The Guide to the Cosmere: The Best Cosmere Reading Order (and why)!
By: Preston Simmons | Updated: December 30, 2022
Journey Before Destination
Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere is one of the most exciting universes in modern fantasy. Each of the many series and stand-alone books plays a pivotal role in shaping the Cosmere.
The Cosmere consists of two main series, multiple stand-alone books, a few novellas, and short stories, all connected in subtle ways.
- The Mistborn Saga (Era 1 and 2) (7 Book Series)
- The Stormlight Archive (4 book Series)
- White Sand
- The Hope of Elantris
- The Emperor’s Soul
- Secret History
- The Eleventh Metal
- Sixth of the Dusk
- Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell
- Allomancer Jak and the Pits of Eltania
As you can see, 22 books take place in the Cosmere. So, the question arises, where do you start, and what is the correct reading order? Unfortunately, the answer is slightly complicated.
You can’t just go in publication order, and you also can’t read any book at any time.
You want the reading order that connects all the books correctly and makes the most sense in terms of timeline. In other words, you need the best Cosmere reading order!
This is the best Cosmere reading order for newcomers and re-readers alike.
Below you’ll find the best Cosmere reading order for your journey through these books!
RELATED: Cosmere Books Ranked!
The Best Cosmere reading order
This list is in neither chronological order nor publication order. Instead, the order of books connects the Cosmere the best, limiting spoilers and saving the best reveals for their proper place.
This is the best Cosmere reading order:
- Mistborn: The Final Empire
- The Eleventh Metal*
- The Well of Ascension
- The Hero of Ages
- The Hope of Elantris*
- The Emperor’s Soul*
- White Sand *
- The Way of Kings
- Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell*
- Words of Radiance
- Sixth of the Dusk*
- Rhythm of War
- Alloy of Law
- Shadows of Self
- Allomancer Jak and the Pits of Eltania*
- Bands of Mourning
- Secret History*
*available in Arcanum Unbounded
This order may seem a little strange at first glance, but after some explanation, I think you’ll understand why I believe this is the best order possible to read the Cosmere books.
Let’s go book-by-book.
RELATED: Take The Stormlight Archive Trivia Quiz to test your knowledge on the four books!
#1 – Mistborn: The Final Empire (Mistborn Era 1)
Mistborn Era 1 is the best starting point to get into the Cosmere. Not only is it the most accessible series on the list, but it also paves the way for many different storylines and branches that appear later on in various books. The first book, Mistborn: The Final Empire, is where you begin.
#2 – The Eleventh Metal (Available in Arcanum Unbounded)
The Eleventh Metal is the prequel short story to Mistborn: Final Empire that gives more background information to Kelsier, one of the main characters. It is best read directly after the Final Empire as it contains some minor spoilers for the book.
#3 – The Well of Ascension (Era 1)
The Well of Ascension is the sequel to Mistborn: The Final Empire, and you should read it after the Eleventh Metal. The events that take place here are directly related to the end of the Final Empire.
#4 – The Hero of Ages (End of Mistborn Era 1)
The Hero of Ages is the epic conclusion to Era 1 of Mistborn and should be read immediately after finishing the Well of Ascension. It sets the stage nicely for the rest of the Cosmere, which from here on out, expands immensely.
#5 – Elantris
Elantris is one of the books many people argue should be the first novel read in the Cosmere. Chronologically, this would be the second book in the Cosmere timeline. In terms of publication order, this was Brandon Sanderson’s first published Cosmere book. Even with those arguments, I still believe you should read it fifth.
Because this is Sanderson’s first published novel, the writing is not as excellent as his later works. Elantris works much better if the reader is already familiar with the Cosmere and Sanderson’s writing style.
#6 – The Hope of Elantris (Available in Arcanum Unbounded)
The Hope of Elantris is a short story that retells the events of the book’s climax through a different POV and acts as a brief epilogue to Elantris. It would be best if you read it directly after completing Elantris.
#7 – The Emperor’s Soul (Available in Arcanum Unbounded)
The Emperor’s Soul is the first novella on the list to read after The Hope of Elantris. This novella takes place on the same planet (or Shardworld), Sel, that Elantris does. Though the novella is very different from Elantris and works as a stand-alone story, it has a few references that are better understood if you have read Elantris first.
#8 – White Sand (First Chapter Available In Arcanum Unbounded)
White Sand is a graphic novel in the Cosmere that, chronologically, is set the earliest out of all the Cosmere stories. Because of that, there are not many (if any) references to other Cosmere novels. However, characters that first appear here make cameos in future books and novellas on this list, but not in the previous seven. Therefore, White Sand belongs eighth in the Cosmere reading order.
#9 – The Way of Kings
The Way of Kings is the first book in Sanderson’s second series, the Stormlight Archive. The Stormlight Archive contains Sanderson’s most extensive books, each well over 1000 pages in length. This series has tons of references to other Cosmere novels, and you should read them after you are already familiar with terms such as Shards, Investiture, and world-hopping. If you first read the previous eight books, you’ll have no problem understanding all the vernacular that the books will throw around in them. The Stormlight Archive is Sanderson’s magnum opus, and it starts with The Way of Kings.
#10 – Warbreaker
Warbreaker is a stand-alone novel that you should read after The Way of Kings and before Book two in the Stormlight Archive, Words of Radiance. There are a few subtle references to places in the Stormlight Archive that are in Warbreaker. However, Warbreaker should be read tenth in the Cosmere reading order because characters and items that first appear in this novel will later also appear in future books on the list.
#11 – Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell
Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell is a stand-alone novella that technically can be read at any point. It is the only story in the Threnody system, and it also has the least amount of references to any other Cosmere book. However, chronologically, it takes place after The Way of Kings but before Words of Radiance. You can find the novella in Arcanum Unbounded.
#12 – Words of Radiance
Words of Radiance is the sequel to The Way of Kings and Book Two in the Stormlight Archive. After reading Warbreaker, you may recognize a few newly introduced characters in this book. Because of that, this book belongs twelfth in the Cosmere reading order.
#13 – Edgedancer
Edgedancer is a novella that happens during Words of Radiance on Roshar, the Shardworld where the Stormlight Archive takes place. As the first chapter of the novella appears midway through WoR, reading Edgedancer directly after you finish WoR is the best time to do so. This novella is also found in Arcanum Unbounded.
#14 – Oathbringer
Oathbringer is Book Three in the Stormlight Archive and is placed next in the Cosmere reading order. It is best to read this book after Edgedancer to keep the momentum going after the shocking conclusion of Words of Radiance.
#15 – Sixth of the Dusk
Sixth of the Dusk, chronologically, is the novella that takes place farthest in the future of the Cosmere. However, the best place to read the book is right after Oathbringer. Technically, the novella is most closely related to Era 3 of Mistborn, but since those books haven’t been released yet, this is when you should read it. Creatures that appear in this novella will make a small cameo in a future book on this list that will be coming up soon. This novella is in Arcanum Unbounded.
#16 – Dawnshard
Dawnshard is a novella that takes place immediately before Book Four of the Stormlight Archive, Rythm of War. The events of the novella revolve around Rysn, a character first introduced in Words of Radiance. There are also appearances from characters first introduced in another novella earlier in the list, however saying which one would ruin the surprise.
#17 – Rhythm of War
Rhythm of War, Book Four of the Stormlight Archive is next in the Cosmere reading order. This book has, by far, the most direct references to the entire Cosmere out of all the novels on the list. If you have been paying attention to details in the previous books, you will be significantly rewarded while reading RoW.
#18 – Alloy of Law (Mistborn Era 2)
The Alloy of Law, Book One in the Wax and Wayne Trilogy is the next book in the Cosmere reading order. Though this is a separate trilogy, it is the fourth book in the Mistborn saga. The Alloy of Law takes place on Scadrial, the Shardworld, where Era 1 of Mistborn occurs. This trilogy is centered on events hundreds of years after the conclusion of Mistborn Era 1, and in the Cosmere timeline, it is the second latest behind Sixth of the Dusk. Most of the references in these books will be from Mistborn Era 1.
#19 – Shadows of Self
Shadows of Self is Book 2 in the Wax and Wayne Trilogy and should be read immediately after The Alloy of Law. Once again, most references are to the original Mistborn trilogy and not other Cosmere books.
#20 – Allomancer Jak and the Pits of Eltania
Allomancer Jak and the Pits of Eltania is a short companion story to Shadows of Self. The main character, Jak, appears in multiple inturludes of SoS, so you should read it while he is fresh on your mind. You can find the short story in Arcanum Unbounded.
#21 – The Bands of Mourning
The Bands of Mourning is the third book in the Wax and Wayne series and the second to last book of Mistborn Era 2. This book has many Cosmere references, but if you choose to read it at this point, you should easily understand them and realize the importance of them in the greater universe; however, it pales compared to the next story on the list.
#22 – Mistborn: Secret History
Mistborn: Secret History is the next book that you read in this Cosmere reading order. This novella answers many questions readers may have about the Cosmere as a whole, as well as a few from Mistborn Era 1 and 2.
Though some argue that you should read this novella immediately after Mistborn Era 1, I disagree. Doing so would spoil a huge reveal in Era 2 that is worth reading fresh.
Events in this novella will have a significant impact on most, if not all, future Cosmere novels. Also, after reading this, you will probably want to go back and re-read some chapters from other books on the list.
You’ll know which ones.
You can find it in Arcanum Unbounded.
#23 – The Lost Metal
The Lost Metal is the fourth and final book in the Wax and Wayne series, and the final book in Mistborn Era 2. By this point, you should be caught up with the Cosmere and knowledgeable enough to understand most references made in the novel. This book leads the way for Mistborn Era 3.
With the release of the Secret Projects set for 2023, this reading order more than likely will change in the future. Keep up to date with Reader’s Grotto and this guide for future updates!
If you stick with this reading order, I’m sure you’ll get the most enjoyment out of Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere novels.
What was your Cosmere reading order? Let me know in the comments below!