“There is rarely an obvious branching point in a person’s life. People changed slowly, over time. You didn’t take one step, then find yourself in a completely new location. You first took a little step off a path to avoid some rocks. For a while, you walked alongside the path, but then you wandered out a little way to step on softer soil. Then you stopped paying attention as you drifted farther and farther away. Finally, you found yourself in the wrong city, wondering why the signs on the roadway hadn’t led you better.”
– The Emperor’s Soul
The Emperor’s Soul, a novella set in the same world as Elantris, is the second book scheduled for this month’s #yearofcosmere readalong. I bought the edition that also contained the short story Legion and, in all honesty, I wasn’t expecting too much after my disappointing experience with Elantris.
Legion is the first Sanderson story that I have read which takes place outside of the Cosmere. Set on Earth it is the tale of Stephen Leeds, aka Legion, who lives his life surrounded by hallucinations, or aspects, each skilled or knowledgeable in their own particular area and who tend to come in very handy when solving cases. I won’t go into any plot details because this is a very short little story but there is an abundance of interesting themes such as science versus religion, the relationship between religion and politics, the potential ramifications of technological advances, and truth versus faith. I actually really enjoyed this, admittedly the characters and ideas more than the story or writing, but I would love to see Sanderson expand on this in the future.
The Emperor’s Soul was such a beautiful story and, despite my expectations being so low, it absolutely blew me away. The story follows Shai, a forger caught trying to steal the Moon Sceptre, who has only two options: face execution or undertake the impossible task of forging a new soul for the Emperor Ashraven, who has been left without conciousness after the assassination attempt which took his wife, in only 100 days. There is a very small cast of characters and very little action, instead Sanderson focusses on Shai’s attempt to understand what made Ashraven who he was in order to rebuild him, and on the growing and shifting intimacy which develops between her and a man named Gaotona. I read this as an homage to the complexities of the human spirit and how we are built upon each small detail of our history, Ashraven’s salvation and his destiny both lie in the study of his past, but that we are also what we perceive ourselves to be. There is a lovely moment when Shai is able to turn a plain and cracked window into a beautiful stained glass piece only because it remembered itself as something beautiful. I can’t recommend this novella enough.