai turns out to be a Forger who can re-create objects by rewriting their history. She was betrayed by a partner, imprisoned by the Empire, and given an impossible task of creating a new soul for Emperor Ashravan who was brain-dead after a failed assassination attempt. It was impossible because of the complexity and delicate nature of what was asked and also because of the time frame given. Shai planned her escape as she worked on the new soul, but as the plot thickened she started getting sidetracked by the Emperor himself -fascinated by who he was on the outside versus who he really was soul deep -and also by one of the Elder Arbiters, Gaotona.

Brandon Sanderson employed the classic clock running down which Dan Brown has used in all his books, particularly in his latest, Inferno (now a motion picture), to ramp up the tension. In the Emperor’s Soul, you know Shai will succeed in her difficult task. So that’s not what keeps you reading.

You keep reading because;

  • It’s fantasy by Brandon Sanderson!
  • The clock is winding down on so many plot points: the actual soul creation, her relationship with Gaotona, her fascination with the Emperor, Flava’s plan to kill her immediately after the creation, Shai’s plan to escape -dealing with the Arbiters, Strikers and Bloodsealers.
  • The magic system is fascinating -believable, logical and plausible
  • The world, Sel, is same with that of Elantris, Brandon Sanderson’s first published novel (he had written twelve unpublished before this)
  • It’s a fantasy by Brandon Sanderson!

For a novella, Emperor’s Soul carried more plot points and plot twists and gratifying resolution and built up tension and satisfying relationship and realistic dialogue and relatable characters than most novels out there.

And so with these few points of mine, I hope I’ve been able to convince you and not confuse you that The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson is the next book to buy and read.

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