Tress of the Emerald Sea: Brandon Sanderson’s First Secret Novel is a Beautiful Gift

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A Book for…me?

No, Tress of the Emerald Sea was not written me, but for Sanderson’s wife, Emily. However, as I read it, I did feel that the book was written for me–a wholesome, romantic, adventurous fantasy that takes place at sea? A book that could be a comp title for my own work-in-progress? A book that makes me laugh out loud right before nodding in contemplation? This book is 100% for me.

For those of you who follow Sanderson’s work, you already know that 2023 is “The Year of Sanderson,” in which the fantasy author will be releasing four novels that he wrote in secret for the past few years.

Sanderson compared Tress of the Emerald Sea with The Princess Bride, and he fulfilled this promise not only in plot but also in humor. The novel asks what would have happened if Buttercup had chased after Wesley instead of assuming he was dead.

What I loved

Sanderson delivered on all the things he is known for: a fascinating magic system, surprising yet inevitable twists, and an avalanche of an ending. In addition, Tress is the most wholesome and humorous novel from Sanderson I have read (note that I haven’t read his MG series yet). Even though it is not marketed as YA, it is an uplifting coming-of-age story.

It is a love story between two normal, quirky people. It is a hero’s journey about a girl who is willing to do anything for the people she loves. And, as Tress gets to know people and understand their pain, it is a story about community and working together.

Much of the wholesomeness also comes from the narrator. While it is a standalone novel, the narrator is a recurring character from his books. An immortal bard (among other things), Hoid sprinkles the novel with humor and wisdom. These tidbits aren’t distracting, though. They are fun to read and remain relevant to the story and themes. Through this, Sanderson is able to share his own bits of wisdom.

What might bother some readers

Mingled with the bits of wisdom are also bits of innuendo and crass humor that may bother some readers, though it is often subtle and doesn’t go too far. There is also one character who might make readers squirm as he becomes the voice of Sanderson’s dark humor. As someone who doesn’t enjoy morbid humor, however, I still enjoyed this character and didn’t feel the need to put the book down because of him.

Can you read it as a standalone?

Yes! While the book is part of Sanderson’s Cosmere franchise, it is a standalone that will make sense without the other books. That said, Cosmere fans will get the most out of the book as Sanderson drops Cosmere references (including some new revelations) throughout. Mostly, you need to know that the narrator of the book, Hoid, is a recurring character with mysterious abilities.

Tress is more light and comedic than most of his books, but you will still be introduced to his intricately thought-out plotting, wholesome and inspiring themes, surprising twists, and characters you want to cheer for.

Audio Book or Physical Copy?

While I listened to the book and enjoyed the narration by Michael Kramer, I have heard that the physical book is gorgeous and filled with beautiful illustrations. You can also buy the ebook here.

I hope you enjoy Tress of the Emerald Sea!

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