Review: ‘Arcanum Unbounded’ by Brandon Sanderson

An all-new 40,000-word Stormlight Archive novella, “Edgedancer,” is the crown jewel of Arcanum Unbounded: The Cosmere Collection, the first book of short fiction by #1 New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson. A must read for fans of the series.

The collection includes nine works in all. The first eight are:

“The Hope of Elantris” (Elantris)
“The Eleventh Metal” (Mistborn)
“The Emperor’s Soul” (Elantris)
“Allomancer Jak and the Pits of Eltania, Episodes 28 through 30” (Mistborn)
“White Sand” (excerpt; Taldain)
“Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell” (Threnody)
“Sixth of Dusk” (First of the Sun)
“Mistborn: Secret History” (Mistborn)

These wonderful works, originally published on and elsewhere individually, convey the expanse of the Cosmere and tell exciting tales of adventure Sanderson fans have come to expect, including the Hugo Award-winning novella, “The Emperor’s Soul” and an excerpt from the graphic novel “White Sand.”

Arcanum Unbounded also contains the Stormlight Archive novella “Edgedancer,” which appears in this book for the first time anywhere.

Finally, this collection includes essays and illustrations for the various planetary systems in which the stories are set.

I heard about this book a while ago (it came out in 2016), but didn’t buy it at the time because I hadn’t read the novels in all of these Cosmere worlds and didn’t want to expose myself to spoilers. However, after I finished Oathbringer (Stormlight Archive #3), I had such a massive book hangover and withdrawals that I bought this audiobook so that I could have a little more Stormlight.

This book was everything I could have asked for. I have a terrible long-term memory for details, so I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t be able to follow some of the short stories and novellas, but that wasn’t the case at all. I read Elantris a couple of years ago, and I had no issues at all slipping into that world when I read the novella set in that city. So I can say with confidence that this anthology would be accessible to those who haven’t read anything by Sanderson.

I loved all of these stories, though the stand outs for me were ‘Edgedancer’, ‘The Emperor’s Soul’ and ‘Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell’. I also loved ‘Mistborn: Secret History’, although that one in particular does contain massive spoilers for the Mistborn trilogy, so handle with care. Both ‘Sixth of Dusk’ and ‘White Sand’ were also excellent and left me craving more of those characters’ stories (‘White Sand’ in particular seemed a little truncated, which makes sense given that it’s an excerpt). Oh, and ‘Allomancer Jak and the Pits of Eltania, Episodes 28 through 30’ was whimsical and made me laugh out loud (for real) with a dangling modifier joke that convinced me that Brandon Sanderson is my soulmate. 😉

The whole anthology was excellent. What really made it stand out for me, though, were the introductions that set each world into the broader context of the Cosmere (the universe in which all of these planets and their stories co-exist). Sanderson’s ultimate plan is to have crossover between these worlds; the ambition of it blows my mind. The post script notes by him also gave fascinating insights into his process and each story’s history, which were to me — as a writer — utterly fascinating. And apparently the hardcover book contains maps.

When I win lotto, I will repurchase all of my Sanderson novels (which I have as audiobooks) so that I can see the illustrations for myself.

Fans of Sanderson won’t regret buying this anthology, which also provides an excellent taster for those curious to experience his amazing worldbuilding and magic systems.

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