Robyn’s Cosmere Christmas: Oathbringer

‘Oathbringer’ is the third book in ‘The Stormlight Archive’ series and takes the series in some fascinating new directions. The stakes have been raised, secrets have been revealed, and the fate of Roshar is balanced on the tip of a Shardblade. The story starts slowly, but it’s worth it for the stunning imagery and breathtaking finale.

“Sometimes a hypocrite is nothing more than a man in the process of changing.”

The power of the Radiants has returned to Roshar – but so have the powers of their enemies. The Everstorm has arrived, bringing with it the power to destroy everything that man holds dear. Amidst the chaos of the unstoppable storm, a once-slave searches for his family, a spy of many faces seeks the truth, and the King-in-all-but-name tries one last time to unite the Alethi, knowing that failure will spell doom.

The Way of Kings‘ was Kaladin’s book and ‘Words of Radiance‘ Shallan’s. ‘Oathbringer’ is Dalinar’s, but with this come far more prominent roles for Adolin and, later in the book, Szeth. It also steps away a little from focusing on Kaladin, gifting what would previously have been his scenes to other members of Bridge Four – especially Moash. Juggling so many characters is no easy task, but Sanderson does very well weaving all their narratives without things becoming confusing.

Previously a more predictable character, Dalinar – uncle to the king of Alethkar – did something entirely unexpected at the end of ‘Words of Radiance’ which makes his focus here much more interesting. His chapters also give new insight into the history and politics of Alethkar – not essential to the plot, but fascinating for learning about the world Sanderson has created. He also makes his son Adolin far more appealing to the reader – in ‘The Way of Kings’ Adolin was relatively uninteresting, and whilst ‘Words of Radiance’ rounded him out into a nicer character he still didn’t particularly pique my interest. ‘Oathbringer’ finally gives essential background to explain some of his actions – and it also gives him more time to interact with Shallan and Kaladin. His interactions with Kaladin are priceless and add much-needed light and humour to a book of more series themes.

“I will take responsibility for what I have done,” Dalinar whispered. “If I must fall, I will rise each time a better man.”

Kaladin – the once slave of Bridge Four, now a prominent member of Alethi society – gets less page time than in previous books, but continues to be one of the most heartwarming characters with some beautiful emotional scenes. After having the single best scene in the book in ‘Words of Radiance’, it was only fair that he stepped back to give the other characters a chance here.

Shallan – a scholar and Adolin’s fiance – is one of the most complicated characters and is developed in even bolder and more intriguing ways. Sanderson takes big risks in writing her and her plotlines could easily become too confusing, but he just about keeps her on the right side of the line.

“I have found, through painful experience, that the most important step a person can take is always the next one.”

Discussing Szeth would be a spoiler. His character was left on a huge cliffhanger at the end of ‘Words of Radiance’ and he doesn’t appear again until the latter half of this book, but his chapters are worth it, and also start to bring in elements of the Cosmere only previously seen in books outside of ‘The Stormlight Archive’. These would definitely be enjoyable to someone not familiar with the other books, but I’d say ‘Oathbringer’ is where reading the others starts to enhance the experience and understanding.

Overall, ‘Oathbringer’ is another brilliant book and exceptional addition to the series. It doesn’t quite surpass ‘Words of Radiance’, but it manages to be equally as good which in itself is an enormous feat. Recommended for all epic fantasy fans.

Published by Gollancz
Hardback: November 14th 2017

Robyn’s Cosmere Christmas: Edgedancer

‘Edgedancer’ is a novella set between ‘Words of Radiance‘ and ‘Oathbringer’, the second and third books in the Stormlight Archive. It’s not required reading, but it explains certain aspects of world-building and character development. Beyond that, it’s great fun, focusing on one of the most intriguing and unique characters in the series, Lift.

Following the events of ‘Words of Radiance’, Lift runs away from the palace – where she feels suffocated – instead heading to the city of Yeddaw. Here, Lift returns to her life as a street urchin, using her ‘awesomeness’ to sneak around – but there may be more to Lift’s decision to choose Yeddaw than meets the eye. For Yeddaw now plays host to the man she knows as the Darkness, determined to seek out those who are ‘awesome’ like her – and Lift is equally determined to stop him.

The story within ‘Edgedancer’ is as cleverly crafted and twisty as any Sanderson novel, but what really makes it brilliant is Lift. Aged ten, Lift made a bargain to never get older, and she’s made it her mission to never change since. Lift is sarcastic, irreverent, and entirely ruled by her stomach. She staunchly refuses to learn anything new – including people’s names – and clings to her childhood in a way which can be frustrating, but deep down is almost heartbreaking. At first glance she can seem abrasive and selfish, but this hides a personality that is deeply caring and clinging to any aspects of her life which she can control.

Aside from Lift, the other major character is her spren, Wyndle (who Lift stubbornly refers to as ‘Voidbringer’). For those unfamiliar with the books, spren are creatures in The Stormlight Archive which appear when things happen – for example, fearspren appear when someone is scared – and, in rare cases, spren can appear to certain humans and form a bond with them. (To say more would constitue a spoiler – the best way to find out exactly what they are and do is to read the books!) Wyndle is entirely unlike Lift – very proper, a worrier, and much more fond of plans than recklessly rushing in and making things up on the fly – but the combination works well, and it’s heartwarming seeing their relationship develop as the novella progresses.

‘Edgedancer’ is named for Lift’s order within the knights radiant – which Lift, in classic Lift style, terms ‘awesomeness’ – and this is intriguingly explored. The main books in ‘The Stormlight Archive’ tend to focus on certain orders and locations, so the accompanying novellas provide intriguing tidbits of information about the true capabilities of the others. Lift isn’t the sort to believe she has limitations, so those she has quickly come apparent as she tries to do too much.

Overall, ‘Edgedancer’ is an enjoyable, entertaining novella about one of the more intriguing characters, allowing her the development she hasn’t yet had on-page in the main books. It’s not Sanderson’s strongest work, but it’s an enjoyable read and recommended between ‘Words of Radiance’ and ‘Oathbringer’ to explain why certain characters are who they are.

Published by Gollancz
Hardback: October 31st 2018 (previously published in 2016 in the Cosmere anthology ‘Arcanum Unbounded’)

Robyn’s Cosmere Christmas: Words of Radiance

‘Words of Radiance is the second book in ‘The Stormlight Archive’ after ‘The Way of Kings’. While ‘The Way of Kings’ is undeniably excellent, ‘Words of Radiance’ is in a class all on its own. In my opinion, it’s one of the single best fantasy novels of all time, packed with political intrigue, incredibly complex characters, a fascinating magic system, and above all brilliant, gripping writing which pulls you in and doesn’t let go.

“As I fear not a child with a weapon he cannot lift, I will never fear the mind of a man who does not think.”

The ancient oaths have been spoken, and a magic system not seen in Roshar for thousands of years – since the Knights Radiant betrayed their people and fled – has finally returned. However, with the resurgence of magic comes the resurgence of danger, and the new radiants must learn to trust their abilities – and each other – to survive the oncoming storm. Meanwhile, the war between the Alethi and the Parshendi rages, and another old foe – the famed Assassin in White – reemerges after six years to finish the job he started.

Following the format of each book having a primary focus on one character, ‘Words of Radiance’ is Shallan’s book. In ‘The Way of Kings’, Shallan was a bright but tormented woman, leaning on sarcasm and wit to disguise her internal turmoil. Her way with words and passion for art made her likeable, but she could also be a frustrating and difficult character. In ‘Words of Radiance’, her backstory and character finally become clear, and she’s transformed into a complex, incredible woman with a mind like no-one else’s. Her individual growth and development is extraordinary, but more than that, the way Sanderson frames her to the reader is exceptionally done. There’s some overlap with dissociative identity disorder – a highly complex and poorly understood condition previously known as multiple personality disorder – and whilst Sanderson has stated he never intended Shallan to be a fully accurate portrayal, she’s certainly a brilliantly unique and daring character.

While Shallan was mostly separate to the other characters in ‘The Way of Kings’, in ‘Words of Radiance’ she travels to the Shattered Plains to research the Desolation – and also as Adolin’s fiance. Her interactions with the other characters, especially Adolin and Kaladin, are spectacular. Kaladin especially is a serious, uptight man entirely unequipped for Shallan’s brand of wit and sarcasm and the results are brilliant to read.

Kaladin has come a long way from his slave origins in ‘The Way of Kings’, and while he takes a back seat to Shallan in this novel he still plays a prominent role and has some of the best scenes in the book. He continues to hold a grudge against Amaram, the Brightlord responsible for his initial slavery – and whilst that grudge did him no harm as a slave, it now starts to get him into all sorts of trouble.

“All stories told have been told before. We tell them to ourselves, as did all men who ever were. And all men who ever will be. The only things new are the names.”

Dalinar plays a remarkably small role in ‘Words of Radiance’, relinquishing his chapters to his son Adolin. A good, loyal soldier but somewhat rash – and terrible with women – he handles some of the politics his father is so terribly naive at. Here, he’s most interesting when interacting with either Kaladin or Shallan, but the foundations are laid for a greater role for both Adolin and Dalinar in the third book.

‘Words of Radiance’ also introduces two major new players – Eshonai and Lift. Eshonai is one of the leading members of the warring Parshendi, whereas Lift is a childish enigma. Both play relatively small roles, but their introduction sets into motion essential aspects of the overall series arc.

The magic system of the radiants is possibly one of the best Sanderson has created yet. Elaborating would be a spoiler, but I love how cleverly the reader and characters discover new aspects together, and how Sanderson doesn’t gloss over the difficulty of mastering new skills. There are many mistakes, with repercussions of varying severity, and these add depth and complexity to an already intricate story.

Overall, it’s difficult to sum up what makes ‘Words of Radiance’ one of the best books of all time because there isn’t one standout aspect – instead, many separate exceptional things come together to make something even better. All fantasy fans should read this series, and even for those who weren’t certain about ‘The Way of Kings’ should give this a go – it’s with this book that the series truly reaches it’s full potential. Highly recommended.

Published by Gollancz
Hardback: March 6th 2014

Robyn’s Cosmere Christmas: The Way of Kings

‘The Way of Kings’ is the first book in ‘The Stormlight Archive’, an intended fantasy epic which will undoubtedly be Brandon Sanderson’s Magnum Opus. Even for Sanderson, it’s audacious in scope and reach, bringing in a huge variety of characters and side plots alongside the overarching story.

“The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think, but to give you questions to think upon.”

The Stormlight Archive takes place on Roshar. For the past six years, since the assassination of their king by a mysterious Assassin in White, the Alethi people have been at war with the Parshendi. The war has dragged out into a prolonged siege on the Shattered Plains, with ten separate Alethi armies from its ten High Kingdoms battling less to kill Parshendi and more to obtain gemhearts, valuable sources of wealth and resources to feed their armies. Amidst this war, a lowly slave fights for survival, an army commander grapples with his own conscience and sanity, and a woman from a kingdom across the ocean enacts a plot to save her family – and in doing so, finds herself involved in something bigger than she could ever have conceived of.

Each book in ‘The Stormlight Archive’ primarily focuses on one character, with a number of secondary characters also getting regular point-of-view chapters. ‘The Way of Kings’ focuses on Kaladin, a slave who has ended up a soldier in Amaram’s army. Kaladin struggles with where his life has ended up and the horrific life of a bridgecrewman – the most junior soldier in any army – but is determined to improve things for both himself and his crew, Bridge Four. Over the course of the novel, Kaladin works to gain the trust and respect of his crew, save as many of them as possible – and in the process, potentially save himself.

Kaladin has depression, alongside post-traumatic stress disorder, and the depiction of his depression is one of the best I’ve seen in fiction, let alone in epic fantasy. Sanderson never shies away from the severity of the illness, or its fluctuating nature, and the impact that it can have both on Kaladin and on those around him.

The main secondary characters are Dalinar Kholin, Shallan, and Szeth. Dalinar is the famed Blackthorn, a feared nobleman and soldier and the brother of the previous King. However, since his brother’s assassination, he’s developed more of a conscience, switching his focus from battlefield brutality to politics. He’s determined for the High Princes to stop fighting each other and instead cooperate, using the teachings of an old book called ‘The Way of Kings’ (as an aside, I love it when book titles are explicitly referenced within the book). However, Dalinar is naive in the art of politics, and his case isn’t helped by his perceived instability and sudden refusal to kill on the battlefield. He was my least favourite major character in this book, but his story develops much further in later ones.

“Sometimes the prize is not worth the costs. The means by which we achieve victory are as important as the victory itself.”

Shallan comes from a complicated – and awful – family. To avoid ruin, she finds herself posing as a scholar to become the ward of Dalinar’s sister Jasnah Kholin so that she can steal Jasnah’s soulcaster, a mysterious device that allows her to turn one material into another. However, Shallan finds herself loving her studies under Jasnah, and trapped between loyalty to Jasnah and her family. Shallan is an incredibly complex character – many people find her unlikeable, but I love her. She’s had to cope with more in her short life than most will in a very long one, and the effect this has on her personality and psyche is explored in incredible detail.

‘The Way of Kings’ is military fantasy, but also has a strong focus on family loyalty and politics. The worldbuilding is exceptional, with a variety of cultures, classes, lifestyles, and beliefs all covered. The one thing left unclear is the magic system – unlike in most Cosmere books, where the rules and limitations are immediately apparent, ‘The Way of Kings’ is set in a world where much of the magic has been forgotten, and characters are just starting to rediscover it. The hidden magic becomes unveiled to the characters as it’s unveiled to the reader, a beautiful symmetry that really creates a connection.

The ending is a cliffhanger, but the sort of cliffhanger that creates anticipation, not the sort that feels too abrupt and like a cheat out of properly ending the book. It’s the perfect end to the slow increase in tension and tempo and sets up the sequel, ‘Words of Radiance’ admirably.

“We are not creatures of destinations. It is the journey that shapes us. Our callused feet, our backs strong from carrying the weight of our travels, our eyes open with the fresh delight of experiences lived.”

Overall, ‘The Way of Kings’ is an incredibly solid start to what will clearly become Sanderson’s strongest series. A must read for all epic fantasy fans, and highly recommended to all fans of complex characters, excellent portrayals of mental health, family dynamics, and political and cultural tension.

Published by Gollancz
Paperback: December 30th 2010 (Published in two separate volumes)

Robyn’s Cosmere Christmas: Warbreaker

‘Warbreaker’ was written as a fun fantasy standalone, although there is currently a sequel in the works. It once again demonstrates Sanderson’s ability to create incredible new fantasy worlds and magic systems populated by brilliant, memorable characters. It’s also sprinkled with dry, sarcastic humour, setting it apart from many of the more serious Cosmere books.

Sanderson’s debut novel, Elantris, is set in a city of the Gods – except that the Gods fell ten years ago, taking their civilisation with them. ‘Warbreaker’ goes in the opposite direction – here, the Gods are very much alive, living in a Pantheon in the city of Hallandren. Vivenna has been raised her entire life to fulfill a treaty between Idris and Hallandren by marrying the God King – but when she turns of age, her father instead sends her little sister, Siri, in her place. Now Siri must navigate a city and culture she’s been raised her whole life to distrust. Vivenna, feeling robbed of her purpose, chooses to secretly follow her sister, becoming embroiled in Hallandren’s underground rebellion. Meanwhile, Lightsong, God of Heroes, grapples with being a God in a religion he doesn’t even believe in, and Vasher, a mysterious man with an even more mysterious sword, returns to Hallandren after a long absence with unknown motives.

Siri is a great character – always the rebel of the family, she’s completely out of her depth in Hallandren with no idea how to act or where to turn for help. She’s both feisty and naive, likeable but with a quick temper and a mouth that gets her into trouble. On the surface, her and Vivenna are complete opposites – Vivenna is calm, collected, and poised, with thorough training in diplomacy – but Vivenna never prepared for a rebellion, and in a pinch her and her sister are just alike. Vivenna initially comes across as aloof and cold, but as the story goes on it becomes apparent she’s just as fiery as her sister.

However, the true highlight of the story is Lightsong. A God who doesn’t believe in his own religion, Lightsong is lazy, sarcastic, and sharp – but his quick wit and deprecating humour hide a man who’s thoughtful and courageous and, at the end of the day, will always do the right thing. Lightsong’s chapters make you laugh, but they also make you think, and they turn ‘Warbreaker’ from a conventional epic fantasy into a masterpiece.

The magic system in Warbreaker, known as BioChromatic Breath, is essentially the magic of colours. Every person has one Breath, which allows them to see colours. They can give their Breaths away, becoming drabs – colourless – or collect the Breaths of others, enhancing the colours they can see and the sounds they can hear. With enough Breaths, they can start to pass them to inanimate objects, bringing them to life to fulfill a specific task. It’s a simple yet clever system – a hallmark of all Sanderson’s magic systems – and one that informs every aspect of society, culture, and religion. There are also hints of other magics – Vasher’s sword, Nightblood, being the main example – which will likely be expounded upon in the eventual sequel.

Whilst ‘Warbreaker’ works well as a standalone, the ending is more of a cliffhanger than many of Sanderson’s books and leaves the door wide open for a sequel. It’s definitely a world that deserves further exploration.

Overall, this is a typically brilliant book, but also – despite the topics of war and rebellion – lighter and funnier thanks to the inclusion of Lightsong. An ideal holiday read, and a great introduction to the genius of Sanderson’s writing and magic systems. Recommended to all epic fantasy fans, along with fans of complex sibling dynamics, comedic fantasy, and a more cynical take on religion.

Originally published in the US June 9th 2009
UK Publication February 14th 2012

Robyn’s Cosmere Christmas: The Bands of Mourning

‘The Bands of Mourning’ was, somewhat unusually, written before Sanderson had finished its predecessor, ‘Shadows of Self’. While both are excellent novels, ‘The Bands of Mourning’ is much larger in scope, with far more significance for the wider Cosmere. It’s definitely the strongest Mistborn Era 2 novel released so far.

Wax, still struggling with the events of ‘Shadows of Self’, is finally marrying Steris – or at least, he attempts to, only for the wedding to be interrupted and Wax whisked off on an adventure to help the kandra, and possibly find his kidnapped sister at the same time. The kandra are searching for the titular Bands of Mourning – bracers worn by the Lord Ruler in The Final Empire. These bracers may have more power than anyone knew, and being beaten to the chase could have implications not just for Elendel, but possibly the entire Cosmere.

Wax’s character development in ‘Shadows of Self’ was excellent, but it also left him with deep internal scars. Sanderson excels at writing characters with mental health disorders, especially depression and PSTD, and he never shies away from the true mental impact of trauma. Here, the impact on Wax’s psyche is evident, along with how it effects his relationships with those around him. Steris plays a far greater role in ‘The Bands of Mourning’ than in previous books, and her interactions with Wax are brilliantly written. This book also highlights the full extent of Wax and Wayne’s friendship and loyalty in a way that’s both heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time.

The kandra once again play a significant role, especially MeLaan – a fantastic character introduced briefly in ‘The Hero of Ages’ who then featured prominently in ‘Shadows of Self’. MeLaan is free spirited and fun, very different to most kandra, but still has a very different outlook on life to most humans.

Where this book really elevates itself from its Era 2 predecessors is the plot. All Sanderson books are cleverly plotted, but this one has higher stakes, more twists and turns, even more emotional resonance, and an ending that beautifully sets up the final book. This is still very much a fantasy Western, but it also feels more true to Sanderson’s epic fantasy roots.

Overall, ‘The Bands of Mourning’ is an excellent novel that perfectly balances the more comedic tone of Mistborn Era 2 with the depth and ingenuity that makes the Cosmere so great. Highly recommended to all fantasy fans or just fans of strong, entertaining books.

Published by Gollancz

Hardback: January 27th 2016
Paperback: January 5th 2017

Robyn’s Cosmere Christmas: Shadows of Self

‘Shadows of Self’ is the second book in Mistborn Era 2, after The Alloy of Law, and the fifth Mistborn story overall. It continues the fast-paced fantasy Western feel, but things take a darker turn and the ending is ingenious yet heartbreaking with classic Sanderson brilliance.

Wax has returned to being Lord of Ladrian, trading in his bounty hunter ways for a life in law enforcement. He’s busy planning his wedding to Steris – but unrest is building in Elendel, and Wax and Wayne – ably assisted by the brilliant Marasi – may be the only people who can prevent an escalation to outright civil war.

One of the best parts of this book is Wax’s development as a character. In ‘The Alloy of Law’, he’s kept somewhat mysterious – the hereditary Lord who secretly moonlights as a bounty hunter, one half of the dynamic power duo of Wax and Wayne (all puns undoubtedly intended). Here, more is revealed about his past – how he started as a bounty hunter and what shaped him and Wayne into the people they are today. By the end of the book, it’s impossible not to feel heartbroken for Wax and the decisions he has to make to keep both himself and the city safe.

‘Shadows of Self’ also sees the return of the kandra, a race of creatures introduced in the original Mistborn trilogy. The interaction of familiar faces with new players is nostalgic, and seeing some of Vin’s fears from The Final Empire finally come true on page feels like coming full circle.

The books in Mistborn Era 2 are far shorter and pacier than in Era 1, with more abrupt twists. The first twist in ‘Shadows of Self’ is predictable, producing a brief sense of disappointment – but it’s immediately followed by a second, far cleverer twist which entirely removes all disappointment. The ending leaves you immediately needing to know what happens next.

Overall, this is another excellent addition to the Cosmere which takes Mistborn Era 2 in a slightly darker and more substantial direction. Recommended for fans of fantasy Westerns and thrillers, fast-paced adventures, and intriguing fantasy creatures.

Published by Gollancz

Hardback: October 8th 2015
Paperback: October 4th 2016

Robyn’s Cosmere Christmas: The Alloy of Law

‘The Alloy of Law’ is the fourth book in the Mistborn series but the first in Mistborn Era 2 – a separate series set 341 years after the original trilogy. It’s completely different in tone, with far more humour, and a brilliantly fun and engaging read. Era 2 can be read completely separately from Era 1, but the events of Era 1 have formed the current myths, legends, and religions, and its easier to understand the magic systems of Allomancy and Feruchemy with the base knowledge gained from Era 1. (If you haven’t seen my previous reviews, more information on Era 1 can be found here.)

Mistborn Era 2 is a series of fantasy Westerns. Waxillium Ladrian – known as Wax – has lived all his life as a lawman, but now his uncle has passed away and he’s been forced to assume leadership of his house. He tries to settle into his new, more sedate, lifestyle – even entering into a marriage contract – but when his friend Wayne shows up with a job proposition, Wax finds himself being pulled back into his old life. There are kidnappings, murder plots, robberies, family secrets, and above all carnage. Wax and Wayne – aided by Wax’s fiance, Steris, and Steris’ cousin Marasi – must find out what’s really going on before it’s too late.

Fantasy Western isn’t a genre I read very much, and I wasn’t convinced when I heard about the intended direction of Era 2. Fortunately, Sanderson proved me completely wrong. ‘The Alloy of Law’ is much lighter in tone but still packed with engaging content and loveable characters. It’s impossible not to love Wax, and the banter he has with Wayne is exquisite. Marasi, too, is a brilliant character – strong, fierce, and determined to defy convention in a society even more repressive for women than Mistborn Era 1.

One of the most interesting things about this book is how the events of Era 1 are interpreted in hindsight. Sanderson has taken the original trilogy and created several new religions, an accepted history which is similar to – but not the same as – what actually happened, and several different cultural viewpoints and perspectives on the events. It’s cleverly done, creating nostalgia for the first trilogy but also showing how the facts of history are warped depending on who tells them and how they’re passed down.

The other fascinating part is the technological advances, and how these have been shaped by increasing knowledge of Feruchemy and Allomancy. Most of the technology is recognisable from the Victorian Era or American Western novels, but with subtle alterations to allow from a society where some people have enhanced abilities. Feruchemy and Allomancy have also been hugely advanced from Era 1 – they’re now subjects of study, and the way Wax and Wayne use their powers is incredibly different to how Vin, Kelsier, and the rest approached theirs in Era 1.

Overall, this is nothing like the other series’ is the Cosmere, but it’s still fun, brilliantly written, and packed with wit. Recommended for fans of lighter fantasy, witty banter, and intricate explorations of technology and magic.

Published by Gollancz
Published November 10th 2011

Robyn’s Cosmere Christmas: The Emperor’s Soul

‘The Emperor’s Soul’ is a brilliant, quick novella, telling a complete and enticing story in just over 100 pages. It takes place in the same world as Elantris, but contains none of the same characters, focusing on a very different country on the same planet. Novellas can be very hit-or-miss for me, but this is a perfect example of how they can be done well.

Wan ShaiLu – known as Shai – is a master forger, a woman who can rewrite the history of objects to persuade them that they are, in fact, something else. However, her latest job has gone wrong, and she’s found herself captured and imprisoned. Only one thing can buy her freedom – creating a forgery of the soul of the Emperor himself, who has been rendered permanently comatose by an attack. Shai must break all the rules of forgery and create something more convincing than she’s ever made in her life, or both her life and the Empire will be forfeit.

Shai is a great protagonist – quick witted and immensely proud of her talent, she’s not only a master forger but a master manipulator in general. She prides herself in being able to see several steps ahead of everyone else. Shai’s desire to escape battles with the immensity of the task she’s been given and her desire to complete something which has never been done before. She trusts no-one – sometimes not even herself.

The magic system of Forgery – unique to this novella – is one of the best parts of this novella. Like most of Sanderson’s magic systems, it’s simple yet clever, with clear rules and limitations. Forgery requires an extensive knowledge of an object’s past, and then the creativity of altering this past slightly so that the object could plausibly be something else. It has almost unlimited applications – as proven by the challenge of Forging a soul – but is so complicated that its usefulness is limited. It’s one of my favourite magic systems within the Cosmere, and I really hope it pops up again – perhaps in the upcoming sequels to Elantris.

Overall, ‘The Emperor’s Soul’ is a clever an intriguing addition to the Cosmere that highlights the versatility and breadth of Sanderson’s universe. It makes a brilliant quick read for fans of clever magic systems, devious women, and themes of betrayal and Empire.

Originally published in the US October 11th 2012
UK Publication March 21st 2013

Robyn’s Cosmere Christmas: The Hero of Ages

‘The Hero of Ages’ is the brilliant conclusion to Mistborn Era 1, and the first book to start to explore the mythos of the Cosmere as a whole. It introduces some of the concepts which underpin the Cosmere whilst telling a tight, twisting tale with a shocking – yet incredible – ending.

Whilst ‘The Final Empire’ was a heist novel and ‘The Well of Ascension’ political fantasy, ‘The Hero of Ages’ shifts focus again to predominantly military or quest fantasy. The various political factions have gained power and followers, and now a struggle ensues for who will take control. Alongside this, Vin is struggling with the aftermath of a massive mistake, and Sazed is going through something of an existential crisis – why does he care so much about religion when he doesn’t know or believe in his own?

Alongside Vin, Elend, and Sazed, there are some new POV characters in ‘The Hero of Ages’ – Marsh and Spook. Both have been prominent characters since ‘The Final Empire’, but here they step up and play even bigger roles. Marsh has always been a peripheral character, very different to the others, and his perspective and struggles are both fascinating and tragic. In ‘The Final Empire’ he was Kelsier’s slightly estranger brother – now he’s far more than that, and the tribulations he goes through could be considered the worst of any character in the trilogy.

Spook’s role, on the other hand, is not immediately clear – he’s not as directly involved in the main plotline, and his direction is very different to the other protagonists. However, his character provides a brilliant example of what prolonged war and turmoil can do to a person’s psyche. Sanderson depicts this sensitively, and Spook becomes a beloved character integral to the overall feel and impact of the book.

‘The Final Empire’ will always be my favourite Mistborn book, but this is probably the cleverest and most essential. The tone is much darker, the story much bleaker. The very world is breaking apart and a few mere humans are fighting to keep it together. It’s the relationships between characters which provide essential moments of light and warmth. Elend remains one of the best intentioned characters in fantasy, and Vin, ruthless as she is, seems far more human when up against such insurmountable odds.

The best part of this novel is how seamlessly Sanderson introduces the seminal concepts the Cosmere is founded on without info-dumping or detracting from the pace of the plot. Readers are introduced to Preservation and Ruin, two of the sixteen shards of Adonalsium – the power of creation. I won’t go into detail here, as that could be considered a spoiler, but it’s one of the reasons I think Mistborn Era 1 is one of the ideal places in the Cosmere to start.

It’s very difficult to write three such different books in a trilogy and keep every one gripping, yet Sanderson manages it. The ending is both heartbreaking and perfect. I’d recommend the trilogy to all fans of epic fantasy, and this book in particular to fans of intricate, unique worldbuilding and quests for answers.

Originally published in the US October 14th 2008
UK Publication February 11th 2010