Tress of the Emerald Sea (Book Review)

Written by Michelle Watson

April 27, 2024

You’ll love it if
you’re a fan of swashbuckling underdogs and strong narrative voice

This book review contains affiliate links. Here’s my disclosure policy.

Tress of the Emerald Sea

By Brandon Sanderson

Plot & Pacing
Writing Craft
Moral Value

A cup-loving small-island girl is forced out of her comfort zone to rescue her true love in a fantasy world where pirates roam the spore seas

Brandon Sanderson wrote this book for his wife, Emily, and he wrote it in secret, without telling a soul except her. He wanted to write something that would entertain and delight her. In his Postscript, he said he wanted to write something free from business constraints and fan expectations. His goal? A fairy-tale-adjacent story that appeals to adults. Something with a similar feel to The Princess Bride and Good Omens.

The result? Pure FUN. As I was reading, I could feel how much fun he was having. The book feels light and effortless, even though it ventures into grave danger and looks into the face of evil. Like Bride, it’s making fun of itself slightly. Like Bride, it doesn’t feel dark. In fact, it’s downright optimistic.

If modern writers can draw any conclusions from Sanderson’s experiment, it seems to me that writing free of business and fan pressures is a great place to start. Sometimes, when I’m reading a book, I can sense the social and political stress that the author was feeling—make sure you check these boxes…definitely can’t say X, Y or Z…just go ahead and sanitize the book of any real meaning, but fill it with messages that have been approved by the culture at large. Kay?

Those books confuse me. But books like this ring clear as a bell. And I absolutely adored Hoid’s narrative voice, and, can I just say, Sanderson is a genius to include a world-hopping character like this in all his books. Talk about giving your fans something to discuss forever and ever amen.

Content warnings: There are the usual things you’d expect with a swashbuckling rescue story, such as death, fights, and such. But there is nothing overly graphic. Very few curses (if any) and no sex.


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