Friday, May 31, 2013

The Emperor's Soul, by Brandon Sanderson

I am a huge fan of Brandon Sanderson, and it's a treat when one of his books is made available at the very reasonable price of $2.99 for the Kindle Download, as it was in May. I don't know how long the price break will continue, but even at $4.99 this is a great deal. The Emperor's Soul is a novella, but it is a long novella, and is a satisfying weekend read. This tale has been nominated for a Hugo Award, and for good reason.

When Shai is caught replacing the Moon Scepter with her nearly flawless forgery, she must bargain for her life. An assassin has left the Emperor Ashravan without consciousness, a circumstance concealed only by the death of his wife. If the emperor does not emerge after his hundred-day mourning period, the rule of the Heritage Faction will be forfeit and the empire will fall into chaos.

Shai is given an impossible task: to create—to Forge—a new soul for the emperor in less than one hundred days. But her soul-Forgery is considered an abomination by her captors. She is confined to a tiny, dirty chamber, guarded by a man who hates her, spied upon by politicians, and trapped behind a door sealed in her own blood. Shai's only possible ally is the emperor's most loyal councillor, Gaotona, who struggles to understand her true talent.

Time is running out for Shai. Forging, while deducing the motivations of her captors, she needs a perfect plan to escape…

In Shai, Sanderson has created a character who is compelling and completely believable. Shai is more than merely a forger, she is an artist.  She takes pride in her work, and rightfully so. The way she is portrayed is a departure for Sanderson, in that she is most definitely a woman, and she is the central figure. There is a strong sense of history to this tale, and the structure of their society is clearly drawn in only a few well-crafted words.

Shai is thief, but not just any kind of a thief. Shai has been trained to forge a replica of the original item to leave in its place. Her replicas are masterful. in many ways her replicas are better than the originals. The power of her work as she remakes her surroundings she amazes Gatona, and every day he is more confused by her. This is not a love story--Gaotona struggles to understand why an artist of her caliber, who loves the craft as much as she does prostitutes her gift by making forgeries. 

Two factions now control her fate. They have something she needs, and she has something they need, but for how long? The Emperor Ashravan's condition has opened up new possibilities for some on the council, and they are ruthless. Shai is safe for the moment, but she knows her life hangs by a thread and only a miracle will save her.

She is locked in a room, and you only leave that room through the objects and the memories she is forging. Yet Sanderson manages to convey not only who she is, but who Councillor Gaotona is, who the Emperor Ashravan is as a man, and what the current state of the political world is. He shows you the world around her and you see those who would rule and the decaying empire they would commit any atrocity to control.

I highly recommend this book. It is high fantasy at it's best, and you will not be disappointed!

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