Given how much I just finished griping about the Cosmere, you might have expected that I’d also be annoyed with Brandon Sanderson’s Tress of the Emerald Sea. I mean, it’s a fantasy novel with an almost-fairy-tale tone (I thought The Princess Bride was too facile a comparison until Sanderson in the afterword called it out as an explicit inspiration) that could totally be a standalone fantasy novel… except that lots of major characters are from the Cosmere and its unique magic system is described in terms of Investiture (and was previously seen in that Cowboy Mistborn book in slightly different form).

But… here, it didn’t bother me. I think the difference is that this Emerald Sea setting (the planet has a name, which I’m sure you’ll read in many future Cosmere novels, but I forgot it) is new to me, and so reading it as “one of the planets in the Cosmere” is like okay fine whatever, whereas Mistborn started off as a totally standalone thing, got itself a “secret history” that tied it to the Cosmere, and the only recently got fully retconned in. In comic book terms, it’s like how both Conan the Barbarian and Captain America are Avengers, but it’s kinda weird for one of them.

Anyway, beyond all the Cosmere stuff, this book has a fun first-person narrative voice, engaging and distinctive characters, an engrossing story, and an interestingly unique setting—all BranSan’s usual strengths. Even better, the anachronistically modern vocabulary that often trips him up when writing fantasy works here, because the narrator is from the Cosmere and so can use modern tech/management-culture inflected phrasings deliberately.

Because of all the Cosmere stuff in this, I don’t think I’d recommend it to someone who’s never read a Cosmere novel; there are just too many places where you’re clearly supposed to know stuff, like who Hoid is. But if you’ve been reading them, this is a good one, and an easy recommendation.


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