Arcanum Unbounded: The Cosmere Collection (The Stormlight Archive #2.5) by Brandon Sanderson
Published: Tor Books (Nov 22, 2016)
Original Post: Cross-posted(Jan 24, 2017)
(4.5 / 5)
SPOILER WARNING: Arcanum Unbounded features major spoilers for Mistborn, The Stormlight Archive, and Elantris. This review contains spoilers for Mistborn & The Stormlight Archive. This anthology is best suited for fans of Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere.
Arcanum Unbounded is a collection of fantasy novellas by Brandon Sanderson. All of the stories are set in his Cosmere universe. Each planetary system explored is prefaced by the White Sand’s Worldhopper Khriss. This unique perspective allows Sanderson’s observations of his own creations to shine through. This anthology features fiction from all of the Cosmere worlds and provides the reader with insight into the Cosmere at-large.
Incorporating the author’s many worlds into one meta-story is no simple undertaking. Taldain’s Daysider Khriss does this by profiling five of the Cosmere’s main planets and exploring their magic systems. Chapter introductions are short, well-written, and feature detailed illustrations of their respective solar systems. There’s also black and white artwork throughout the collection.
Fans have long awaited the discussion of Investiture and the manifestation of magic in the Cosmere. Related to the existence of Shards and the shattering of Andonalsium, the insights in Arcanum were helpful to read. Arcanum does an excellent job at connecting the dots between works that span a long career of writing.
Arcanum Unbounded is primarily geared for fans. Unfortunately, it serves as a reprint for many stories that fans have already read. The only new piece is Edgedancer (which serves as Stormlight 2.5). I would have preferred newer stories but I’m probably being too picky! Don’t let that dissuade you from checking this out. Even if you’ve read them in the past, the stories collected here are outstanding.
Some of the fiction in Arcanum is long. What follows is a detailed overview of each piece as well as a basic rating of them. This should contain very few (if any) plot spoilers.
The Emperor’s Soul (Sel) – Shai is a magical forger forced to create a masterpiece: the mind and soul of an Emperor currently in a vegetative state. The master forger can imbue anything with memories, physical characteristics, and a personality of her own design. This story is fast paced and filled with a palpable tension in the same vein as 1,001 Nights.. It also features one of the best magic systems I’ve ever read. While set in the same world as Elantris, the two can be read independently of each other. 5/5 (Full Review)
The Hope of Elantris (Sel) – This story fills in a time period that occurs concurrently with the plot of Elantris. As Raoden restores AonDor to Sel, one child fights for the safety of other Elantrians. As noted in my review of Elantris, Elantris was extremely self-contained and story-driven. It featured excellent, odd-defying characters that strive to triumph over adversity. While the character Mattisse here exhibits many of the same traits as Raoden, revisiting the world for such a small story – while enjoyable – seemed unnecessary. 3/5
The Eleventh Metal (Scadrial) – For fans of Mistborn, details in The Eleventh Metal are scattered throughout the series. But while The Eleventh Metal doesn’t break new ground, the story of Kelsier obtaining The Eleventh Metal is lot of fun to read. It features plenty of intense action that is true to the spirit of Mistborn. 4/5 (Full Review)
The Allomancer Jak and the Pits of Eltania (Scadrial) – Remember the broadsheet clippings from Era 2 of Mistborn? Originally created to supplement an RPG, Allomancer Jak is an insanely humorous romp through danger-filled locales with the goofiest gentlemen adventurer ever created. Written by Jak and annotated by his straight-laced steward Handerwym, the annotations by Terrisperson are on the ball and funny. The tale is exciting and Handerwym frames our pompous, narrow-minded but well-meaning hero in an amusing way. 5/5
Mistborn: A Secret History (Scadrial) – While this novella takes place during the events in the Mistborn novels, it features an original tale that illuminates some of the mysteries of Mistborn and the Cosmere itself. Secret History tells a story of the survivor, Kelsier, on a quest that cannot go unread. 5/5! (Full Review)
White Sand (Taldain) – The world of Taldain is split in two, Dayside and Darkside. On Dayside, trainees seek to prove themselves worthy of Sand Master training. Sand is the source of their magic. But when the unskilled Kenton dares to dream big, he’s dismissed as a failure by his father, the Lord Mastrell of the Sand Masters. But Kenton is not one to let time idly slip through his fingers. The first edition of the graphic novel and the same chapters from the unpublished novel of White Sand are provided. But they’re identical in story and substance and they’re mere samples of a greater story. 3/5 (Full Review of Volume One (Graphic Novel ARC))
Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell (Threnody) – Featuring a compelling mythology, Shadows is an eerie fable set on a world best classified as colonial gothic horror incarnate. The forests themselves are filled with dangerous spirits, only silver keeps them at bay. When a murderous villain named Chesterton Divide comes to town, Silence Montane and her daughter William Anne are compelled to do the unthinkable: capture the killer and claim his bounty. But can the two brave the dangerous forests for their pay day? A world reminiscent to Magic the Gathering‘s Innistrad with its own flare and originality. 5/5
Sixth of the Dusk (Sixth in Drominad) – Second to Shadows for Silence in raw originality, Sixth features two societies. One is advanced and lives in cities, while the other is a group of hunter/trappers inhabiting a dangerous island chain known as the Pantheon Islands. The main island, Patji, has interesting plant and wildlife which rivals the splendor of Roshar. When a hunter named Dusk receives dreadful visions of the future, the world’s fate may hang in the balance. 5/5
Edgedancer (Roshar) – You’ve been waiting for this, right? Edgedancer does not disappoint. A required read for Stormlight fans, Edgedancer continues the story of Lift, Words of Radiance‘s most beloved street urchin. Discontent with daily life in Azimir, Lift travels to the labyrinth city of Yeddaw in the neighboring kingdom of Tashikk. But can one escape one’s fate? In order to survive, she’s forced to come to terms with the Edgedancer within. Sanderson’s storytelling prowess is unparalleled here: Lift’s inner turmoil is deep and real, her feelings laid bare. The revelations about Roshar, the Knights Radiant, and Cosmere’s mythology are also plentiful. A story about relationships and forming connections, Edgedancer is one of the best Sanderson tales to date. 5/5! (Full Review of Stormlight’s The Way of Kings (Book #1) & Words of Radiance (Book #2))
Arcanum Unbounded is an outstanding collection of Cosmere fiction that serves to flesh out the author’s universe. It also contains a lot of great stories that fans have come to love while also injecting some new material along the way. While I can’t recommend Arcanum to readers unfamiliar with his work, I strongly recommend it to his fans. It serves as a great companion to the author’s larger works. For quality content and awesome imaginings, Arcanum Unbounded scores a 4.5/5.