Brandon Sanderson reveals title and details for new Secret Project book set in the Cosmere

We now know what Cosmere world will feature in Brandon Sanderson's newly announced Secret Project book, as well as a slew of other details!
Brandon Sanderson. Photo by Nazrilof. Image courtesy of Tor Books.
Brandon Sanderson. Photo by Nazrilof. Image courtesy of Tor Books. /

Earlier this month, prolific fantasy author Brandon Sanderson announced that he had written another new book in secret. Set in a future era of Sanderson's fictional universe called the Cosmere, this new Secret Project novel will have "high Cosmere connectivity," linking together elements from the myriad fantasy worlds Sanderson has created. Suffice to say, for long-time fans of the Cosmere who have been picking up on the various easter eggs Sanderson has been weaving into his stories for the past two decades, that's pretty exciting.

The announcement called to mind Sanderson's record-shattering Kickstarter campaign, where he surprised his readers by announcing the release of four new Secret Project novels that he wrote during the pandemic. Similarly, this new Secret Project novel is currently being offered as a backer reward for the Backerkit crowdfunding campaign for the leatherbound edition of Words of Radiance, the second novel Sanderson's Stormlight Archive series. We're presuming that a wider release will follow, as it did with Sanderson's other Secret Projects, but for now the Backerkit campaign is the only way to get it.

Details on this new book were kept under tight wraps, but late last week Sanderson finally pulled back the curtain to talk more about it, and its surprising connection to one of his short fiction Cosmere works. Sanderson unveils details and reads several chapters from Secret Project #5 in the YouTube video below; this is your last chance to back out if you're one of those readers who doesn’t want details about the Secret Project.

Secret Project #5 will bring back a previous Cosmere world

First thing's first: the title of Brandon Sanderson's new Secret Project book is Isles of the Emberdark — though Sanderson does leave some wiggle room, saying it's possible it may be shortened to just Emberdark during the revision process.

Unlike some of last year's Secret Project books, this new one has firm roots in a previous Cosmere work. Sanderson explains in the video that it's set in the same world as a novelette he wrote which was released in 2014. That would be Sixth of the Dusk, a piece of short fiction that's currently available in his Arcanum Unbounded collection. Sanderson is repurposing the story from Sixth of the Dusk and using it as a basis for this new book, with a twist.

"This is a book with dual narratives and a flashback sequence. Some of you may have read the flashback sequence already, because it is a [novelette] that I wrote," Sanderson says in the video. The author says that he didn't want it to be a hindrance for people who hadn't read Sixth of the Dusk, which is why he ended up revising it into a flashback sequence and including it in this new book.

Here's the official description of the book, which appears in a recent mailing from Sanderson's email newsletter:

"You’ll revisit the world of Sixth of the Dusk with two unlikely allies: a trapper and a young dragon trapped in human form. Their perilous quest involves an isolated island, luminescent portals, and unexplored corners of the cognitive realm. Together, they’ll have to outwit treacherous politicians and make dangerous bargains—all against the backdrop of warring galactic superpowers. "

Sanderson is talking quite a bit about this book at the moment, which is only to be expected now that the news of its existence is out. He also discussed it in a recent episode of his Intentionally Blank podcast with fellow author and Dragonsteel Books Vice-president of Narrative Dan Wells.

Isles of the Emberdark came about as a result of Sanderson needing a break while he was working on the fifth Stormlight Archive book, Wind and Truth. The first draft of that one was a whopping 480,000 words, which for context is about as large as the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. Stormlight books are constructed in distinct parts, which allowed Sanderson a brief respite after he finished one chunk of the novel before diving into the next.

"I need a break from things. And sometimes when I need a break from things, I noodle on something else," Sanderson said. He discusses how due to the expansive nature of The Stormlight Archive, these breaks are something he finds "refreshing" and necessary to keeping his creativity up.

"It is frankly a bit of a miracle that this manifested in the middle of Stormlight 5, and it only did because I had a little bit of momentum on it from a number of years ago," Sanderson added. "It's something I had been writing on for maybe seven, eight years."

After Wind and Truth releases later this year, Sanderson's Cosmere will undergo a major shift as it moves from fantasy into a genre closer to space opera, with the various distinct worlds he's created coming more into contact through space travel and other means. Isles of the Emberdark will lean into that element.

"It's got characters from multiple different planets, some you've seen, some you haven't. And it's taking place kind of dealing with future era [Cosmere] sort of stuff," Sanderson said. This sounds somewhat similar to the approach he took with The Sunlit Man, except dialed up to eleven.

Do you need to read other Cosmere books before Isles of the Emberdark?

That brings up an interesting question: do you have to read other Cosmere books in order to fully enjoy this upcoming Secret Project novel? The short answer is yes. Sanderson goes into detail about how he and his team slaved over the marketing phrase "high Cosmere connectivity" in relation to this book; they needed a way to get across the self-referential nature of the story in only a few words. But he's still not completely sure that that phrase drives home exactly what it's meant to about Isles of the Emberdark.

"What I really wanted to say is, this book isn't intended for first-time Cosmere readers," Sanderson said. "Though if you are a first time Cosmere reader and you understand that, you'll probably have a good time. The rest of you probably should read a few Cosmere books before you pick this one, then you'll really enjoy it better. That's what I wanted to write, [but] that's not three words."

Wells — who has read and is contributing editorial feedback for Isles of the Emberdark — had a pretty good analogy for what it might be like to read the novel without first reading any of Sanderson's other Cosmere works:

"Imagine Lord of the Rings, except it starts after they've already left the Shire. And so you don't actually get to see the homeland of anyone in the Fellowship. But you hear about their homeland, and they brag about their homeland to each other. That still works, right? It's very Guardians of the Galaxy. Other than Earth, you don't really see anyone's homeworld, but you can accept that, okay, these are all the adventurers that have come together to do the thing."

So yes, you can probably enjoy Emberdark either way, but if you want to get the most out of it you'll have to have some familiarity with the Cosmere. Fortunately, there's a while yet before Isles of the Emberdark is expected to ship sometime in mid-2025. If you're interested in reading it, it'd probably behove you to read a few other Cosmere books in the interim so you can tell your Scadrians from your Rosharans and your Investiture from your Highspren.

As of this writing, there are only three days left to get in on Sanderson's Words of Radiance Backerkit campaign, which is currently the only way to reserve a copy of Isles of the Emberdark. There's a standalone tier where you can just buy that book if you like, rather than the entire leatherbound smorgasbord.

Any day with news about a new Sanderson book is a good day. We'll be on the lookout for more.

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