The Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson is a short book, but an excellent one. This fantasy novella is one of my favorite books of the year so far.
is a forger: using a mixture of magic and art, she can make an expert
copy of just about anything. When she is caught in the emperor's palace
(on a heist involving a priceless painting and a royal treasure), she is
imprisoned and expects to be executes. Instead, the emperor's closest
advisers set her a task more challenging than any she has yet faced: to
forge a new copy of the emperor's soul. The emperor sustained a
near-fatal injury in an assassination attempt, and while the royal
healers were able to repair his body, he is now basically brain-dead.
Shai has just a few months to complete this incredibly complex task --
to forge a copy of a soul, she must know everything there is to know
about the person in question. Usually Forgers only replicate their own
souls, and even that is a task that can take years. Shai doesn't have
years -- in fact, she suspects that she doesn't have even the three
months they have given her, because what is the likelihood that a forger
who has copied the emperor's soul will be allowed to live after the
task is completed? In addition to making the forgery, Shai must find a
way to escape her prison. It's not going to be easy, but escape is her
only hope of survival. And successfully forging the emperor's soul is
the only thing that can prevent the country from sinking into civil war.
This novella is set in the Elantris universe, but it is not necessary to read Elantris before reading The Emperor's Soul.
This little book is complete in itself, with a unique and fully
realized magic system (Sanderson's specialty) and detailed, interesting
characters -- plus a fast-moving plot, which is surprising since the
main character is imprisoned for most of the book. Highly recommended --
in fact, I'd recommend this as a good introduction to Sanderson's
writing for those who might be put off by more lengthy tomes like Mistborn or The Way of Kings.
(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)