This received the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Novella. It’s deserving. It is also the reason I avoided it for a time. I like long books. I feel novellas are a bit of a cheat because by the time you get into it and attached, it’s already over. As a reader and not a writer I’m sure that comes off condescending, that’s not intended, it’s just a preference. I’m glad I read it…even if I’m left wanting more…as I knew I would be.
‘The Emperor’s Soul’ centers on Shai, a forger. Forging is the magical art that can change the soul of an object, if done well, to what it wants or could be. This “pagan” art is shameful and heretical in the Empire; until it’s needed by the Emperor, of course. Shai, captured on a job and sentenced to death, is now being called on by the Empire to save its current hypocritical regime. The Emperor was attacked by a non ruling faction and she is needed to forge his soul. He was wounded and his healed body was left without his mind. If he is not restored the faction will fall and the Empire will fall to a scramble for power. I got attached to Shai. She’s smart, calculating, adaptable, and tries not to be prideful. She is aware she is in a no win situation. Shai agreed to the impossible…but the challenge of it is what keeps her there rather than focusing on an escape. The part I particularly liked was how her relationship with Gaotona, the Arbiter,develops. He’s an old man that “manipulates through honesty and truth” amongst the corrupt. The two learn from each other the value of the others mores
Despite its brevity, the novella is worth the time. If you haven’t read any of Sanderson’s work this is a good pre test or sampling.