Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Emperor's Soul

Brandon Sanderson's "The Emperor's Soul" is a neat little story (novella), which hangs together bewitchingly and has a fascinating magic system and excellent worldbuilding (of course). There is an innate appeal in a story where power accretes on those who study and think. Plus, honestly, I like the idea that a convincing author can write a lie which alters the actual past.

The special mechanism of magic in this Sanderson-work is that artisans (of course) can carve a stamp detailing the past history of an item, which, when applied to that item, modifies its actual past history. The tweak is that the effectiveness and durability of the change depends on its subtlety and plausibility. The plot involves an unusually large and powerful stamp, one specific enough to rewrite the eponymous emperor's soul.

If I had invented this little tale, I would have done some backwards contortions to use the idea of authorship modifying history to manipulate the readers themselves. I would certainly have used my favorite authorial hammer, the unreliable narrator. It would probably have leaned more towards an investigation of propaganda than the paean of artistic mastery that it is. Sanderson does much better by maintaining a rather honest storytelling style (with some omissions reserved for later climactic/conclusive revelation). Just like the puissant scholar-magician in his story, Sanderson's most powerful and effective tool is sincerity.

I liked it.

This post's theme word is impresa, "an emblem or device, usually with a motto." The finished, independent work stood on its own merits, with no hidden impresa to brag of its creator.

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