Book Review: Arcanum Unbounded

Brandon Sanderson

Arcanum Unbounded is a delightful anthology set within Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere Universe. A must read for hardcore Sanderson fans, yet also filled with plenty of great stories for a reader who hasn’t yet touched his work. I loved them all! My top three, however, would be: Edgedancer-Sixth of Dusk-Allomancer Jak. I’ll leave my opinions on each individual story below.

The Emperors Soul
This was a great story to open up to. I’ve not read Elantris, but in this first story we get to see a ‘forger’ create her ‘stamps’ to make things better.
Shai’s practice is considered outlawed by the ruling class, but when the Emperor takes on terrible brain damage, she is the only one who can help. The majority of the story takes place in a closet, Shai’s prison. Through the course of the story this little place transforms as Shai learns the intimate details of the Emperor so she can fix his brain.
Despite mostly being confound to a single room, this ‘short’ story (Over 100 pages) is sensationally captivating. Brandon shows his skills here, he has his own unique world—no, universe—in which to tell this story, but he succeeds in keeping you turning the pages whilst confound to a single room. A great read all the way through.

The Hope of Elantris
As I said before, I haven’t read Elantris. There’s a spoiler warning for this story, but after enjoying The Emperors Soul so much, I really wanted to read it! It was nothing like The Emperors Soul.
The Hope of Elantris follows Matisse, a teenager that takes care of children, through an attack on the town. There were some cool ideas for the world, that anyone who had read Elantris would have a deeper appreciation for, yet still easy enough to figure out for those who hadn’t. For someone who hasn’t read Elantris, the ending is a massive deus ex machina. I assume this coincides with the ending of Elantris and would make a whole lot more sense if I didn’t ignore the spoiler warning! It was still a nice short story, although I’d recommend not being like myself. Read Elantris first!

The Eleventh Metal
Reading this not long after The Final Empire was awesome! The Eleventh Metal takes us to Kelsier after he escapes the pits, but before he returns to Luthadel. He has emotional issues and only just discovered his allomantic powers. His teacher, Gemmel, is absolutely hilarious. Before this story I had imagined him as somewhat sagely, an all knowing martial arts masters. He is not. In truth, Kelsier isn’t actually sure if Gemmel is helping him, or trying to kill him. He is brutal, and I loved Kelsier’s training in the field.
It’s also here that the idea of an eleventh metal seeps into Kelsier’s mind, along with the knowledge that anyone can be killed. Yes, after surviving enough of Gemmel’s abuse, Kelsier decides he’d go kill Lord Ruler.
This was incredibly enjoyable short story to read after The Final Empire, but would be just as great to read before it. It holds no terrible spoilers, while adding more understanding to Kelsier.

Allomancer Jak
For someone yet to delve into the western period of Scadriel, who was also not that enthusiastic about ‘gunslinging fantasy’, this story changed my mind! Allomancer Jak is a loveable character. I want more of his stories! I usually strongly prefer third person over first, however, the way this was done—with Handerwym’s notes down the bottom—was absolutely impressive. I loved the humour and the over-the-top accounts of Jak.
I’m guessing the insight into the koloss, and what they really are, would be a big deal to someone who had already ventured through the western age. For me, it has made me want to hurry up and devour the rest of the Mistborn series so I can progress further into Sanderson’s western saga!

Mistborn: Secret History
The first chapter had my mind scattered. It focuses on Kelsier and the events at the end of the Final Empire. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it really made me start throwing out questions left, right, and centre! Brandon’s magic system has always seemed quite ‘hard’ (in accordance with Sanderson’s Law!), yet this story is all about divine super powers. Eventually we settle into Kelsier’s ‘afterlife’ as his stubbornness keeps him from the beyond, a realm where the dead eventually go to rest. The story has some ups and downs, generally following Kelsier as he watches Vin’s life unfold.
At times I found it a bit disjointed (Which Sanderson confesses it is!), while at others I found myself really curious about the realm between life and death. I liked the hint as to the greater universe. The true ‘god’ was shattered: shards of him ended up all over the Cosmere, allowing the various magic systems. Greater beings stealing parts of that god to become gods themselves was also rad.
I didn’t enjoy it as much as the other short stories in this book, and maybe I’ve spoilt the two books in the original Mistborn series I’m yet to read, but it was something Brandon wanted to write. I love seeing someone write what he wants to write. With that in mind, I hope we do eventually see a part 2 and 3 of the secrets. I do look forward to finding out more about these gods and how they are connected. I’d love to know what Stormfather is? “Temper”?

White Sand
The contrast between the comic version and full story was refreshing. Two very different styles of story telling to show off varying aspects of this desert world.
The magic system was interesting… How can it not be? It’s Sanderson! I loved how Kenton was basically a reversed chosen-one. Using his own skill and cunning to overcome the fact his magic prowess wasn’t all that great. The way it all came together in the end was awesome. Can’t wait to read more in this world!

Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell
The over-grown forest setting really gave me a Far North Queensland vibe, and I loved it! The ghosts were interesting with the way they attacked people who were breaking religious law.
Silence and William Anne’s adventure, as the White Fox, gave a unique assassin vibe that suited the story well. The stakes for them were high, and Silence’s prowess through the forest was awesome. The ‘final ghost’ in the story behaved a little bizarre towards Silence, but I feel that’s the only part of the story I didn’t really like.
The intro and outro, involving the character Daggon telling tales in exchange for free drinks, offered a stellar ending.

Sixth of Dusk
I completely adored this one! Set on a world full of deadly islands, Patji in particular, which is the father of them all! While we don’t see too much of the ‘civilised’ world, the harshness of the jungle is brutal. Everything wants to consume everything else. A bite from an ant or touching the wrong plant could have you dead. Then there were the blood-thirsty creatures that roam at night. Yes, this was a place where survival would not be easy!
A breed of unique birds, called aviar, bestow special abilities onto their human handlers. Exploring the island with Dusk and his two aviar, and watching them survive, was really exciting. The conflict with the ending of an era with the modern civilisation, and the people from above, was pretty cool. I especially loved his excitement with the technology from the people Dusk despised—<spoiler>when it was used to destroy things he feared!</spoiler>
This world was easy to fall in love with, and the story was wonderful. I believe it would be difficult to create more unique stories set in the same location, but if they are to be written, I look forward to them!

Edgedancer (Warning: spoilers if you haven’t read Words of Radiance)
Lift prepared to be awesome. The opening line had me smiling, and throughout the story my face was warping through all sorts of childish grins and giggles.
If you’ve read the first couple of Stormlight books, Lift is a character that shows up in the interludes. Along with Wyndle, her pet ‘voidbringer’ (spren) that looks like a plant, she has her own little adventure in attempt to find her calling. She doesn’t find all the answers in this story, however she does learn that no one else has them either.
I definitely wouldn’t read this short until after Words of Radiance. The Stormlight Archive builds Roshar very slowly, and when you learn how certain things work, it feels like a complete revelation. Reading this first will destroy some of that, so don’t.
Continuing Lift’s quest as she strives to consume the ten pancakes of Yeddaw was an absolute blast. The perspective of a child chosen by a spren was a lot of fun compared to the serious outlooks that the other Knights Radiant possess. She was simply special and had the ability to be awesome. A great explanation! The fact that defeating her nemesis, Darkness, one of the most dangerous men in Roshar, meant sneaking into his room and eating his pancakes was priceless!
Through the story we see Wyndle hinting that Lift must ‘say the words’ and that she would go around hitting people with him. When Wyndle does finally ‘become metal’ it makes for a feel-good moment between Lift and Darkness. Later, using the shard as a</spoiler> fork to eat pancakes had me in stitches, and was a fantastic way to finish the story—and the book!

Grab a copy from Amazon and get reading this awesome collection now!

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