Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This was my first buddy-read with royalty: Lady Luna, Marquess Mary, and Prince Petrik. Love you guys!
I feel sated. I had high hopes for Warbreaker, and those hopes were far surpassed. I cannot comprehend the mind of Brandon Sanderson. How does he come up with such complex magic systems, layered religions, and multifaceted characters? Not just once, but multiple times in multiple different universes? I know that they’re all part of the same Cosmere, and I can’t wait for more information about what exactly the Cosmere is and how everything connects to be revealed. Fantasy is my favorite genre. I came to it a little late in the game, and there is a multitude of authors whose works I’ve yet to read. I’ve picked up books by Robert Jordan, Terry Goodkind, Terry Brooks, and other founding fathers of the modern fantasy genre, but that was before I had any true interest in fantasy and I didn’t stick with them. I’m sure I’ll give them another try one day. But Sanderson grabbed me from page one of The Final Empire. And he still hasn’t let me go. With the rate of his fictional output, I don’t think he’ll be letting me go for a long, long time.
Now, on to Warbreaker itself. I don’t really have words for how much I loved this story. The magic system depended on Breath, with which each person is born. However, a person’s Breath can be given up to another without causing death to the giver, resulting in those who stockpile Breath. With a plethora of Breaths come various Heightenings, each of which affects the bearer different. The First Heightening allows one to sense the auras of others, the next gives perfect pitch, and on and on they go. Those who reach the Fifth Heightening are ageless, and can live forever. Those with a multitude of Breaths can also Awaken inanimate objects and Command said objects to do their will. Breath can even be used to Awaken and Command Lifeless, which are basically non-decomposing zombies. There’s another way to live on after death, however; if a person died a particularly heroic death, they could come back as a Returned, otherwise known in Hallandren as gods. But becoming a god comes with a price.
The magic system and religions were incredibly interesting, but they would have fallen flat without such an interesting cast of characters backing them up. Siri and Vivenna are sisters, princesses from a kingdom of grays and beiges where humility is their greatest calling. One sister embraces her duty, becoming exactly what her country needs her to be and training to become the wife of the God King, the ruler of her kingdom’s greatest rival. The other sister shirks responsibility and runs wild, basking in the freedom of her unimportance. But a decision is made that changes to lives of both sisters forever. In my opinion, these sisters are the backbone of the story. That being said, there is a host of other amazing characters: Lightsong, one of the Returned who doesn’t believe in his own deity; Llarimar, Lightsong’s high priest who has enough faith for both of them; Denth and Tonk Fah, mercenaries with a sense of humor; the God King, larger than life and mysterious in his silence; Vasher, an Awakener with incredible skill, a murky past, and less-than-perfect people skills; and Nightblood, Vasher’s talking, bloodthirsty sword. Such a varied and interesting group of people!
I have immense respect for the work that Sanderson puts into his books. They build slowly, giving the reader time to become invested in the lives of the characters, but the last hundred or so pages progress at breakneck speed, with plot twists on almost every page. And the most wonderful part is that the twists are so unexpected! I’m fairly good at predicting the outcomes of books, but I’ve yet to predict anything written by Sanderson. I think one of the reasons is that he’s not a third-person omniscient writer. He never implements heavy-handed foreshadowing that spoils the surprise of the story. Sanderson even utilizes characters to explain his magic systems and religions instead of explaining them himself, which makes them so much more interesting. As far as I can tell, Sanderson is an author with a deep respect of the intellect of his readers, and he refuses to spoon-feed them anything. (Also, he’s the most prolific fantasy author, in my eyes; he shows his readers love by working incredibly hard to get us new books as quickly as possible!)
One day, I’ll reread the other Sanderson books I’ve read up until this point and give them the reviews they deserve. In the mean time, I’ll add this to my special bookshelf where all of my favorites reside. Because that’s what Warbreaker is, without a doubt; a new favorite. I can’t wait to dig into more of Sanderson’s work. Stormlight Archives, here I come!
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