All of Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere Stories, Ranked

Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere is a vast, interconnected universe, full of colorful characters and equally colorful magic systems. He’s written almost thirty stories that take place in the Cosmere, from brief snippets and short stories to thousand-page epics. They all interconnect in at least a small way, and they are all lovingly crafted narratives.

Now, while we fully endorse taking the time to read every single Cosmere book, not everyone has the free time to do so. Because of this, we sometimes must ask ourselves tough questions. Questions like “Which Cosmere stories are best?” This is of course a completely subjective question, and the list below is just one author’s opinion – I encourage you to seek out other lists before deciding which Cosmere books to pick up!

With that qualifier out of the way, let’s rank these Brandon Sanderson books. Justifications can be found further down in the article, but if you only want the list, here are all of Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere stories, ranked:

  1. The Way of Kings (Stormlight Archive 1)
  2. Oathbringer (Stormlight Archive 3)
  3. The Emperor’s Soul (Arcanum Unbounded)
  4. The Final Empire (Mistborn 1)
  5. Words of Radiance (Stormlight Archive 2)
  6. Rhythm of War (Stormlight Archive 4)
  7. Shadows of Self (Mistborn 5)
  8. Sixth of the Dusk (Arcanum Unbounded)
  9. The Hero of Ages (Mistborn 3)
  10. Warbreaker
  11. Tress of the Emerald Sea
  12. The Lost Metal (Mistborn 7)
  13. Edgedancer (Stormlight Archive 2.5)
  14. The Bands of Mourning (Mistborn 6)
  15. The Well of Ascension (Mistborn 2)
  16. Yumi and the Nightmare Painter
  17. Sunlit Man
  18. The Alloy of Law (Mistborn 4)
  19. Mistborn: Secret History (Arcanum Unbounded)
  20. Dawnshard (Stormlight Archive 3.5)
  21. Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell (Arcanum Unbounded)
  22. Mistborn: The Eleventh Metal (Arcanum Unbounded)
  23. Elantris
  24. Allomancer Jack and the Pits of Eltania Eps 28-30 (Arcanum Unbounded)
  25. The Hope of Elantris (Arcanum Unbounded)
  26. White Sand

Important notes on this list:

  • This list will not go into much detail about what the stories are actually about, so check out our Reading Order article, or use another source, if you want to learn more about a specific story’s plot, setting, and magic.
  • Some of the lower-scoring stories are down at the bottom mainly because they offer so little — not because they’re bad, but just because they are short. If you’re a Cosmere fan, they’re all still worth reading if you have the time!
  • Arcanum Unbounded is a short story collection that contains new stories and stories that were originally released as part of other projects.

26 – White Sand

Whether the graphic novels or the text version, this is far and away Brand Sanderson’s weakest work. A few of the characters are just on the right side of interesting, but the plot meanders, the setting feels unfocused, and it lacks the one-more-page forward momentum of his better works. It’s one of his earlier projects — based on manuscripts he created before his first published work, Elantris — and it shows.

25 – The Hope of Elantris

This short story from the Arcanum Unbounded collection gives us a chance to check out some events that occur during the climax of the Elantris novel, but don’t reveal anything new or exciting about the broader Cosmere — which is a big part of why some of the other short stories are so interesting.

24 – Allomancer Jack and the Pits of Eltania Eps 28-30

Another short story from the Arcanum Unbounded, this one really only works if you’ve already read a few of the Era 2 Mistborn stories, as you need to know Allomancer Jack. I suppose if you’ve read enough pulp fiction it could also still be kind of funny. It’s almost as much a gag as it is a story, however.

23 – Elantris

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Brandon Sanderson’s first published novel isn’t a bad book by any stretch, but it also isn’t nearly as strong as his later works. In fact, Elantris was the first Sanderson book I read — I grabbed it off the shelf at random from the library, read it, enjoyed it, and promptly forgot about it. I had no particular desire to find other work by the author… but fortunately I eventually did return to the Cosmere, and I’m sure glad I did!

22 – Mistborn – The Eleventh Metal

This short story from Arcanum Unbounded was originally released with the Mistborn Adventure Game. It serves as a prequel to the first Mistborn novel, and shows where Kelsier learned to use his powers. It’s cool seeing Kelsier before he was a confident Mistborn, and his mentor Gemmel is a fun character. It’s a short one though, and doesn’t reveal any major surprises.

21 – Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell

Another Arcanum Unbounded tale, Shadows for Silence is also another fairly short story. The magic system on display isn’t all that exciting, and the way the ghosts in the story work is a bit too reminiscent of video game enemies to captivate the way some of the other Cosmere magic does. The characters aren’t bad, but they feel a bit rote, and the plot is pretty paint by numbers as well.

20 – Dawnshard

We’re still at 20th on the list, and already it feels like stories don’t deserve to be this low. Competition is stiff, however, and Dawnshard is only OK, relative to the other awesome Cosmere tales. Still, Rysn is a great character, and the way she struggles with her disability is handled wonderfully. We also get to see character growth from fan favorite The Lopen, and despite being a short book, it has the same satisfying pacing of a longer Cosmere book.

19 – Mistborn: Secret History

In terms of Cosmere information, this is an excellent short story in the Arcanum Unbounded collection. In terms of pure entertainment, it’s somewhat weaker — unless you really, really love Kelsier, in which case you’ll probably also find it quite enjoyable to read. Kelsier’s snarkiness can get old when it isn’t tempered by other characters, however, and this is by and large a solo journey of his. That said, the tidbits you get about the wider Cosmere make it worth reading even if you don’t like Kelsier.

18 – The Alloy of Law

On paper, The Alloy of Law sounds like a surefire hit. Mistborn’s awesome magic system, but in a Luthadel in the midst of an industrial revolution? With a gunslinger who has to come back home and try to fit into high society? Yet it’s an awkward introduction to Mistborn Era 2, and both Wax and Wayne (yes, those are their real names) are characters that don’t exactly land on their feet in terms of delivery. The setting carries this story, however.

17 – Sunlit Man

Similar to Mistborn: Secret History, Sunlit Man is a very exciting Cosmere entry in how much it shows us about the overarching narrative — but the actual narrative is only alright. Once again, setting carries the day here: the planet the protagonist finds himself on is fascinating, with its denizens constantly moving to stay in darkness and avoid the deadly sunlight. This was one of Brandon Sanderson’s 4 Secret Projects of 2023.

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16 – Yumi and the Nightmare Painter

This is another of the Secret Projects, and offers both a cool new Cosmere magic system and a cute romance. Additionally, this is one of Brandon Sanderson’s stronger efforts when it comes to themes — while usually, the morals and philosophizing is very direct and straightforward, here Brandon manages to reflect the (still relatively straightforward and direct) theming throughout the story. Hoid (the mysterious man who pops up in every Cosmere novel) has an appearance in this story that is particularly funny, as is his spren, Design.

15 – The Well of Ascension

The second Mistborn book is worth reading because of what it sets up, namely the third Mistborn book. On its own, however, it’s a bit slow, as it has a lot of set up to do, and ends up being slow as a result. Protagonist Vin can also be frustrating in The Well of Ascension — not in a way that isn’t honest to her character, but frustrating all the same.

alloy broadsheet webres scaled cosmere

14 – The Bands of Mourning

The sixth Mistborn book, and the third in the second era, is where it is on the list for the same reason Well of Ascension is — it’s a set up book. The payoff is once again worth it, since Brandon Sanderson’s finales and climaxes are one of his strengths, but the book does drag at times. You get to learn about a brand new culture, and the characters are better written than in the previous Wax and Wayne novels, so it’s a fun read all the same.

13 – Edgedancer

This Stormlight Archive novella, which takes place between Words of Radiance and Oathbringer, is a divisive Cosmere title. If you find teenage radiant Lyft’s spunky banter funny, Edgedancer will be a joy to read. If you don’t… well, it’s a quick read, with some decent action scenes and well-written secondary characters.

12 – The Lost Metal

The seventh Mistborn novel, and the fourth and final of Mistborn Era 2, The Lost Metal sees Wax, Wayne, and the supporting cast really coming into their own as characters — both in-world and in that Sanderson is better at writing them. There are serious implications for the wider Cosmere in the story, and it’s also a very effective finale to the Era 2 series.

11 – Tress of the Emerald Sea

05 deathofthedream scaled tress cosmere

Far and away the strongest of the Secret Project novels, Tress quickly became a fan favorite for a number of different reasons. Narratively, it’s quite different from Sanderson’s other work: Hoid is the narrator, and so rather than a typical 3rd person narrative, we get snarky comments and jokes — and aside from a few cringey moments, it works. The planet of Lumar has one of the Cosmere’s most incredible settings to date, with Tress sailing across a sea of spores to rescue her lost love. The story moves along at a brisk pace — fast enough that you don’t notice how similar the characters are to some of Sanderson’s others — and along the way you’ll learn more tidbits about the Cosmere as a whole.

10 – Warbreaker

Another fan favorite, Warbreaker showcases some of Brandon Sanderson’s best qualities as a writer, as well as some of his worst. There is plenty of cringe, and quite a few repetitive scenes, but there are also great jokes, deep characters, and an incredible Sanderlanche (the fandom’s term for a Cosmere book’s climax). The magic system is another banger, but that’s going to be true for basically every remaining book on this list.

9 – The Hero of Ages

This book is the real reason you read The Well of Ascension. The last fifth or so of the book is one long Sanderlanche, as everything you learned over the first two books comes together in in a remarkably well-thought out fashion. There are epic battles, incredible moments of valor and sacrifice — events that become the legends of Mistborn Era 2. The characters that Sanderson so carefully developed over the first two books are pushed to their limits, and the way they meet the challenges of Book 3 is a sight to behold.

8 – Sixth of the Dusk

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This might be a controversial position, as this short story from Arcanum Unbounded is a relatively slow burn. A solitary trapper having to protect the city-dwelling clerk on an island full of dangers is a classic kind of set up, but nuanced characters and exciting plotting make it feel fresh. Or maybe its the really cool magic birds that can hide your presence from predators or show you your future deaths that makes it feel fresh. Either way, this is far and away this author’s favorite story from Arcanum Unbounded.

7 – Shadows of Self

The second Era 2 Mistborn book still has some growing pains when it comes to the characters, but the plot is fantastic, and the characters are swept up in events so fast they don’t have time to say too many cringey lines of dialogue. There are many twists and turns to the story, but because Brandon Sanderson plots his stories so carefully, they all make sense, and on rereads, you’ll wonder how you ever missed all the hints he dropped. The way the social and class issues are handled in the book is, as always for Brandon, a little on the nose, but feel genuine and satisfying all the same.

6 – Rhythm of War

Perhaps the most divisive title in the series, how much you enjoy the fourth Stormlight Archive book will depend a lot on how big of a fan you are of Die Hard and scientific discovery. If you like Die Hard — but wish John McClane grappled with depression more while crawling through air ducts — you’ll love the Kaladin chapters. Navani’s chapters are very slow, and feature a lot of in depth insights on the science of investiture, which could be your favorite part of the book, or your least favorite set of Stormlight Archive chapters ever. Regardless of how you feel about the more controversial sections of the book, however, there’s a war going on, and lots of exciting stuff happens in respect to said war. Major events occur at the books end, setting up a very exciting Stormlight 5 (which releases in December 2025).

words of radiance cosmere art

5 – Words of Radiance

The second Stormlight Archive novel continues building on the rock solid foundation The Way of Kings laid, with all three main perspectives (Shallan, Dalinar, and Kaladin) offering interesting narrative threads to follow. Kaladin grapples with his newfound role as bodyguard to royalty, Shallan delves into the secrets her mentor was investigating, and Dalinar tries to unite the petty, squabbling Alethi lords. As always, the book ends with a veritable whirlwind of surprising events and discoveries — I can’t imagine how difficult the wait must have been for people who read Words of Radiance before the next book was published.

4 – The Final Empire

The first book of the Mistborn series, The Final Empire is also an excellent standalone novel in its own right — while it’s the first of a trilogy, the plot wraps up in a satisfying way, while also leaving plenty of room for more things to happen in the future volumes. The setting is as gritty as Sanderson gets, the characters are varied and fun, and the way the magic system and the setting interact is beautiful to behold. A grey world of ash has never felt so bright and alive.

3 – The Emperor’s Soul

emperor's soul cover art cosmere v2

Arguably Sanderson’s best individual piece of writing, this novella in Arcanum Unbounded should be boring. What I mean is, not that much happens in the book (except for the obligatory Sanderlanche), technically anyway. Yet the story of a skilled magical forger locked in a room ends up being the most captivating tale in the Cosmere. While locked up, she has to recreate the personality of the Emperor via magical forgery and goold old fashioned research. The characters are rich, believable, and well-written — even the antagonists have depth and purpose — and these characters are given just the right amount of room to interact with Shai as she struggles to both plot her escape and complete her task. The only reason it isn’t number one on this list is simply because there isn’t as much of it.

2 – Oathbringer

It was close, but the third Stormlight Archive novel couldn’t quite snag the number one spot. It’s a great story, with everything you’d want from epic fantasy: mysterious ancient magic, adventures in other worlds, pitched battles against an impossibly powerful foe… the list goes on. It also continues the very satisfying character arcs from the first two books, and adds a bunch of new points of view to the narrative, widening the story’s lens to encompass events across the continent; Dalinar’s struggle with his past is particularly poignant. The climax of the book is perhaps the most exciting one in the series.

1 – The Way of Kings

In a way, it doesn’t really feel fair. How can any of the other books compete with the introductory novel of Brandon Sanderson’s magnum opus? Well, they can’t, and so TwoK is number one on our list. With dueling prologues that show us first the ancient betrayal of oaths and then the assassination of a king, The Way of Kings doesn’t hesitate to throw a lot of proper nouns and important events at the reader. Those who can keep up are rewarded with an epic three-perspective narrative that follows an aging warrior struggling to do what he knows is right, a young woman plotting a robbery to save her family, and a surgeon turned slave trying to survive. All the little narrative puzzle pieces come together so tightly and so cleanly at the end of the book, and offer both a satisfying conclusion and a brilliant set up for the rest of the series.

wayofkings cover art cosmere

And there you have it, our list of the Cosmere stories, ranked! Let us know how much you agree or disagree in the comments below.

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A huge fan of sci-fi and fantasy (really anything with tons of weird proper nouns), music, and video games. Enjoys the outdoors, but has plenty to do on a rainy day.

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