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Book Review: Arcanum Unbound by Brandon Sanderson

November 22, 2016

Title: Arcanum Unbounded

Author: Brandon Sanderson

Series: The World of Cosmere

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: Individually Rated Below

The Overview: Brandon Sanderson’s first story collection: novellas and short stories set in the Shardworlds, the worlds of Stormlight, Mistborn, Elantris, and more. Originally published on Tor.com and other websites, or published by the author, these wonderful tales convey the expanse of the Shardworlds and tell exciting tales of adventure Sanderson fans have come to expect.

 The collection will include eight works in all. The first seven are:
“The Hope of Elantris” (Elantris)
“The Eleventh Metal” (Mistborn)
“The Emperor’s Soul” (Elantris)
“Allomancer Jak and the Pits of Eltania, Epsiodes 28 through 30” (Mistborn)
“Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell” (Threnody)
“Sixth of Dusk” (First of the Sun)
“Mistborn: Secret History” (Mistborn)

Arcanum Unbounded will also contain a currently untitled Stormlight Archive novella which will appear in this book for the first time anywhere!!!!! -Goodreads

The Review:

If you can’t tell by now, I am a HUGE Sanderson fan. To have all of these amazing short stories in one collection is awesome. This compilation includes everything from maps of the Cosmere to behind the scenes expansions for some of our favorite Sanderson works (ahem…Mistborn). In this review, I’ll briefly explain what I liked about each story [In ascending order by rating].


Allomancer Jak and the Pits of Eltania, Epsiodes 28 through 30 [No Rating]:

Okay, I’ll admit the blasphemy that I didn’t read this one. But I hear if you liked the introductions to each chapter of Mistborn Era 2, you’ll like this too.

It’s very reminiscent of the golden age of radio era in the 1930’s (not my thing) and I couldn’t get past the presentation long enough to appreciate the story.

The Eleventh Metal [2.5/5 stars]:

This is a prequel short story for the Mistborn Trilogy, Era 1. It gives a little glimpse into how Kelsier coped after escaping the Pits of Hathsin (don’t panic if you haven’t read the series – this happens before the first book). I enjoyed it alright even though it didn’t add anything new to the series. 

Moving on…

The Hope of Elantris: [3/5]

This felt like a deleted scene from Elantris, but has very little to do with the main story… it’s more of a tangent. I honestly don’t think it added much to my enjoyment of the world as a whole, but I did like it.

Interestingly enough, my favorite part of this segment was actually the author’s note at the end explaining how the story came about. It has to do with one of his fans… way cool. :-)

Edgedancer [3.5/5 stars]:

Edgedancer was a great short story, but it’s one I think I’ll need to go back and reread once I’ve finished my reread of Way of Kings and Words of Radiance. It has been so long since I read those two that some of the references in Edgedancer went over my head. THIS is a problem because if I have holes in my memory, I wont be ready for Oathbringer, due out in November 2017. So, I will reread all the things, then review this one again. All you need to know is, this short story might help curb your craving for Oathbringer and help fill in some gaps.

White Sand [4/5 stars]

I freaking loved this short story. What a cool culture! It presents a magic system which involves using moisture in your body to manipulate sand (a cost/reward system I found particularly clever). Its about a young man who wants to run the trails of skill, but doesn’t have enough tradional magic strength to do it “properly.” I liked it so much I immediately went out and bought the graphic novel. Honestly, even though I’d just read the short story, I was hoping for a detailed expansion of the exact same scenes in graphic novel form. Instead, it breezed past it too fast for my tastes. With that said, if you plan on reading the graphic novel at any point, I’d highly recommend this short story first. It’s a marvelous introduction to this world and these characters.

Sixth of Dusk [4/5 stars]:

Sanderson is known well for his epic world building (among other things), but he really outdid himself with Sixth of Dusk. It was an experience, to say the least. Inspired by Polynesian culture, it takes you to the ridiculously dangerous jungles of an isolated island. Everything from the beasts that prowl the island, to the most minute flora and fauna was fascinating. On top of that, the character had these cool, albeit disturbing, hallucinations/premonitions of the future that help him see (and survive) the dangers around him. Even though the plot lacked a little resolution, it’s still one of the coolest short stories I’ve ever read. We all should badger him for more things set in this world (as if he doesn’t have enough to work on).

The Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson

The Emperor’s Soul [4.5/5 stars]:

I read this short story ages ago, but apparently never wrote a review for it. It’s a well-woven tale infused with Asian culture, includes a neat magic system centered around calligraphy, and provides truly unique character exploration.

It stands on a pedestal as one of the most interesting stories I’ve ever read.

Mistborn: Secret History [4.5/5 stars]:

Mistborn: A Secret History is definitely my favorite new read from Arcana Unbounded (I’d already read Shadows for Silence and Emperor’s Soul). This short story provided tons of insight to the events that took place on the periphery of Mistborn, Era 1. Sanderson offers so many layers to his storytelling! Knowing all of this extra information about what really happened completely enhanced the main trilogy. Seriously, if you read nothing else from this collection, pick this one up. You’ll want to read it before picking up the 4th Wax and Wayne novel.

Shadows for Silence by Brandon Sanderson

Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell [5/5 stars]:

If you only read one novella from Brandon Sanderson, Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell would be my top pick (by a smidgen – they’re all awesome. And really, why would you limit yourself to just one?). It’s just one more example why Sanderson is one of my favorite authors – his novellas are every bit as good as his full-length novels. I loved this one because it had the perfect mix of characterization, setting, story, pacing, action, and resolution. It felt like a snippet out of a fully developed novel, but was self-contained enough to stand complete on its own. Silence, the main character, really struck a chord with me – her decision-making during the most intense scenes of the story still have me reeling months later. I want to get into the nitty-gritty details and geek out about all of them, but I can’t discuss it to my satisfaction without spoilers. So just take my word for it – this is definitely worth reading! :-)


Overall, Arcanum Unbounded is a brilliant compilation that I deem essential for any fan of Sanderson’s Cosmere. One of my favorite elements was the introduction to the planet systems within this universe and elusions to how the shards affected each one. I love how I learned about the Cosmere from this collection and look forward to discovering even more in his future works.

by Niki Hawkes

8 comments on “Book Review: Arcanum Unbound by Brandon Sanderson

    • Me too – in fact, I hadn’t planned on reading the mistborn ones, but now I am so glad I did! I feel like I have now truly experienced all that Sanderson has to offer lol. And I’m definitely going to have to do a Stormlight reread because so many things in Edgedancer required a lot of mental power. I don’t want to have to think that hard the third one, just enjoy it. :)

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Love it! And agree with most of what you say! As you already know :D i skipped the Elantris story but everything else i liked more or less with Secret History being the most awesome!

    I still haven’t decided whether i should reread the first 2 Stormlight novels before Oathbringer hmmm.. i feel like i forgot a lot of important details

    Like

    • Thanks! And I agree – Secret History was definitely the coolest new short story I read in this compilation. I am actually just starting to reread Way of Kings because I want to go into Oathbringer without any gaps in my memory. It’s always good to have an excuse to reread a good book lol.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yay, your full review! Hurrah :D I, too, love having all the stories together, and the author’s notes and intros added so much to my understanding of the Cosmere. Arcanum Unbounded is worth every penny!

    AND SIXTH OF DUSK!!! I love that world SO MUCH! lol So glad to hear you love it too!! Totally agreed that we should badger Sanderson into writing more stories in this world!

    I really need to pull together a full review of the collection. My copy has tons of stickies everywhere and I actually had drafted a rough version of the review before deciding I had to step back from reviewing. But this collection deserves a full review! *determined*

    Like

    • I saw yours too on Goodreads – so excited you found the time to put it up. :-) I also saw that you’re making some headway with Wheel of Time, so your determination is inspiring ha ha. I remember reading somewhere that Sanderson has zero intention of revisiting the Sixth of Dusk world for a loooooooonnnnnggg time because it’s creation was kind of an afterthought and didn’t originally fit into his plans for the Cosmere as a whole. This is a bummer. I think we need to organize a petition. ;)

      Like

      • Oooh NO!!!! Ack, we definitely need to petition this terrible decision, lol. I mean, it’s not like I want him to stop producing his other great stuff, I just want him to pick it up even faster!! 😂 🤣 Thanks for reading my review, Niki! I’m doing much more off-the-cuff reviews lately, but I loved it so much and it needed hardly any editing, so I just crammed it in there.

        Liked by 1 person

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