#WyrdandWonder Audiobook Review: Tress of the Emerald Sea by Brandon Sanderson
Tress of the Emerald Sea by Brandon Sanderson
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4.5 of 5 stars
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Dragonsteel Entertainment (January, 2023)
Length: 12 hours 26 minutes
Author Information: Website | Twitter
Narrator: Michael Kramer
Me when Brandon Sanderson’s “Four Secret Novels” Kickstarter project was announced: SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY! Clearly I wasn’t the only one, as in no time at all, the campaign went on to break records for the most-funded Kickstarter ever. In early 2023, the first of the secret novels started to ship, but although I received a gorgeous premium hardcover edition of Tress of the Emerald Sea, I opted to listen to the audiobook, which my entire family got to enjoy on a 10-hour road trip during spring break. Best decision ever.
When the story begins, we are introduced to our eponymous protagonist who lives a simple life on an island in the middle of an emerald-green “ocean” which is really made up of countless tiny grain-like spores. Between performing her everyday chores, Tress likes to collect teacups brought to her by sailors who travel from all over the world and are aware of her charming hobby. When she has free time, she also likes to visit her friend Charlie, the Duke’s son. Far from being a hoity toity nobleman like his father though, Charlie is in fact very personable and tells the most amazing stories which Tress can listen to for hours. But then one day, the Duke decides it’s time for his son to marry. They leave on a voyage by sea, breaking Tress’ heart as she watches her love sale away forever.
Except Charlie did not get married. Neither did he come back. When Tress receives the awful news that the Duke’s ship had been intercepted by the Sorceress of the Midnight Sea and that Charlie had been kidnapped, she makes the decision to rescue him. But for a girl who has never left her tiny island home though, that’s easier said than done. The Midnight Sea is also not like any of the others. While oceans of all colors are dangerous, Midnight is especially deadly due to the particular nature of the spores that comprise it. But even before she can brave that challenge, Tress must first find a way off her island when the docks are constantly guarded against unauthorized travel.
Sanderson has said that Tress of the Emerald Sea was heavily inspired by The Princess Bride, and it shows. Tonally, the story feels whimsical and even fairy tale-like at times—very different from any of his other novels, even those that are Middle Grade or Young Adult. It is also very wholesome, which reaffirmed my choice to make this audiobook a family listen. In case you’re wondering, my kids loved this book as well. Not surprising, since The Princess Bride is also one of their favorite movies. They thoroughly enjoyed the twist where it was the girl in role of “farm boy” sailing off on a quest to save the Duke’s son.
But that’s pretty much as far as the inspiration goes. Tress’ journey is all her own, and once the plot gets going, like a snowball rolling down the side of a snow-covered hill, it grows until it becomes something tremendous and epic. At the beginning, when our protagonist takes her first clandestine step aboard a ship as a stowaway, the only thing on her mind was to rescue Charlie. Eventually though, that quest balloons into something so much bigger—an adventure that includes swashbuckling pirates and even a dragon. At one point, one of my daughters even asked, “Did Tress forget all about Charlie?” To be fair, it might have seemed that way, but I learned to never underestimate Sanderson when it comes to bringing a story full circle. Still, even I was amazed at how beautifully and perfectly the story came together in the end.
The world-building was also incredible. Yes, this being a Sanderson novel, I know that’s a lot like saying water is wet. Still, the concept of a world where not only are the oceans made up of spores but that the spores can actually manifest dangerous effects if they were to come in contact with any moisture, that is just another level of ingenuity.
It must be pointed out though, that Tress of the Emerald Sea is a Cosmere novel, part of a bigger fictional universe created by the author in which many of his other works take place. At the end of the day, this is still a standalone novel but newcomers to the Cosmere might experience a bit of confusion. They might not understand certain references, like who the character of Hoid is and why it might be significant to Sanderson fans that this story is told from his point of view. While it’s not a dealbreaker by any means, and Tress can most definitely be enjoyed without any prior knowledge of the Cosmere or any of its books, there might be rare instances of “Cosmere-talk” that might frustrate some readers (like my husband).
That said, I ended up loving this book, and more importantly, so did the three other members of my family who had never even heard of the Cosmere before this. After a brief explanation from me, they were good to go, even my two kids who grasped the concept quickly. Tress of the Emerald Sea was a solid hit with all of us. No matter who you are, there is much to appreciate about this lighthearted novel full of hope, love, courage, and adventure. Tress is a fantastic heroine whose determination is a good reminder of the boundless potential inside all of us.
Oooo glad you liked it! I love the humor and the tone, but it hasn’t drank (drunk?) me in like some of his other stuff. But this gives me hope yet!
Also, I’m suddenly concerned that you haven’t told your husband the plots to every Mistborn and Stormlight book…
It has a certain charm that makes it feel more whimsical, harder to grasp onto, I’ll admit. And heh, I could tell my husband and he would just forget…I think he might have actually read Mistborn, but he says he remembers nothing about it lol.
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Who is Hoid?
He’s a recurring character that pops up here and there in Sanderson’s Cosmere novels!
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I love that your whole family listened to this!
I knew I could count on Sanderson for some wholesome entertainment for the whole family 😀
I’ll add it to my TBR!!
Since it is Sanderson, I want it
That’s how I feel with everything he writes 🙂
This sounds lovely. I’d like to try it if I get hooked on the Cosmere books.
Love that your fam all listened to it together.
I hope you’ll get to read it! And no knowledge of Cosmere required 😀
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Of what I’ve read or watched about his secret projects this is the one I was most curious about, though I’m not entirely sure why. So I’m glad to see you enjoyed it, especially in audio form as that’s how I was considering reading it. I’m also glad to hear the rest of your family, who may be less versed in the Cosmere, still enjoyed it. I’ve enjoyed many Sanderson books, but I’ve barely touched the surface of the Cosmere, and honestly I’m not that drawn to it. But I’m hoping I’ll still find a very enjoyable story in this one.
I hear ya, but thankfully knowing the Cosmere isn’t a requirement. To be honest, I’m a huge fan of Sanderson but not a big Cosmere person – I know of it, I stay abreast of updates just enough to know what’s happening, but there are whole internet groups dedicated to spotting and analyzing the clues and that’s just not my thing. I’m just here to enjoy the books 😛
I just read my first Sanderson book and I enjoyed it so this caught my eye – it sounds delightful!