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The Emperor's Soul

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The Emperor's Soul
The Emperors Soul.jpg
by Alexander Nanitchkov
Setting Sel, Cosmere
Released November 1 2012
Publisher Tachyon Publications
ISBN 9781616960926

The Emperor's Soul is a stand-alone novella by Brandon Sanderson, published in November 2012 by Tachyon Publications. It won the 2013 Hugo award for best novella.[1]

Cover Synopsis[edit]

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 100-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 100 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...
— Blurb from Victor Gollancz Ltd[2]
Shai is a Forger, a foreigner who can flawlessly copy and re-create any item by rewriting its history with skillful magic. Though condemned to death after trying to steal the emperor's scepter, she is given one opportunity to save herself. Despite the fact that her skill as a Forger is considered an abomination by her captors, Shai will attempt to create a new soul for the emperor, who is almost dead from the attack of assassins.
Delving deeply into his life, she discovers Emperor Ashravan's truest nature—and the opportunity to exploit it. Her only possible ally is one who is truly loyal to the emperor, but councillor Gaotona must overcome his prejudices to understand that her forgery is as much artistry as it is deception.
Skillfully deducing the machinations of her captors, Shai needs a perfect plan to escape.

The fate of the kingdom lies in one impossible task.

Is it possible to create a forgery of a soul so convincing that it is better than the soul itself?
— Blurb from Tachyon Publications[3]

Plot Summary[edit]

The story follows Shai, an imprisoned Forger. She attempts to recreate the soul of Emperor Ashravan with the help of his councillor Gaotona. Hoid appears in the sample chapter.

It tells the story of a woman named Shai, a thief and a Forger - a person capable of rewriting the pasts of objects in order to change their present.
She starts off in prison, but instead of being executed, she is offered an opportunity. The emperor has been wounded in the head by assassins, and has become a vegetable. His attendants have hidden this from the empire and will trade Shai her life in exchange for creating a Forgery of the emperor's soul, hopefully making it seem like the attack on his life never happened.
—Quote from Brandon's post on the book[4]

Characters[edit]

Main[edit]

Wan ShaiLu
A master forger; also known as "Shai"
Gaotona
An Arbiter of the Rose Empire
Ashravan
The Emperor of the Rose Empire
Frava
An Arbiter of the Rose Empire
Zu
Captain of the guard in the Rose Palace

Minor[edit]

Unnamed Bloodsealer
In the employ of the Arbiters, hired to make sure that Shai does not escape
Han ShuXen
A painter of the Rose Empire who hired Shai
Imperial Fool
Shai's accomplice who later betrayed her

Setting[edit]

The book is set in the cosmere, taking place in the same world as Elantris, though in a very different region and without any of the characters from Elantris.[5] It tells the story of a woman named Shai, a thief and a Forger; or person capable of rewriting the pasts of objects in order to change their present.

Easter Eggs[edit]

Hoid was written into the original prologue, as the Imperial Fool who set up Shai to be caught stealing the Sceptre. The scene was removed due to Brandon's alpha readers not liking it.[6]

The god which Shai worships has some relevance to the whole cosmere.

Postscript[edit]

Note: the Postscript is found in Arcanum Unbounded, a collection of Cosmere stories.


Brandon began forming ideas for "The Emperor's Soul" during a trip to the National Palace Museum in Taiwan. The tojang, or red stamps that adorned much of the artwork, stood out to him. In addition to the stamps of the artists who created the work, scholars and nobility who particularly liked the work would add their stamp to it, as well. From these stamps came the idea of Soulstamps, capable of rewriting the nature of an object's existence.

Publication History[edit]

  • Tachyon Publications in the US
  • Gollancz in the UK

A con-exclusive version of this and Legion was printed at some point, and a similar version was published in the UK by Gollancz

Awards[edit]

Winner of the Hugo Award in 2013.[1]

Cover Art Gallery[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. a b 2013 Hugo Award Winners
    — Hugo - 2013-09
  2. Book Page
    — Orion Books
  3. Book Page
    — Tachyon
  4. Brandon's Library
    Brandon's website - 2012-10-18#
  5. Reading from Afternoon Tea report
    Theoryland - 2012-04#
  6. Deleted prologue from The Emperor's Soul
    Brandon's website - March 31, 2014#
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