For those of you who don’t know, The Cosmere is the name of the universe where every single Sanderson’s adult fantasy books took place in. Yes, this includes The Stormlight Archive, Mistborn Saga, Elantris, Warbreaker, etc. Although each series settings are in their own individual world, their stories actually have cameos and secrets in the background for a huge overarching story in the future. The most famous example of this is Hoid’s appearances or what I would call the Stan Lee of The Cosmere Universe. As Kelsier said, there’s always another secret and the Cosmere has always been full of them. To provide some answers to those secrets is the purpose of Arcanum Unbounded.
Picture: Arcanum Unbounded endpapers (The Cosmere Solar System)
For the aesthetic factors, not only Arcanum Unbounded is probably one of the most gorgeous hardcover I ever saw, every single novella begins with a unique star maps for each System and an illustration that depicted an event in the respective story. Here’s one of the star map for example:
Picture: The Scadrian System (Mistborn saga)
Of course those aesthetic factors means nothing if the content is unworthy of it. Luckily, you don’t have to worry about that, almost every novella in this anthology is a solid read. Each System is prefaced by an informational annotation from Khriss, the author of the Ars Arcanum. She’s the one who wrote the appendix section at the end of Elantris 10th anniversary edition, Mistborn saga, Warbreaker and The Stormlight Archive that provide details on each magic system in their respective world. Plus, all novellas ended with a beautiful (some inspirational) and important postscript by Brandon Sanderson himself.
Here’s my rating for the content of each novella:
The Emperor’s Soul = 5/5 Stars
The Hope of Elantris = 3/5 Stars
The Eleventh Metal = 3.5/5 Stars
Allomancer Jak & The Pits of Eltania = 3.5/5 Stars
Mistborn: Secret History = 4/5 Stars
White Sand = 3.5/5 Stars (Volume 1 edition, this book contained only a chapter and excerpts preview of White Sand)
Shadows for Silence in the Forest of Hell = 3.5/5 Stars
Sixth of the Dusk = 3.5/5 Stars
And finally, the most anticipated novella in this collection
Edgedancer = 5/5 Stars
Picture: Lift approaching the city of Yeddaw (This is an example of the kind of illustration that appeared for each story.)
I’m going to do a short spoiler-free review for Edgedancer now since this novella can only be found in this collection. According to Khriss’s annotation, Roshar from The Stormlight Archive series is the most majestic planet and probably the most important System to the Cosmere universe. Out of all worlds that Sanderson has created until now, Roshar and Scadrial has always been my favorite worlds to visit and to read a small continuation to Words of Radiance is something that I’ll never miss.
Every reader of The Stormlight Archive series MUST read Edgedancer before reading Oathbringer, it’s basically The Stormlight Archive #2.5 and the story actually continues after Words of Radiance. Ever since Lift’s first brief appearance, it’s obvious that she will become one of the major characters in The Stormlight Archive series later on and Edgedancer is Sanderson’s way of providing the necessary character developments that she needs. Lift and Wyndel duo is as awesome and fun as ever, the city of Yeddaw is gorgeous, there’s more information on Surgebinding (the magic systems) and the worldbuilding remained grand even in this 130 pages book. As Lift said, it’s oozing with awesomeness.
I’ll state this once again, Edgedancer is a must read before Oathbringer, crucial characters from the series made an appearance and important events do happened here. You don’t want to miss this one if you’re a fan of the series. I’ll end my Edgedancer short review with a glimpse of Sanderson’s postscript on it.
“The original plan for this novella was for it to be 18,000 words. It ended up at around 40,000. Ah well. That just happens sometimes. (Particularly when you are me.)” –Brandon Sanderson
Yes, like Lift said, he’s awesome and don’t be fooled by my ratings. Although I rated most of the novellas inside here a 3.5/5 stars, The Emperor’s Soul, Mistborn: Secret History and Edgedancer in a single book are more than enough to give this anthology a 4/5 stars. They’re amazing and they make up for around 400 pages (60%) of this book. The other novellas are pretty much sweet bonuses, while not amazing, they’re really good for a short read and the prefaces from each System provide important insights to the Cosmere.
Looking at the big picture of the Cosmere universe, we all know one day, it will eventually lead to a full crossovers between all worlds in the future, it’s still a long way but it’s time to start getting into something that only the best of authors could envisioned. With Arcanum Unbounded finished, I finally caught up to the entire available Cosmere works, that’s 10 books, 1 graphic novels & 1 anthology (8 Novellas) read and now I’m more than ready to welcome my most anticipated book of the year, Oathbringer. I’ll absolutely recommend Arcanum Unbounded exclusively to everyone’s who caught up with Sanderson’s main books in the Cosmere already. Although you can actually read most of the novellas individually, you’re going to miss a lot of cameos and great experiences if you haven’t caught up to the entire available main stories yet. Well, what are you waiting for? Start reading them, they’re all worth it!