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Tress of the Emerald Sea by Brandon Sanderson Review: A Vivid World with Amazing Storytelling

Read Time: 13 minutes
Published On: March 2, 2023
Tress of the Emerald Sea

‘Tress of The Emerald Sea’ by Brandon Sanderson is a vivid & adventurous journey on Lumar, a planet in Cosmere. It's different from other works of Brandon Sanderson in a good way.

About 'Tress of the Emerald Sea'

Author: Brandon Sanderson

Publisher: Tor Books

Genre: Epic Fantasy, High Fantasy

Other works from the Author: The Stormlight Archive Series, Mistborn Saga, Elantris, Warbreaker, Skyward Series

Page Number: 483 pages

Goodreads Rating: 4.62/5

My Rating: 4.5/5

Plot - 4/5

'Tress of the Emerald Sea' is one of the most enchanting works of Brandon Sanderson set in the grandiose Cosmere. The book immerses its readers in a shared universe with vivid world-building and a unique magic system. The story follows the journey of Tress, a young girl who leaves her mundane life on the rock of the emerald sea and embarks on a journey to save the love of her life from the clutches of the Sorceress. Throughout the journey, the relationships she builds with the people around her are the main focus of the book.

Tress's life takes a sharp turn when she gets captured and employed on a pirate ship where she has to work with the deadly spores, a fatal feature of her planet, while also trying to find her way to the 'Midnight Sea' where the Sorceress has imprisoned Charlie. Along the way, she befriends a talking rat and the ship's crew members who help her survive the deadly seas.

The plot of 'Tress of the Emerald Sea' is the simplest one among all the works of Brandon Sanderson. The story has a fairytale-esque vibe that goes well with the simplistic plotline. The main focus is given towards the journey Tress embarks on, rather than the romantic side of things, which works well. I found myself engaged throughout the story and never felt like I was losing focus. Despite being simple compared to other works by Brandon Sanderson, the story integrates well with other stories in the shared universe of Cosmere.

Characters - 4/5


Tress is an exceptional character that stands out from the typical hero archetype. Her personality and character development make her one of the most memorable characters in Brandon Sanderson's works. Tress's ability to remain calm and collected under pressure is a testament to her strength of character. She is determined to save the love of her life, Charlie, from the Sorceress, and her journey is filled with hardships and danger. Her kind and genuine nature make her instantly likeable, and her internal struggle with the harsh realities of her world adds depth to her character.
Sipping Salty Tea By Brandon Sanderson's Team

What sets Tress apart is her ability to win people over with her kindness. She forms genuine connections with the people around her and earns their trust and respect through her actions. Tress's character arc is well-written and engaging. Her growth throughout the story is gradual and realistic, and it's satisfying to see her come into her own as a strong and capable protagonist.

Overall, Tress is a remarkable character, and her journey in 'Tress of the Emerald Sea' is a testament to Brandon Sanderson's skill in creating memorable and relatable characters. Her kindness and determination make her an inspiring character that readers will root for till the end.


In 'Tress of the Emerald Sea', Brandon Sanderson has executed the omniscient third-person narrative to perfection. This narrative style works incredibly well with the character of Hoid, a legendary Cosmere character who appears in all of the stories taking place in the shared universe. Hoid's voice is unique and easily distinguishable, and Sanderson has captured it brilliantly in the book.

The dialogue between Hoid and the other characters is so well-written that readers can immediately tell when Hoid is speaking, without any need for additional context. Hoid's character is both enigmatic and entertaining, and his presence in 'Tress of the Emerald Sea' adds an extra layer of depth to the story.

The combination of the omniscient third-person narrative and Hoid's character is one of the best things about 'Tress of the Emerald Sea'. It's a testament to Sanderson's skill as a writer that he can create such a memorable character and use the narrative style to complement his unique voice.


Crow is the secondary villain in the story. Her character is a very generic villain in a simple story. But she has her reasons for doing things she is doing just in the evilest way possible. I don't hate her character as a villain. It works in this story despite being a simplistic villain. I would say Crow is a better-written villain than the primary villain of the story, the Sorceress.

The Sorceress

"The Sorceress is unequivocally my least favourite character from 'Tress of the Emerald Sea'. It is disappointing that her lack of character depth detracts from the book's climax. The motivations behind her actions are not adequately explored, resulting in an underwhelming portrayal of her character. The climax of the story could have been truly epic if The Sorceress had been given more depth. Instead, she appears to have been written as an afterthought. While it's possible that Brandon Sanderson intended for her to conform to the basic villains found in fairytales in order to maintain the story's fairytalesque nature, I believe that fairytales can include complex villains as well."

Worldbuilding - 5/5

The worldbuilding in 'Tress of the Emerald Sea' is truly exceptional! Lumar, the planet where the story takes place, is completely covered in 12 seas of spores, each of which is the product of Aether from the 12 moons the planet possesses. These moons hang in equidistant geostationary orbits that are really oppressively close to the planet's surface. Four of these seas are mentioned in the book so far - the Emerald Sea, Crimson Sea, Sapphire Sea, and Rose Sea.

What's really interesting is that each sea contains spores that interact with objects in different ways, and they're all fatal for humans. But with each sea named after a different colour, you can imagine how stunningly colourful and mesmerizing the world of Lumar is, even if it's deadly at the same time.

I absolutely loved the world-building in 'Tress of the Emerald Sea'. It's really something special, with a vividness and uniqueness that is exceptionally well explained. Brandon Sanderson has managed to strike a perfect balance between creating an immersive world and making sure the story remains the focus. In fact, the world-building enhances and progresses the plot, bringing us closer to the climax with each chapter. It's just so well thought-out and brilliantly executed, that it has become my third favourite world in the Cosmere universe. Sanderson's skill in crafting such a fascinating and cohesive world is truly impressive.

Magic System - 5/5

The magic system of 'Tress of the Emerald Sea' is a shining example of Brandon Sanderson's expertise in creating hard magic systems in fantasy literature. It follows the universal laws of physics within the larger Cosmere universe and the energy which powers it is known as Aether within the book's world. This is consistent with the naming conventions used in Sanderson's other works, such as Aon in 'Elantris', Breaths in 'Warbreaker', Stormlight in 'The Stormlight Archive' series, and Metals in the 'Mistborn' series.

What I find truly impressive about the magic system in 'Tress of the Emerald Sea' is its flawless execution. I love this so much that I can't find anything to criticize about. Brandon Sanderson has created a system that is both internally consistent and makes sense within the context of the book's world again.

Pacing - 5/5

Despite being an epic fantasy novel that connects to a larger universe, it is a fairly easy and short read, which is no small feat. The pacing is just right - it is moderately paced and never bores the reader with useless infodumps. Instead, the information provided builds the world and enhances the story, making it a pleasure to read.

I enjoyed how Brandon Sanderson's different writing style in this book. It took me only two days of binge reading to finish 'Tress of the Emerald Sea', which is a loaded statement for a Sanderson book, as his works are usually much longer and take almost a month to finish. But as always, the time and effort put into reading his books are always worth it, and 'Tress of the Emerald Sea' is no exception.
Death of the Dream by Brandon Sanderson's Team

Enjoyment - 4/5

'Tress of the Emerald Sea' is an incredibly enjoyable read, and my appreciation for it was only magnified because I read all other works in the Cosmere universe. Brandon Sanderson has woven countless references to other works in the Cosmere throughout the story, making it a true treasure trove of Easter eggs for fans of his other works. However, 'Tress of the Emerald Sea' stands on its own as a standalone story. You don't need to have read any other works in the Cosmere to enjoy it fully.

Despite the numerous references to other works, the book's story and characters are engaging and fully developed, and it is a relatively easy read compared to some of Sanderson's other works. This makes it a great entry point for readers who may not be familiar with epic fantasy novels or Sanderson's other works. At the same time, for readers who have read other works in the Cosmere, the references are subtle yet powerful enough to contribute to the larger Cosmere universe and be rewarding in surprising ways.

Final Verdict

'Tress of the Emerald Sea' is undoubtedly one of the best reads of 2023 for me so far. The plot may seem simple, but it brings a fairytale-esque vibe that sets it apart from other books. Despite the seemingly basic story, Brandon Sanderson delivers a powerful narrative that plays an essential role in the overarching worldbuilding of Cosmere.

Tress is, without a doubt, my favourite character in the story. Her sheer determination to save her loved ones and survive in the harshest environment is nothing short of amazing. The character growth throughout the story is beautiful and well-crafted. Hoid's voice is unique and instantly recognizable, and Brandon Sanderson has perfectly captured his essence. Although the villain of the story may seem basic and lack depth, it does not detract from the overall storyline.

The worldbuilding and magic system are nearly perfect, and there's very little to find fault with. The world is vivid, colourful, breathtakingly beautiful, and deadly at every turn. This makes it my third favourite world after 'The Stormlight Archive' and 'Elantris' by Brandon Sanderson. The pacing of the book is perfect, with just enough infodumps to build the world and enhance the storytelling without overwhelming the reader.

I personally enjoyed the subtle easter eggs that reference other works in the Cosmere. They're a treat for fans of the series and yet subtle enough not to distract new readers. In conclusion, 'Tress of the Emerald Sea' is a fantastic book for anyone looking to enter the fantasy genre and is an excellent choice for those who want to try out the fantasy genre for the first time.

Favourite Quotes

“In short, Tress was a normal teenage girl. She knew this because the other girls often mentioned how they weren’t like “everyone else,” and after a while Tress figured that the group “everyone else” must include only her.”

“Now she looked again. As a girl trying to save her life. Where she had read, now she studied. Where she had arranged, now she organized. And where she had accepted, now she experimented. Nothing motivates quite like a deadline. Particularly one that emphasizes the dead part.”

“A boring truth will always have difficulty competing with an exciting lie.”

“Heroism is often the seemingly spontaneous result of a lifetime of preparation.”
The Midnight Essence by Brandon Sanderson's Team

“We want to imagine that people are consistent, steady, stable. We define who they are, create descriptions to lock them on a page, divide them up by their likes, talents, beliefs. Then we pretend some—perhaps most—are better than we are, because they stick to their definitions, while we never quite fit ours. Truth is, people are as fluid as time is. We adapt to our situation like water in a strangely shaped jug, though it might take us a little while to ooze into all the little nooks. Because we adapt, we sometimes don’t recognize how twisted, uncomfortable, or downright wrong the container is that we’ve been told to inhabit.”

“Do you know how many grand romances would have avoided tragedy if the hero had thought, "You know, maybe I should ask her if she likes me first"?”

“In the land where everyone screams, everyone is also slightly deaf.”

“That is one of the great mistakes people make: assuming that someone who does menial work does not like thinking. Physical labor is great for the mind, as it leaves all kinds of time to consider the world. Other work, like accounting or scribing, demands little of the body—but siphons energy from the mind. If you wish to become a storyteller, here is a hint: sell your labor, but not your mind. Give me ten hours a day scrubbing a deck, and oh the stories I could imagine. Give me ten hours adding sums, and all you’ll have me imagining at the end is a warm bed and a thought-free evening.”

“Well, parents have to say things like that. They’re required to see the best in their children, otherwise living with the little sociopaths would drive a person mad.”

“We always pretend the ideals and culture of the past have aged like wine, but in truth, the ideas of the past tend to age more like biscuits. They simply get stale.”

“But the person who is willing to reconsider their assumptions? The hero who can sit down and reevaluate their life? Well, now that is a gemstone that truly glitters, friend.”

“Those stories always leave something out,” Tress said. “It’s really not a problem that someone needs to be saved. Everyone needs help. It’s hard to be the person who makes trouble, but the thing is, everyone makes trouble. How would we help anyone if nobody ever needed help?”

Amazon Blurb

The only life Tress has known on her island home in an emerald-green ocean has been a simple one, with the simple pleasures of collecting cups brought by sailors from faraway lands and listening to stories told by her friend Charlie. But when his father takes him on a voyage to find a bride and disaster strikes, Tress must stow away on a ship and seek the Sorceress of the deadly Midnight Sea. Amid the spore oceans where pirates abound, can Tress leave her simple life behind and make her own place sailing a sea where a single drop of water can mean instant death?

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