Brandon Sanderson wrote a PIRATE book, and I am here for it!
In Tress of the Emerald Sea, the first of Brandon Sanderson’s “Secret Projects” (because he, like Hamilton, apparently writes like he’s running out of time), Tress has lived a quiet, simple life on an island known colloquially as The Rock (not Dwayne Johnson, sadly). She washes windows, collects cups, and spends time with her best friend Charlie. Charlie, however, is the son of the Duke, who has plans for his son’s life. The noble family leaves the island, and Tress has to face the realization that she loves Charlie. So when Charlie goes missing—kidnapped by the being known as the Sorceress—Tress decides to go after him. If no one else is going to save him, she will herself. So she ventures off her island to face the seas of spores, dragons, and dangerous pirates so that she can save her love.
Yes, I said seas of spores. I’ll get to it soon.
So this is a tale inspired by The Princess Bride, and it shows. In a good way. I can easily see how Tress is inspired by Buttercup, but also ends up being more like Westley. Which is incredible, by the way. While I enjoy the character of Buttercup, I vastly prefer Dread Pirate Buttercup (or Dread Pirate Tress in this case)! Tress is such a fun character. I don’t know that I’ve ever described a protagonist as “plucky” before on this blog, but it certainly applies here. She’s sharp and brave, but also unsure of herself and feels very out of her depth throughout a lot of this, which makes her pretty sympathetic and easy to root for.
The rest of the cast is delightful, too. Sanderson does an excellent job endearing the readers to Charlie quickly, which is pivotal because he’s the whole reason Tress leaves her home. I also loved Huck, and the other pirates are fantastic, too.
I do think the initial introduction to a couple of the characters felt a little forced, like Sanderson was unsure how to naturally work in characters of color or with disabilities. It’s almost like the plot entirely stops for an entire scene to describe a Deaf character and how he communicates. This felt clunky, though I did appreciate the effort, and the rest of the book was fine in that regard. Also this Deaf character was a ton of fun and I want to be friends with him.
Another (even smaller) quibble I had was… what was Tress’ sea called? I swear sometimes it was called the Emerald Sea (which makes sense, considering the title of the novel) and sometimes it was called the Verdant Sea. I know those are both shades of green, but it was just kind of weird. Did they not catch that in editing? Did I miss something?
Anyway, speaking of the seas, the setting of this book was so cool! The seas on this planet are not liquid, but spores that, when exposed to water, burst into either vines or spikes. It’s an intriguing premise, and I liked the way it functioned and affected the plot. Some of the lore and magic was a little confusing to me—I feel like it wasn’t as well-explained as allomancy, but then again, that magic system has had seven books so far to explain it. Anyway, though, the way the spores work wasn’t the easiest aspect of the book for me, but I still enjoyed watching Tress learn more about them. There’s also a fun scene using midnight spores where I was essentially picturing the symbiote from Spider-Man 3 creeping around a pirate ship, which I loved, honestly.
Oh, I almost forgot to talk about the narrator, which seems like an oversight on my part, because the narrator is a major part of the Cosmere, I guess. However, I have had so little interaction with this character in the Cosmere books I’ve read, so for all intents and purposes, this is my first significant exposure to him. So I ask, is he always this weird? I’m guessing not quite, but who knows. Either way, it was great, and I feel like Sanderson was having tons of fun with the more fairytale-like tone.
In the end, Tress of the Emerald Sea was a blast! Tress herself is wonderful, as are most of the rest of the cast. The antagonist is sufficiently sinister, the magic is interesting, and the action is thrilling. The narration is conversational and sometimes wacky, which is tons of fun. There was a brief appearance of a dragon, and I loved him and wanted more (naturally; I am me, after all). And in general, this book was a delight, and I’ll definitely reread it someday!
One thought on “Book Review | Tress of the Emerald Sea”
I need to read this one! (Yes, it’s in our house, but a certain someone is reading it now)
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