The Emperor’s Soul, by Brandon Sanderson (Tachyon Publications, 2012)
Shai is a Forger. On her planet, that means a whole lot more than it does on ours. Instead of fabricating a reproduction of an original art piece, these Forgers replicate it through magic.
Forging is convenient. The Imperial Palace is furnished with junk—junk that’s been Forged into beautiful, period pieces. Unfortunately, humans can be Forged too. Thus it’s illegal outside of carefully-controlled use.
Shai is one of the best. Betrayed by an accomplice and sentenced to death, she’s offered one final chance: the impossible task of Forging the Emperor, who has been brain-damaged in an assassination attempt. With half the time she needs, no certainty of success, and the knowledge that her captors will kill her in the end, Shai sets to work—on the Emperor’s soul and on her escape plans.
There’s so much in this short novella. Shai is a person of integrity, an artist and a shrewd observer. Why does she Forge instead of creating original art? The ruling council who control her need the Emperor alive to prevent a power shift and thus maintain their own positions. What might they try for personal gain? And how much forbidden magic will they need to allow?
The ending grows organically from the story, yet I didn’t anticipate it. And the time spent with Shai and her counterpart, Gaotona, feels like time spent with friends. Definitely a satisfying read, and it won the 2013 Hugo Award for best novella. Click here for an excerpt of The Emperor’s Soul.
Brandon Sanderson is perhaps best known for his Mistborn books and as the author chosen to complete the Wheel of Time series after Robert Jordan’s death. You can find him at his website. Writers may be interested in his archived course material at Write About Dragons, and his podcasts at Writing Excuses.
[Review copy from my personal library.]