Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson
Published by Tor Fantasy, 2009
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Re-readability: I’d like to give this one another look at some point.
Reviewed by Indiana
This book lays out Brandon Sanderson’s storytelling strengths on a shiny platter.
There’s the intricate, but not-so-complicated-you-can’t-understand-it world. There’s the characters that are strong, yet not immutable. There’s the story arc, which for him means a quick start, a steady middle, and an explosive end.
It starts out in the colorless land of Idris, where manners trump emotions, and it’s considered inappropriate to be immodest or excessive in any way. Siri and Vivenna are the daughters of Idris’ king. Vivenna, being the eldest, has been training all her life to go off and marry the God King of Hallandren, a feared man who contains more “Breaths” than anyone (more on that later).
Instead, her father decides he can’t part with her and sends Siri in her place.
Siri is the antithesis of everything Idris represents. She loves color and her hair often changes color with her emotions, which is part of the world’s magic and is considered immodest by Idris standards. She’s also adventurous and has skipped most of her lessons on anything having to do with Hallandren.
Siri goes into the city with very little knowledge of how to act or what to do. She knows only that she must act as a vessel and have the God King’s child.
While all this is going on, there are rumblings of war between Hallandren and Idris. Should the two go to war, Idris is surely doomed. So Siri and Vivenna try to stop it in a host of different ways.
The “magic” in this world is tough to describe without using Sanderson’s words. Certain people have “Breath,” which is kind of like a soul that is quantified and transferable. There are also “god” characters that have returned to life because they did something brave/admirable/heroic, etc. in life. Like I said it’s hard to describe, but it makes sense when you’re immersed in the world.
One complaint that people often have about Sanderson’s books is that his characters are flat. I just can’t see anyone reading Warbreaker and concluding the characters are flat.
Lightsong, one of the main “god” characters, starts out as this hilariously angsty and sarcastic character who doesn’t know or care what he’s doing with his second (or what Sanderson refers to as “returned life”). But he eventually becomes one of the most pivotal characters, and one that readers want to root for.
Same with Vivenna. She starts out as this prim, responsible and well-trained character. But as soon as her sister is taken instead to be the God King’s wife instead of her, she takes her life into her own hands. Vivenna goes on a rescue mission, which turns into a mission to rescue her homeland from impending war. She fraternizes with mercenaries, thieves, the destitute, and others she never thought she’d even speak with. It’s not that she goes from good girl to all out badass, it’s just her figuring out the best life for her outside of her family’s influence.
Anyway, I highly recommend this one for anyone looking for a great fantasy book. Some fantasy can overstay its welcome, spending several chapters on one fight scene or one argument. But Sanderson does a great job balancing out all the elements of the book to create enough drama and adventure for anyone to be hooked.