Arcanum Unbounded is a one of a kind short story collection by the author Brandon Sanderson. It includes nine short stories that are based in six different systems in the Cosmere. These systems include the known Selish System (Elantris), the Scadrian System (Mistborn), the Taldain System (White Sand), and the Rosharan System (Stormlight Archives). The lesser known systems that are included are the Threnodite System and the Drominad System. There are also detailed pictures of each system and a descriptive picture before each story. This is definitely a great way to enhance your knowledge of the Cosmere but be warned! This book is not Spoiler free for all of the systems involved and definitely is best read after reading the whole of the works mentioned above.
Arcanum Unbounded begins with the short story The Emperor’s Soul which is based in the Selish System. This is one of the most intriguing stories in the whole book mainly because it deals directly with the idea of what all would go into the actual creation of a soul. There are some more frivolous seeming creations that are discussed in this short story but they still deal with the “soul” of the object itself and convincing it to change into something better. I would like to share a spoiler free quote that relates the struggles of the main character, Shai, with creating a soul:
He hadn’t understood. There was rarely an obvious branching point in a person’s life. People changed slowly, over time. You didn’t take one step, then find yourself in a completely new location. You first took a little step off a path to avoid some rocks. For a while, you walked alongside the path, but then you wandered out a little way to step on softer soil. Then you stopped paying attention as you drifted farther and farther away. Finally, you found yourself in the wrong city, wondering why the signs on the roadway hadn’t led you better.”Brandon Sanderson, The Emperor’s Soul
This quote really shows how introspective this short story is to the inner workings of what makes us human. Like I mentioned before, it also gives a sense of life to the objects that are changed as well, as if they have a choice to make in the result of the change. I think Brandon Sanderson masterfully creates a conversation of the hidden depths and secret stories not just about an individual, but about what surrounds us in our daily lives. I think this quote gives a good example of this idea:
People, ” Shai said, rising to fetch another seal, “by nature attempt to exercise power over what is around them. We build walls to shelter us from the wind, roofs to stop the rain, We tame the elements, bend nature to our wills. It makes us feel as if we are in control.
Except in doing so, we merely replace one influence with another. Instead of the wind affecting us, it is a wall. A man-made wall. The fingers of man’s influence are all about, touching everything. Man-made rugs, man-made food. Every single thing in the city that we touch, see, feel, experience comes as a result of some person’s influence.”Brandon Sanderson, The Emperor’s Soul
As you can tell, this simple short story holds layers of meaning that go way beyond simply creating or changing aspects of an object or an emperor. This is the basic idea that I have come to believe about Brandon Sanderson and his writing. Whatever I am reading, look deeper! There is meaning here that can show me a new way to not only view the world that Sanderson is so good at creating, but a new way to view my personal world and the people I interact with on a day to day basis.
Arcanum Unbounded is full of another 8 stories that will not only entertain but possibly give you a new perspective on the world around you. There is so much to discover, and as Brandon Sanderson hints, there is more on the way concerning the systems that do not already have a foundation in an individual novel.
I am continuing my journey with The Stormlight Archives with Brandon Sanderson’s Oathbringer (and yes, I am very excited). Please follow my blog to read my review of this gorgeous and massive novel in the next few weeks. Thank you for reading!