Book Review : Warbreaker

Book Review : WarbreakerWarbreaker (Warbreaker, #1) by Brandon Sanderson
Published by Tor Books on March 30th 2010
Genres: Fantasy, Fantasy & Magic
Pages: 688
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From #1 New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson, 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.

Brandon Sanderson is easily one of my favorite authors. He has a masterful ability to craft worlds and magical systems, and Warbreaker is no exception to this rule. However, I couldn’t help but feel that despite its realistic characters, sweet romance, and amazing magical system that this novel was missing something. I felt a disconnect with a lot of the characters and the emotional upheaval and I’m not sure why. I also struggled with the pacing of the novel. 


“…BioChromatic Breath, scholars called it. Most people just called it Breath. Each person had one. Or least, that was how it usually went. One person, one Breath.”


Only Brandon Sanderson could create a believable magic system completely revolving around colors and breath, of all things. The more BioChromatic Breath a person has, the more abilities they have–these are known as Heightenings.  First Heightening, grants a person the ability to see the aura of another person’s Breaths and allows them to judge how many the person has and what their general health is. This is determined by how the colors around a person change. The Second Heightening grants perfect pitch, The Third Heightening allows perfect color recognition or detection of harmonious hues, the Fourth Heightening allows maximum life senses, and the Fifth Heightening bestows resistance to aging and diseases.It is extremely rare for anyone to reach the Sixth Heightening, let alone above that. The only people ever known to read the Eighth Heightening and above are the God Kings of the colorful capital city of Hallandren, T’Telir. 


I could literally spend paragraphs describing the rest of the world-building of the novel, that is how layered it is. There’s not just BioChromatic Breaths, but gods known as the Returned. These people came back from death for the express purpose of helping their people in a way unknown to even them. They are reborn without any knowledge of their past lives and preside in the court of the God King, living in luxury, fed Breath to sustain themselves, and given votes over whether or not to go to war, controlling Lifeless (people brought back from the dead with Breath and that feel no pain) armies that could decimate anything that stands in their path.


The Hallendren need a daughter of the royal blood to reintroduce the traditional bloodline into their monarchy.”


Warbreaker centers around Siri, who is born the youngest princess of the former royal family and is exiled in the colorless city of Indris. Siri finds herself betrothed to the God King, Susebron to prevent war between these two nations with completely different religions and ways of life. Previously basking in her unimportance as the fourth child of the King, she is horrified when she is sent to T’Telir instead of her older sister Vivenna, who has trained her whole life for the express purpose of marrying the God King and convincing him not to go to war with her country. Concerned for her younger sister’s safety, Vivenna also sets out to T’Telir in the hopes of taking her rightful place as the God King’s Bride. 


Probably my favorite part of Warbreaker’s narration was the juxtaposition of the two sister’s viewpoints. Siri, who was never afraid of a little color, finds herself enjoying the bright city of T’Telir and its ostentatiousness, while VIvenna is horrified at every turn by the people and their colors. Both sisters’ royalty is marked by their hair that changes color with their emotions. Vivenna strives to remain strict control over her emotions and her hair, keeping it a dark brown, while Siri has always struggled to keep it one hue. Vivenna falls in with a group of mercenaries who hope to undermine Hallendran’s war effort, while Siri struggles to find her place in the strange palace of the God King. Once in T’Telir, Siri is horrified to learn that she will not be granted a wedding and that she is not even allowed to speak to her husband, the God King, due to how majestic he is and that she will be ordered executed if she attempts it.


“I cannot stress this point enough. I realize that you are accustomed to being a very important person. Indeed, you still are that important–if not more so. You are far above myself and these others. However, as far as you are above us, the God King is even farther above you.”


I immediately felt like a kindred spirit with Siri, who never really fit in with her family. I enjoyed every bit of her finding her footing in T’Telier. And her relationship with Susebron, who was not at all what he appeared to be as the God King, was the highlight of the novel for me. Their sweet interaction and sincere developing regard for one another, despite the dangers of the court, was precious. However, I really wished Sanderson had spent even more time developing it. It seems it wasn’t given quite the amount of time it deserved, given everything that was at a stake for Siri and Susebron and their kingdoms respectively. As a result of this limited time, I didn’t really feel any elation when they View Spoiler ».


I would have gladly traded more time with Siri and Susebron for that of the ample time with other characters. I quickly tired of Vivenna and Lightsong the God’s viewpoints, as neither character was ever very likeable. Vivenna with her holier-than-thou attitude and Lightsong with his determination to not be involved in anything of importance and with his incessant, irreverent chatter. Vivenna’s cohorts of the mercenaries also annoyed me with their constant banter about the stereotypes of mercenaries. Despite my dislike of these characters, they are fleshed out, believable, and most importantly, they grow. 


But sadly, it takes a lot of schlepping  through boring meetings with rebels and other Gods to get to this growth. I really struggled with the pacing of this novel and the long stretches that were from Lightsong and Vivenna’s point of views. This is the first time I felt that a Sanderson novel was long or that it was taking me awhile to “get through it.” The time dedicated to the twists at the end and the resulting setup for the next novel seemed far too short in comparison to all the time Vivenna spent trying to rebel on the streets of T’Telir and Lightsong spent figuring out what was going on in the Court and reconciling his past life with his current life and religion. And sadly, when most of this growth finally occurred, I felt indifferent and disconnected to it. I don’t know if it took too long getting there or what, but I didn’t really feel anything over events that should have caused emotions. 


Despite this disconnect I felt to the characters and certain events, Warbreaker was an interesting read with it’s unique magic systems and take on Godhood, talking swords, and Lifeless armies. If readers can stick out the pacing and unlikable characters, they will be rewarded with a lot of character growth and interesting twists. Fans of Brandon Sanderson will surely enjoy this novel. Though it certainly wasn’t my favorite of his works, I will definitely still read any future sequels to this novel.

Book Review : Warbreaker - Blogging with Dragons

Posted March 21, 2020 in Book Reviews, Fantasy

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