Book Review: Warbreaker
By 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.
Adult Point of View
Sanderson is the quintessential writer for fantasy. He never seems to recycle an old idea. Each world and story is unique within the genre and separate from each other. I would love to see Sanderson’s mind spread out as a map to study the intricacies of his thought process and the secret places where ideas are born. My fear is that I would get lost in the map of his mind because he is so complex.
Central themes in Warbreaker include sacrifice, religion, duty, repression, accountability and redemption. I find it interesting that he tackles classic themes of literature breaking away from the standard forms in this genre. Too many fantasy novels feel like re-writes of a previous book.
To review any Sanderson book concisely is impossible because each book is so complex. I am going to touch on a couple of ideas and hope that you will try Sanderson’s books if you haven’t already to really experience the “Sanderson Effect”.
First, I would like to touch on the deification of human beings who died gloriously. I found Lightsong to be one of the most interesting characters because he didn’t believe in his own deity. He had a block over his mind and could not remember who he had been prior to becoming a Returned, a god. He was filled with guilt and tried to redeem himself by really analyzing each piece of art. He was self-depreciating, building a persona which was a shield and yet others trusted him more than the other gods. The supplicant mortals and the gods sensed that he was intrinsically honest. Ultimately, Lightsong discovers that there are sacrifices that are truly worth the cost. Isn’t it a wonderful thought that there are those that will do what is right when they are needed?
The second topic is what are the essential elements that define humanity? In Sanderson’s world the Iridians define humanity by the breath, or an element of a soul, to define us as a complete human. Vivenna is challenged in this belief as she meets those without breath. One of the mercenaries was proud to have sold her breath as a means of saving her family and claimed that it had had little affect on her quality of life. Her profession alone might have us question that reasoning. Those who had collected extra breaths were also vilified by Vivenna because they had taken that which was essential to another human being. Her world became grey rather than black and white in her judgements especially as she acquired more breaths and she saw a new world. Sanderson wisely leaves this topic open, though I will interject that perhaps the essential elements for humanity include hope, faith and the power to act rather than be acted upon. Vivenna was not my favorite character, but she acted as a foil for her sister Siri. Both of these women set out to act, but Vivenna was initially acted upon rather than truly finding her own destiny. Though Siri bumbled through she continually worked at being the controlling force in her life and respected others.
The next topic is a combination of innocence, guilt and redemption (and a bit about humanity again). Vasher felt a great amount of guilt for his past acts, and though he was not endearing, he was truthful – which is a kind of redemption. His main motivation in every action he took was to right the wrongs he had created. His sword, Nightblood, was intriguing because as a weapon, or a tool it was not actually good or evil. Nightblood’s voice was completely innocent, and it was only fulfilling its purpose as it had been created. Others might see the sword as evil because it killed without mercy. The most interesting aspect of the sword was the love, or feigned love, since as an object it shouldn’t have emotions, it had for its creator and even for others that were pure, like Siri. Vasher felt guilt because of his humanity, but the tool, Nightblood was not capable of feeling guilt. Perhaps, guilt is another element of humanity, because the desire to be justified or redeemed is certainly a human state and guilt can be the catalyst for our personal quest to improve.
In conclusion, there were parts of this novel that were a tad slow, I suggest just reading quickly through those sections, because the overall story is so intriguing it is worth reading. I cannot say this was my all time favorite Sanderson book, but as always I respect what he has written/ created. There are more Sanderson’s books to read and that is what I will be doing. As a note, there are sexual references in this book, some of which are far from subtle though certainly not explicit.
3.75 out of 5 stars
– the Mother
Teen Point of View
I thought it was ridiculous that Vivenna would have misunderstood her sister Siri to such a degree that she couldn’t fathom that her carefree sister would enjoy having her hair different colors. Vivenna was naive in her approach to the new city. I liked Siri. I thought the relationship between Siri and the King was really funny.
– the Daughter.