This collection is more than just a collection of all of Sanderson’s short fiction set in the Cosmere (a shared universe world that a majority of Sanderson’s works are set it in). It’s also a mini-study of the Cosmere itself. Each system (i.e. the Roshar system, where the Stormlight Archive books are set, or Scadrial, where the Mistborn books take place) is prefaced by an essay about that system. These essays are written by an in-world character, the Cosmere scholar Khriss (a character from White Sand who is a “worldhopper”, or a person who can travel between the planets/systems that make up the Cosmere). I wanted those essays to be longer than they were, but I suppose Sanderson has decades of storytelling to go, so he can’t spill all his secrets in one go). Each story is also accompanied by a postscript, where Sanderson gives background on their inspiration/development.
Honestly, I would have bought the book for those essays (and their accompanying illustrations) alone, but this book also happens to contain a wealth of great stories to read. I’d read most of them before this, but it’s really nice to have them all in once place. Particularly The Emperor’s Soul, which is still maybe the best novella I’ve ever read. But also included are several Mistborn and Elantris short stories that flesh out those novels, as well as the years-in-the making novella, Secret History, which goes behind the scenes of the Mistborn books and fills in a bunch of blanks, as well as being complete catnip for Cosmere fans. “Shadows For Silence in the Forests of Hell” and “Sixth of the Dusk”, novellas previously published in anthologies, also make an appearance, as well as an excerpt from both the White Sand graphic novel, and the never before published novel draft it’s based on (I like the novel much, much more, and plan on reading it this year). I’ve previously reviewed most of these stories, so I don’t really want to spend time here talking about them.
The main draw of the collection is Edgedancer, a never before published novella set in the Stormlight world. It follows Lift, a character introduced in Words of Radiance in an in-novel novella (Sanderson structures the Stormlight books like they are actually trilogies with novella interludes in between each novel, and Lift was introduced in one of those). Edgedancer takes place during the events of Words of Radiance, and is mostly a character study of Lift, a thirteen year old street kid, who is learning how to be a Knight Radiant. But she just calls those powers “her awesomeness”.
This is really a book meant for people already familiar with the Cosmere, so if you’re looking to check out some of Sanderson’s books, I wouldn’t start here. My first Sanderson was Elantris, and that’s as good a starting place as any, although I’d actually recommend starting with Mistborn or The Way of Kings (if you’re the sort to like 1,000 page books). I really liked Elantris when I read it, and it’s a good teaser for what’s to come, but since it was his first published book, it doesn’t really give you an idea of what he can do now as a writer and how satisfying his books can be.
I’m giving this one five stars, not only because I five-starred a large portion of the stories inside it, but also because the whole thing comes together so nicely.