Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 144: Tress of the Emerald Sea by Brandon Sanderson

by | Jun 5, 2024 | 2024 Book Reviews, Marion's Favorite Books, Marion's Favorites, Marion's Reading Life Blog, Wisdom From Kammbia Column | 0 comments

Washing windows was great thinking work.

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 can imagine. Give me ten hours adding sums, and all you’ll have me imagining at the end of the day is a warm bed and a thought-free evening.

This little philosophical gem comes from Brandon Sanderson’s Tress of the Emerald Sea, the first secret project novel from his record funding Kickstarter project of last year. This book, along with the other three novels in the secret project, generated a lot of excitement within the fantasy genre reading community. Sanderson is the biggest name currently (taking over that mantle from George R.R. Martin) in the genre and has surprisingly become a polarizing figure in the online reading world. Nevertheless, a respected YouTube reviewer provided a fair and balanced critique of Tress of the Emerald Sea. I decided to take a chance on it.

So glad I did.

Tress of the Emerald Sea tells the story of a young woman named Tress who grows up on an island where she lives a simple but rewarding life. However, Tress’ best friend Charlie is being forced to leave the island because of his father’s wish to arrange a marriage for him. Learning about Charlie’s possible peril, she decides to search for him and disclose her genuine sentiments.

She becomes a stowaway on a ship named Crow’s Song that begins her adventure in finding Charlie. Along the way, Tress has tense encounters with a laconic and ruthless captain, befriends a talking rat, wins over several of the ship’s crew, and grows into a resourceful young woman that is determined to find her best friend.

Sanderson tells a solid, fast-paced story that has these nuggets of wisdom like that one mentioned at the beginning of this review. I was pleased that he incorporated philosophical gems into the story, which added a deeper dimension beyond the usual adventure narrative. Here is one more nugget of wisdom as I finish this review:

Change has an illusory aspect to it. We pretend that big changes hang on single decisions, single moments. And they do. But single decisions and single moments, in turn, have a mountain of smaller decisions behind them. You can’t have an avalanche without a mountain of snow, even if it begins with one bit starting to tumble.

Truth. Change occurs through a series of small decisions that build momentum over time. I could see the same thing happened while reading Tress of the Emerald Sea. The story was told by a man named Hoid that is a character in Sanderson’s Cosmere Universe and someone who tries to inject humor into his narration of Tress’ adventure. The humor did not bother me, maybe because this is only the second Sanderson novel I have ever read. Nevertheless, I thought he did a solid job of telling the reader about the protagonist.

Sanderson writes in his postscript that The Princess Bride movie influenced him and he wanted to write a story just for his wife. I’m not sure about the Princess Bride influence (because I have never seen the movie), however I’m glad Mrs. Sanderson convinced him to share Tress of the Emerald Sea with readers everywhere. This will be one of my favorite reads of 2024 and Tress is a protagonist I will not forget about anytime soon.





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