Book 413: The Emperor’s Soul – Brandon Sanderson

Sanderson, Brandon - The Emperor's SoulDAMN you Mormons and your great Science Fiction/Fantasy! That’s about 25% fact and 75% unadulterated conjecture. Before I go into that (you can skip the next two paragraphs if you’re not interested), funny story: I kept thinking of this as some weird hybrid of the story as it happened and The Emperor’s New Clothes. My mind is weird.

Now, Mormons. Seriously though, why does it seem like there are so many Mormon’s who tell great stories in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genres: Jeff Wheeler, Orson Scott Card, Stephenie Meyer (cough*story teller, still not a great writer*cough) and now Brandon Sanderson. I’m not the first to ponder this (Boston Globe link)and I know I won’t be the last. I know for me it raises a big dilemma of ethics/politics when I chose to read an author who actively believes/participates in a religion which negates/actively works against something I identify with. Do I purchase their novels and have my, what ultimately ends up being fractions of pennies, support their religion through tithing, or do I boycott the author because of their churches stance?

Sure some keep their politics to themselves (Sanderson [Wikipedia Link] and Wheeler [Wheeler website, more so for honesty]). That being said, when people like Sanderson write articles such as this: “Eulogy on Pullman and Censorship” (Sanderson’s website) you have to appreciate their willingness to discuss and at least be open to ideas. So again, still torn. I will probably continue as I have purchasing from used bookstores so I can support the local economy and the re-sell won’t go directly to them. Now, on to the book!

My friend Alex gave me this books along with O’Malley’s The Rook back in December. I trust his judgment as he was the one who introduced me to Simmons’ Hyperion Cantos (1, 2, 3 and 4) and let’s just say he didn’t steer me wrong with this one. I’ve had a copy of Sanderson’s The Way of Kings on my Kindle for over a year, but didn’t start it as the series wasn’t complete. With such a prolific writer it’s also hard to know where to start ( article). So Alex gave me this and said start here.

It’s hard to say what I enjoyed most about this novella. The characterization was incredibly strong, the setting was exquisite in that Sanderson didn’t really need to do much world-building in this stand-alone and the premise fascinated me.

“A Forger wasn’t a simple scam artist or trickster. A Forger was an artist who painted with human perception. Any grime-covered urchin on the street could scam someone. A Forger sought loftier heights. Common scammers worked by pulling the cloth over someone’s eyes, then fleeing before realization hit. A Forger had to create something so perfect, so beautiful, so real that their subjects never questioned.” (83)

If I had to narrow it down it was the evolution of Shai and Gaotona’s relationship over the roughly 200 pages. If I would’ve read it through without taking almost a day’s break I definitely would’ve teared up at the end because their relationship was so well written.

I also really enjoyed the philosophical aspect of art, politics and the idea of faithfulness/truth. There’s such a fine line between mimicry and creativity in general and I felt Sanderson wrote an incredible story which looks at it from all sides. It’s hard to say which side he comes down on because it almost seems like you can’t have either without the other. THIS NEXT QUOTE MIGHT BE A SPOILER, SO SKIP IT JUST IN CASE.

“Satisfied with having placed one of her creations on the throne. Once, she dared to try to fool thousands—but now she has a chance to fool millions. An entire empire. Exposing what she has done would ruin the majesty of it, in her eyes.” (161)

I can’t think of anything negative to say about the work other than it is too short! Unfortunately, that’s just the sign of a great writer in that he left me desperately wanting to know more about the characters and the setting! I appreciated the addition of Sanderson’s thoughts on writing at the end of the novella, particularly this quote

“Though in this genre we write about the fantastic, the stories work best when there is solid grounding in our world. Magic works best for me when it alights with scientific principles. Worldbuilding works best when it draws from sources in our world. Characters work best when they’re grounded in solid human emotion and experience. Being a writer, then, is as much about observation as it is imagination.” (168, Postscript)

I know I will be reading more Sanderson in the future, the only question is how soon!?

Recommendation: I thoroughly enjoyed it and think anyone really could. In less than 200 pages and in really only one prolonged interaction I became invested in three characters and desperately wanted to know more at the end. Definitely worth a read.

Opening Line:Gaotona ran his fingers across a thick canvas, inspecting one of the greatest works of art he had ever seen. Unfortunately, it was a lie.”

Closing Line: “Then he dropped it into the flames.” (Whited out to avoid spoilers, highlight to read.)


11 thoughts on “Book 413: The Emperor’s Soul – Brandon Sanderson”

    1. Thanks! This is definitely more along the Fantasy aide. There is a lot of Sci-Fi I’m not a big fan of mostly because it deals with the mechanics and not the people, politics and places.


  1. “I know for me it raises a big dilemma of ethics/politics when I chose to read an author who actively believes/participates in a religion which negates/actively works against something I identify with. Do I purchase their novels and have my, what ultimately ends up being fractions of pennies, support their religion through tithing, or do I boycott the author because of their churches stance?” – I’ve wondered this myself. I disagree with a lot of Mormons and I don’t care for their proselytizing. However, there are some decent writers and personalities from this group. I think there is a big group of “moderate” Mormons who do not necessarily adhere to the what the head of the church think. The New Yorker podcast had an interview with the mayor of Salt Lake City Jackie Biskupski who is openly gay and has been in Utah politics for 20 years. Not to say that Mormons aren’t Conservative, they are, but I feel there are more extreme Evangelical sects that are more worrisome. Sorry if I went on this tangent. I did smile at your Stephanie Meyer comment because you know, I liked The Host. Have a good week. P. S. Got your email, but swamped with work to check out the site. Thanks so much.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It really is difficult! It’s one of those, if you really are a moderate and disagree you have to stand up and say something situations. By remaining passive and continuing to tithe you’re condoning what they’re saying. UGH, it does make it hard when they produce fantastic storytellers! And there are definitely more extreme sects out there, it’s just concerning how much sway the LDS have.

      And no worries about tangents and the site! I’m planning to open it to the public first week of February. So much going on that I just haven’t had time to proof it one last time.


  2. I had no idea he was Mormon actually. I also struggle with that. It’s a lot easier to separate artist and art when it’s a classic from a hundred years ago, but when it’s a current writer it’s a bit trickier.

    I probably would have picked up the sequel to Ender’s Game by now if it wasn’t for Orson Scott Card. With Sanderson, at least he doesn’t seem to be actively speaking out against the rights of others, but you’re right that not speaking out is also a problem.

    I’ve read two of his novellas and really enjoyed them, I do think I’m going to pick up one of his full novels at some point. It’s hard to tell where to start with him, as he seems to write more in a year than some authors do in a decade.

    (That was a hilarious way to start a post, by the way.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I was trying not to go too far down that tangent and felt mostly successful. I think I’ll read more Sanderson because he isn’t out leading the masses and the fact most people don’t know he’s Mormon shows he’s keeping those aspects of his life separate. It still irks me a bit, but my used bookstore work around and caveats in my posts educating people alleviate it for me a little.

      As for where to start, the friend that got me this posted this article not long after: Where To Start Reading Brandon Sanderson. He gave me this one because it was a standalone and knew I’d enjoy it as a taster.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sanderson is my husband’s favorite writer, and I actually did read ‘The Emperor’s Soul’ to show him I was open to trying it. Still not really my thing, but he can definitely write. My oldest daughter just read ‘The Way of Kings’ and has been grinning from ear to ear ever since. Looks like we have another convert in the house! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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