My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I read The Emperor’s Soul back in February 2015, and re-read it as the first story introduced in Sanderson’s Arcanum Unbounded: The Cosmere Collection.
The story follows Shai, a Forger that can copy and change items by rewriting their history. Imprisoned and about to be executed, the arbiters offer her a deal: Forge a new soul for the emperor in exchange for her freedom. During the months she has to complete this task she discovers the depths and deceits of those who surround the emperor.
I originally rated this book at five stars, but upon re-reading it I dropped it to four. Whenever we see Shai in action during the book, whether it be piecing together the emperor’s life, Forging things in her cell, interacting with the arbiter Gaotona, or plotting her near-future, the story is exciting and alive. This time around though I noticed that Shai’s explanations and comparisons to try and make Gaotona understand why Forgery is an art and not an abomination would drag the story down. Having the discussion a couple of times I understand, but it became too frequent and too repetitive.
The final parts of The Emperor’s Soul breaks away from that monotony and gives a glimpse at the potential behind a Forger character. (minor spoiler: Shai uses her stones to imprint herself as a warrior, temporarily becoming Shaizan and storming the palace in a spectacular fashion.) If this vein of the Elantris world continues, I hope to see more of a focus on Forgers in action. There may be potential for Ashravan to be an interesting character one day, too.