Book Review: Warbreaker (Brandon Sanderson)

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by Brandon Sanderson
Tor Books; June 9, 2009

Back of the Book:After bursting onto the fantasy scene with his acclaimed debut novel, Elantris, and following up with his blockbuster Mistborn trilogy, Brandon Sanderson proves again that he is today’s leading master of what Tolkien called “secondary creation,” the invention of whole worlds, complete with magics and myths all their own. Warbreaker is the story of two sisters, who happen to be princesses, the God King one of them has to marry, the lesser god who doesn’t like his job, and the immortal who’s still trying to undo the mistakes he made hundreds of years ago. Their world is one in which those who die in glory return as gods to live confined to a pantheon in Hallandren’s capital city and where a power known as BioChromatic magic is based on an essence known as breath that can only be collected one unit at a time from individual people.

By using breath and drawing upon the color in everyday objects, all manner of miracles and mischief can be accomplished. It will take considerable quantities of each to resolve all the challenges facing Vivenna and Siri, princesses of Idris; Susebron the God King; Lightsong, reluctant god of bravery, and mysterious Vasher, the Warbreaker.

When I read Warbreaker it was my first foray into the mind of Brandon Sanderson and while I have no intention of returning to the Wheel of Time series (the first five books were enough for me) I have to say that Warbreaker is an amazing adventure.

The characters in Warbreaker are quite interesting. We have three main characters that we follow throughout the book. We have Siri, the young girl thrust into a difficult situation when she is hauled off to be the bride for the God King, Vivenna the older sister of Siri and the one who was supposed to be the God King’s bride, and Lightsong a newly created/crowned god. All of the characters and the supporting cast do an excellent job of propelling the story forward. A mercenary/sell sword named Vasher is a great edition to the story and so is his talking sword, which could be compared to Elric’s sword, Stormbringer. While Vasher does not get a lot of time in the book, when he does grace the pages they are well worth it.

The major strength of Warbreaker is the magic system. It requires you to take a person’s soul or essence in order to increase your own power. You can sell or buy souls or essence for a price. As you gain more and more souls your power increases as does your ability to detect color. Color and the ability to see subtle differences in others and in your surroundings play a significant role in the novel.

The world of Warbreaker is divided into two religions or camps. One camp, the camp Vivenna and Siri come from, are against the use of colors and of bartering in essence. This was interesting as Vivenna comes to the God King’s city and sees a restaurant for the first time and is perplexed at the need for them. On the other side is a world that believes that you must garner as much essence as you can in order to improve your social standing. The various gods must have a soul a week and the God King must have even more than that on a weekly basis. It is a clash of beliefs.

The heart and soul of Warbreaker is political suspense and a mystery. As you read along you learn that not everything is copasetic in Hallandren, the God King’s capital city. The plot thickens with every turn of the page and there are a few twists and turns along the way that make for a very unpredictable voyage.

The cover of the book is also worth noting. It is an amazing piece of art. I really love the vivid colors and look. It draws you right in. To go along with the review, below the book’s score is a making of the artwork for Warbreaker. It is fascinating and worth your time if you want to see it ‘magically’ appear before your eyes. Enjoy the video and the book as both are truly amazing.

Plot — 9
Characters — 9
Style — 9
Overall — 9/10

Artwork Video Link:

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