Tress of the Emerald Sea

Last updated Mar 28, 2023

Tress of the Emerald Sea

Hoid’s stories are one of my favorite parts of Brandon Sanderson’s books, so naturally I would love a whole book written from his point of view. It has quite a few references to the rest of the Cosmere, but it can be easily be read on its own as well, and I’m pretty sure it’ll be as enjoyable.


if every other option has been discarded as impossible, then insanity might—in this case—be practical. — p. 36

Lem was not poor, he simply didn’t have a lot of money. — p. 40

Evenings at the tavern, as you know, are like fires in a hearth. They live two lives. — p. 40

Lem was the human equivalent of a deep, pure well, always full of water when you needed it. He’d offer what you needed and ask nothing in return. In fact, he’d never bring it up again. — p. 41

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 could imagine. Give me ten hours adding sums, and all you’ll have me imagining at the end is a warm bed and a thought-free evening. — p. 82

You don’t punch a fellow when you first meet him, ’cuz you don’t wanna get punched each time you meet someone. — p. 90

There was strength in being the one who steers. It was a freedom she had never before known, and had never before realized she needed. One of the great tragedies of life is knowing how many people in the world are made to soar, paint, sing, or steer—except they never get the chance to find out. — p. 106

Whenever one does discover a moment of joy, beauty enters the world. Human beings, we can’t create energy; we can only harness it. We can’t create matter; we can only shape it. We can’t even create life; we can only nurture it. But we can create light. This is one of the ways. The effervescence of purpose discovered. — p. 106

And then, Tress took the singular step that separated her from people in most stories. The act, it might be said, that defined her as a hero. She did something so incredible, I can barely express its majesty. I should consider this more, Tress thought to herself, and not jump to conclusions. — p. 130

Tress was coming to realize a discomforting fact: people are not separated into simple groups of liars and non-liars. It is often the situation, and one’s upbringing or genetics, that makes the lies—and therefore the liars. — p. 185

Even small actions have consequences. And while we can often choose our actions, we rarely get to choose our consequences. — p. 190

“Being one step from death,” Crow said. “Most people never live, Tress, because they’re afraid of losing the years they have left…years that also will be spent not living. The irony of a cautious existence.” — p. 196

What else would she have never known about herself, if she hadn’t left her home island? Worse, how many people like her lived in ignorance, lacking the experience to fully explore their own existence? It is one of the most bitter ironies I’ve ever had to accept: there are, unquestionably, musical geniuses of incomparable talent who died as street sweepers because they never had the chance to pick up an instrument. — p. 212

Tress settled down, thinking about people and how the holes in them could be filled by such simple things, like time, or a few words at the right moment. Or, apparently, a cannonball. What, other than a person, could you build up merely by caring? — p. 222

Unfortunately, sympathy is not a valve, to be turned off when it starts to flood the yard. Indeed, the path to a life without empathy is a long and painful one, full of bartered humanity sold at a steep discount. — p. 233

While a healthy measure of foolhardiness drove our ancestors toward discovery, fear kept them alive. If bravery is the wind that makes us soar like kites, fear is the string that keeps us from going too far. We need it, but the thing is, our heritage taught us to fear some of the wrong things. — p. 235

Memory may not be the heart of what makes us human, but it’s at least a vital organ. Nevertheless, we must take care not to let the bliss of the present fade when compared to supposedly better days. We’re happy, sure, but were we more happy then? If we let it, memory can make shadows of the now, as nothing can match the buttressed legends of our past. — p. 236

Enjoy memories, yes, but don’t be a slave to who you wish you once had been. Those memories aren’t alive. You are. — p. 236

You might think this an unfair moral problem to force upon a simple window washer, but there’s a certain arrogance in that kind of reasoning. A window washer can think, same as anyone else, and their lives are no less complex. And as I’ve warned you, “simple” labor often leaves plenty of time for thought. Yes, intellectuals and scholars are paid to think deep thoughts—but those thoughts are often owned by others. It is a great irony that society tends to look down on those who sell their bodies, but not on those who lease out their minds. — p. 247

Fun tip: Being told “I kept you in the dark to protect you” is not only frustrating, but condescending as well. It’s a truly economical way to demean someone; if you’re looking to fit more denigration into an already busy schedule, give it a try. — p. 258

The first is that heroes can be trained. Not by a government or a military, but by the people themselves. — p. 266

Heroism is often the seemingly spontaneous result of a lifetime of preparation. — p. 266

But the bond between people, well, that’s stronger than steel. If you want to create heroes, don’t give them something to fight for. Give them someone to fight for. — p. 267