Shai, a ‘Forger’, is caught replacing a painting, and forced to create a fake soul for a severely injured emperor.
Brandon Sanderson’s approach, as he admits in an afterword, is to develop magic systems that operate according logical, vaguely scientific principles – an approach he demonstrated to good effect on his debut, Mistborn. In some ways, it’s quite similar to L.E. Modesitt’s Recluce series, but less topheavy, and with better story. In The Emperor’s Soul, he does more of the same.
Much of the story is devoted to an exploration of the mechanism of soulstamps – the tools Forgers use to alter an item’s history (and thus its present substance). It’s interesting and well thought out. But Sanderson never loses track of the fact that we’re reading this for story – the magic system is just a support. And despite a limited environment – Shai is locked in her room, and interacts with a handful of people – he provides a full, balanced story.
This is a novella, but I’d have been happy to read more. The story is based in the same world as Elantris, though I didn’t see any major links. In any case, a very good book from a very consistent and satisfying writer.