Book Review: The Emperor’s Soul

Life has gotten super busy lately (“real life” work is heading into crunch time, skating obligations are picking up, and I am slogging along on my trench coat project), so I have to admit I am really surprised I actually managed to read a book for fun in the meantime.  Of course, to be fair, I read it in 2-page chunks as I worked on scanning some out-of-print skating books.  It was the sort of thing where I couldn’t really focus on school-related reading projects because of the constant interruptions, but where it would have been pointless to not do something while the pages were being scanned.  So, I decided to read through the latest book by Brandon Sanderson, The Emperor’s Soul.

I have been reading Brandon’s work ever since he was chosen to finish the Wheel of Time series, and I must admit that he has quickly become one of my favorite story tellers.  I find that all of his books are quick to read, and are full of interesting characters and interesting ideas.  I always enjoy the way he crafts his worlds and magic systems – there is always something realistic and utilitarian about them, even though they are fantastical and set in completely made-up worlds.
I found that, while The Emperor’s Soul does demonstrate many of the typical hallmarks of Sanderson’s style, it is also somewhat of a departure from his other works.  Most of Brandon’s works comprise of a group of fun and interesting characters using a fascinating magic system to overcome some long-term problem faced by a society.  (This is not always the case, but, in general it is.  Of course, that is probably because that is the general structure of most fantasy and sci-fi stories, but, you know, the format works well.)  Typically his stories involve the characters running about quite a bit, with many changes of settings and locations.  Which is why it is very interesting to note that the majority of this story takes place in a single room.  Instead of Brandon using his characters to explore the world that he has created, he uses his magic system to allow for a very introspective look at the characters.  While the story may not be as inherently exciting as some of his other works, it was still a compelling read.  It allows a reader to see how people become what they are, and it offers the reader an opportunity to examine their own past and question how life events have shaped their own choices and behaviors.
Overall I found The Emperor’s Soul to be a quick and interesting read.  Like all of Brandon’s works I found it to be a fun escape from the real world, even if only for a few hours.  It can certainly stand on its own merits, however, I feel that it would be best read in the context of some of Sanderson’s other works.  I would recommend new readers to Brandon Sanderson start with Elantris, Mistborn, or Warbreaker and then branch into his other works from there.  For those who have read any of Sanderson’s other stories, I think The Emperor’s Soul is a great addition to his collection of other works and I highly recommend it.

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