Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere books are some of the most talked about tomes in the fantasy genre – and for good reason. New readers of Sanderson, however, might be feeling a little overwhelmed. There are, after all, around 20 books and several series, all intermingling in one way or another. You don’t want to spoil any surprised by reading them in the wrong order, but you also don’t want to read a book that just has way to much going on and you put it down, never to read a Sanderson book ever again.
There are two options when it comes to reading Sanderson’s Cosmere: Number 1, read them in publication order (List of the Cosmere books in Order HERE); and Number 2 is the order I think it the best, and the one I will go through now.
So, here are my five steps to reading the Cosmere books.
Number 1 and 2: Mistborn Era 1 or Warbreaker
It doesn’t matter which one of these you read first, so long as they are either first or second on your list. If you’re unsure that you’ll like Sanderson’s books, Warbreaker is a standalone novel (for the time being, at least) so it’s a great place to begin.
If you feel like you want the full Sanderson experience, without reading a massive, 10-book epic, The Mistborn Trilogy is the perfect place to start, with The Final Empire being the first of the trilogy.
The great thing about both of these options is that they both have hints at the larger universe – the Cosmere – but they don’t make the stories feel any less contained within themselves, so you don’t have to worry about the Easter eggs!
Once you have finished reading The Mistborn Trilogy, and you loved it (of course), then the novella Mistborn: A Secret History is a fantastic addition to the story which sets us up nicely for the next reading step.
Number 3 and 4: Mistborn Era 2 or Elantris
Personally, I wouldn’t read Mistborn Era 2 immediately after reading Era 1. They are told in quite different styles, and I found this jarring when I made that mistake and almost didn’t finish reading them! I’m glad I did though because Era 2 is an incredible read – the fourth book in that series is hopefully coming in the next year or two.
I wish I had read Elantris before Era 2. Like Warbreaker, it is a standalone with its own world and magic system. This was Sanderson’s first published novel, and this is the reason I don’t think it should be your first taste of his writing. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed this story, but it lacks the epic worldbuilding and incredible character work that his later works get just right. So, definitely read it, but don’t read it first!
After reading these, you can read lots of short stories set in these worlds in the collection entitled Arcanum Unbounded. These stories add a lot and very little to the worlds – it depends on the story – but be careful not to read ones like Edgedancer or A Secret History before reading the books that that are set before them.
Number 5: The Stormlight Archive
This is Sanderson’s epic series. It is planned to be a 10-book epic, and the first three that have been published have all come in over 1000 pages long, so it’s no small undertaking. Hence why you should definitely not read this first!
You can read them at the same time at Mistborn Era 2 if you’d like to use the Era 2 books as palate cleansers, however Warbreaker needs to be read at least before you read Oathbringer, if not before The Way of Kings.
The short story Edgedancer (which can be found in Arcanum Unbounded) needs to be read between Words of Radiance and Oathbringer, as the story in it will make certain aspects of that third book make sense. I heard this advice from someone on YouTube and I’m glad I took it!
There are other stories in the Cosmere, such as the graphic novels White Sand 1 & 2, however I have not read them, and many don’t think that their presence would affect the reading order I have suggested in this post.
My Suggested Reading Order:
Numbers 1 & 2
Numbers 3 & 4