So the other day, B-Sand just decided to drop this surprise novella on us, and SURPRISE, it was surprising. I downloaded it immediately. I went into it blind, and at first, I wasn’t really very into it. It takes a little bit before you have your bearings enough to realize that no, this isn’t just yet another magical world he’s created with yet another magical system that didn’t seem all that distinct. I was particularly worried when his narrator (a first person narrator) starts talking about re-writing the “Concepts” of the people around him, and my brain just goes NO B-SAND YOU ALREADY DID THAT ONE IN THE EMPEROR’S SOUL. WHAT ARE YOU DOING.
But then he drops the plot bomb and you realize all that cliched stuff was very much on purpose, and the story is actually a very meta one, which is fun. I’ve never seen Sanderson do meta before (although I heard he does it a lot in the Alcatraz books).
The center of this is actually a conversation between our narrator and a woman who is in a very similar position as he is (saying more than that would be spoilers). I actually thought this part of the story should have gone on longer. I like films and episodes of TV and stories where one conversation is the main attraction, and I think Sanderson could have played that up a bit more. The beginning and the end of the story were also weaker than I think they could have been, although if I went back to read the beginning again knowing the true nature of the story, I’d probably think it was stronger. At times, it also felt a bit convoluted, but I think that might have been a deliberate move on Sanderson’s part (again, it’s meta).
All in all, this was a great read, but it didn’t work perfectly for me. I will be interested to see if Sanderson can ever top the aforementioned Emperor’s Soul. That novella is just perfection.