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4.7 out of 5 stars
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4.7 out of 5 stars


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on 11 September 2013
I'm a rather devoted Sanderson-fan -- despite not having read all of his impressive line-up! Hearing that 'The Emperor's Soul' had won the 2013 Hugo for best novella, I decided to give this small collection a shot. It must be said that I'm keen on short stuff. I read slowly, so having a story pan out over a hundred or so pages makes a pleasant change to the usual 500-700 pages most fantasy comes in!!!

Note: this volume is made-up of a short story and a novella -- it is not a full-length novel!

'Legion' is a break from the epic fantasy Sanderson is best known from. The 75-page story is a first-person-narrative following Steven Leeds, a rather remarkable character. "I am perfectly sane," he explains straight off. "My hallucinations, however, are all quite mad." The thing is, those hallucinations are a very important part of who he is. They essentially grant him a Sherlock Holmes-esque brilliance, as he employs them to enhance his own abilities. For instance, if he requires understanding of a foreign language, he can conveniently summon up a hallucinatory-linguist! It's a rather awesome character-trait, and Sanderson has a lot of fun with it.

The actual story, however, is not specifically about this aspect of Steven's personality. Instead we have a somewhat rushed thriller/detective story. Steven is charged with locating the whereabouts of a rather special camera... What follows was not, in my mind, altogether satisfactory!

There isn't much sense of cohesion, and things do move very fast. It's almost as though Sanderson was deliberately throttling his word-count, trying to fit as much action into as little space. The effect isn't great. Things feel rushed, and underdeveloped. I really enjoyed the opening, where we are given time to meet Steven -- and start realising just how interesting he is -- but the actual plot is too big. The structure is also unsuitable for a short story. In all, while I loved Steven's character, and some of the ideas, 'Legion' was rather dissapionting...

But then I read 'The Emperor's Soul'. And, put simply, I really recommend it!!! It was for this novella that I bought the book anyway, and I was not left disappointed. It's a return to a fantasy-locale (in fact, this is the same world explored in 'Elantris'), and we have another of Sanderson's excellent magic-systems to relish. Quite how he manages to create such varied spellcraft is beyond me -- but I'm not complaining.

'The Emperor's Soul' is a very well executed novella. There's some stunning world-building, great characterisation, the afore-mentioned magic-system, and a tightly crafted story. I don't want to spoil anything, so it's hard to know quite how much to explain in this review! I'll be careful...

Essentially, the plot follows Wan ShaiLu, a remarkably talented 'Forger'. She wields a powerful form of magic, that enables her to tinker with the 'souls' of objects and people. In so doing, she effectively changes their characteristics. A plain enamel pot can be transformed into a lavish vase; a scruffy window into a mass of glittering paned-glass. By understanding the base nature of objects, Shai can thus mould the world according to her whim. It's not an easy process, however. Forging requires very deep concentration, hard work, research, and the investment of time.

Exploration of this system is one of the most interesting aspects of the novella -- but there's also a plot, and character-development to go along with it. There's no doubting that Sanderson's structuring is impressive. He's balanced everything very well and I never felt like anything was missing.

'The Emperor's Soul' is one of the best stories I've read this year, and easily stands alongside the excellence of Sanderson's 'Mistborn' novels, not to mention the rest of his output. It IS a novella, so please don't expect a full-blown epic. As such, I will admit that this slight-volume is overpriced! And that's my only niggle.

'Legion' is a passable short-story featuring an intriguing character; while 'The Emperor's Soul' is one of the best pieces of fantasy I've read this year. I highly recommend any fans of fantasy check it out -- and, it's a great first introduction to Sanderson's fascinating writing!
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It seems that Brandon Sanderson is a font of creative ideas. When he isn't churning out books for multiple series -- both in and out of his multiverse Cosmere -- he's writing numerous short stories and novellas.

And two of the best examples are compiled here: "Legion," about a man with many imaginary friends who complicate his life and "The Emperor's Soul," a Hugo-award-winning novel about the extreme efforts to keep an empire from collapsing into chaos. This shows the range of his artistic talents, as one story is set in the same fictional world (though a different part of it) as his debut novel "Elantris," and one is a fast-paced little thriller set in our own world.

Stephen Leeds is known as "Legion": he has several "aspects" that he hallucinates, each with valuable skills and knowledge that allow him to do almost anything. One is a deductive genius, one is an elite soldier, one is a linguist, and so on. While technically crazy (and of great interest to the medical community), Stephen is able to use his aspects to make a comfortable life for himself doing rather unusual things.

For instance, a woman named Monica approaches him with a very odd mission: find a scientist named Balubal Razon, who has somehow developed a camera that can see back in time. Now he's gone to Jerusalem to find out if Jesus Christ truly existed (although how he would know where Jesus was is at any exact point in time never really explained. Maybe he just planned to walk around and photograph everywhere). So Stephen, Monica and the various aspects set out for Israel. But soon they find that locating Razon isn't their only problem, because a dangerous terrorist group also wants his camera.

Then in "The Emperor's Soul," the expert Forger Shai is in prison, awaiting execution by the Rose Empire, when she's offered a chance to earn her freedom. The Emperor has been assassinated, and while they were able to fix his body, his mind is now gone. His advisors have bought some time by claiming that he's grieving for his wife, but that will only last ninety days. They need Shai to do something terrible: Forge a new soul for the Emperor.

Not only is this act considered an abomination, but it's incredibly difficult because forging ANYTHING requires extensive, intimate knowledge. Shai has no choice, so she begins learning everything she can in order to create a soulstamp for the Emperor -- which is no easy task, since she has to know what kind of person he truly was. But the hardest task may be planning her escape, especially since she's now enmeshed in a deadly political scheme.

Brandon Sanderson is a master of the doorstopper fantasy epic, but "Legion" and "The Emperor's Soul" prove that he's just as good in shorter works -- these are compact, rich stories that aren't as complicated as his usual fare, but have ingenious ideas at their core. In one story, we have a man whose odd schizophrenia has manifested itself with many different "imaginary people," and in the other we have a magic system that can turn any item/person into what it MIGHT have been, by reweaving reality.

With these premises, Sanderson comes up with two very different stories, both rife with political intrigue (terrorists, a malevolent usurper) and presents them very differently -- "Legion" is more of an action thriller with guns and explosions and a magical camera, whereas "Emperor's Soul" is more of a small, subtle story that rarely leaves Shai's room. It still has action (martial arts and some particularly grotesque sorcery), but the focus is mostly on the magic that Sanderson has dreamed up, and the ways it works.

And he creates some very unique, likable characters as well -- Stephen is a guy who is constantly surrounded by his "aspects" and all their various quirks and eccentricities, but who finds it difficult (due to the talking-to-the-imaginary-friends stuff) to deal with ordinary life. And Shai is a truly likable heroine -- she's clever, tricky and knows plenty about human psychology, but she also has a kind heart. Her appreciation for the art of Forgery, and in making things better through it, has some intriguing implications for the new Emperor.

One high fantasy, one urban fantasy. One a globe-trotting thriller, one an intimate exploration of magic. "Legion" and "The Emperor's Soul" show that Brandon Sanderson is capable of a pretty wide range of fantasy/sci-fi stories, and the Hugo Award is just the icing on the cake.
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on 2 September 2013
This is a collection of two unrelated novellas previously published as ebooks and limited additions in the last couple of years. Both contain some very original and inventive ideas that could easily be expanded upon beyond the short novella format.

Legion, as you might guess from the title, concerns a man, Leeds, who ahs the ability to create multiple imaginary friends (or manifestations of his own personality that only he can see and interact with) that seem to hep him solve various situations. This is not essentially what the story is about, however. Instead the subject is the theft of an experimental camera that, without giving too much away, seems to possess some form of time travel capability and Leeds reluctant employment to track down the thief and the item. There is the suggestion that Leeds has used the abilities and knowledge of his hallucinations to succeed in such endeavours in the past. The novel feels a bit like a pilot and there is certainly potential for a future series based around the idea. The character of Leeds definitely has plenty of possibility and there is ample room for future development. I for one would like to see more.

Anderson returns to the more familiar territory of a fantasy world for `The Emperor's Soul' rather than the modern setting of `Legion'. It is loosely set in the same world that as Sanderson's first novel, Elantris. For such a short work it has some very strong and believable characters. Shai is instantly likeable and sympathetic. There is also included yet another very well though out and developed magic system which definitely needs much more space than the confines of this novella. At the heart of the story there is a very original and intriguing concept in attempting to re-construct someone's soul. It is an idea that maintains the reader's interest throughout and carries the story well.

Both are strong engrossing stories that leave the reader wanting more. However, because they could be so much more the book feels a little unsatisfying. It is also relatively short considering the price tag.
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on 7 September 2013
If you're looking for a quick look in to Brandon's work beyond finishing the Wheel of Time or just interested in trying out a new author this is a great double bill & shows his capabilities really well.

Neither of the stories are linked.

Legion is set in an almost real version of Earth with a main character who can create what are effectively imaginary friends to be experts in any area he reads about. A novel concept which is put across extremely well alongside a great plot.

The Emperors Soul is set (roughly, from the sound of it) in the 'world' of one of his on-going series but is currently not related to any of his other works directly. Again the abilities of the main character are (to me) a really novel concept, with the ability to seal a new history in to an object. Break the seal, the change reverts.

Great stories & brilliant imagination from an author I'll definitely be following from now on.
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on 22 September 2015
I am a big Brandon Sanderson fan and so I do like what he writes. I found Legion interesting, but for me the time it was set in, was less interesting than the other books I have read by him. Having said that, I still was very glad to have read it, and the premise - I don't like spoilers so I tend to shy away from too much detail, was a very interesting one and had an unusual perspective. I have not read a book by Brandon Sanderson that I don't like, so I am making this sound less interesting than it was.It is still VERY good and I think I am the reason I liked this less, but also it didn't compare for me, with The Emperor's Soul.

The Emperor's Soul was EXTREMELY good. I loved the storyline, which I thought was very clever. The characters were interesting as was the setting, and I think that this 'novella' really needs to be extended into a full length novel and hopefully a trilogy where the society and class of characters that we met could all be seen to interrelate and develop over a period of time. Brandon Sanderson has done with this story, as he always manages to do, make you care about his characters. You can see their flaws and their ambitions or hopes, and you are dragged in to this story and without realising it, it has finished. I felt bereft and wanting so much more from this book, I couldn't believe that it had ended. If you like Sanderson, then you need to read these novellas. If you don't like fantasy, then Legion will be perfect, a thumping good read, that could do with being extended beyond its 'novella' length. Then if you have tried the writer and like him, give Emperor's Soul a try, on that basis alone. You might decide you still don't like fantasy, but I hope that you will enjoy the storytelling along the way.
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on 26 July 2014
Legion: 5/5 - A very interesting concept through the multiple personality illusions borne by the lead character. I'm very much looking forward to the sequel as there is so much more potential for expansion.

The Emperor's Soul: 4.5/5 - Another interesting story set in the same world as Brandon Sanderson's other book Elantris, however unrelated to the event.

Brilliant price for two very good books in one. A definite must buy if amazon recommends this to you.
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on 3 November 2013
I purchased this book from the UK because I wanted a print copy of Legion for a signing I was attending to see Brandon Sanderson. I had not previously read any of his works. As it turns out I enjoyed Legion but I was amazed with how great Emperor's Soul was. A nice story that reminded me a bit of 1001 Nights.
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on 29 October 2013
I have recently discovered this writer and I'm enjoying his books hugely. These two books are superb. The author is so inventive and quirky. He reminds me of Douglas Adams..... Either of these stories could lead to another in the series. I hope he does continue with the characters in further books, but the author seems to be firing on all cylinders so may not manage to further either of these. The only books of Brandon Sanderson that I haven't enjoyed are the Alkatraz series. They are just so annoying. However, they are clearly written for the teen market and at 60 I think I can say that I am no longer in that target group..... Just waiting not too patiently for book 5 in the mistborn series and book 2 in the stormlight series. Come on Brendon. Get writing!!!
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on 8 December 2013
I absolutely love this author but I can't help but feel that this book is a 50/50. I absolutley loved Legion. However, I can't help but feel that the second story 'The Emperors Soul' was a little bit of a let down. Yet another unique story I couldn't help but feel that something was missing.
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on 9 May 2014
I read these two stories after I had already read a couple of Brandon Sanderson's books. They were both very enjoyable and a good introduction for those who might not yet be ready for Sanderson's longer more 'Epic' works. My only criticism was I wanted more of stories!
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