Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Book Review: Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson

Sisters Vivenna and Siri are princesses of Idris. Susebron is the God King one must marry. Lightsong is the reluctant minor god of bravery. Vasher is an immortal still trying to undo mistakes of centuries before. Magic from individual breath from everyday objects can perform all manner of miracles and mischief.

This is going to be a difficult review to write. The reason for this is that I Loved Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson to pieces and it made me feel and think many complicated, unexplainable things. But there was one thing I know for sure - this book was AWESOME and I just fell in love with it.

Before I talk about Warbreaker I need to take a side step and talk about Elantris. Trust me I need to talk about it to get my thoughts into some semblance of order in this post. I read Elantris recently in May/Late April. I was intrigued to learn that this was a stand alone. That in itself would not be interesting except for the fact that this was fantasy. There aren't many fantasy books that are stand alone, if not solely for the fact that it is difficult to portray a fantastical world without writing at least a couple of books to flesh out the world, the characters and the stories. So I picked this book up and was pleasantly surprised. It was a bit slow to pick up but boy did it get interesting very fast after the first 100 pages or so. What I loved was that there was not a lot of info dump that I would forget anyway a few chapters in. I learnt the history of this world as I read the book.

I loved Elantris. I did not think it could get any better. And then I started reading Warbreaker. You need to know something about the way I read. I am excited about reading books but I do not show it in outward appearance. It was difficult to keep my emotions in check with this book. I was squealing with delight at some parts and cringing with horror at others.

What I love best about Brandon Sanderson's writing is that he doesn't just write characters. I mean he does, but these characters somehow become people in the readers eyes. I can imagine someone like Siri and Lightsong as real people. But let me tell you what I did not like about this book - There wasn't much about the mysterious Vasher, at least till almost the end of the book. A byproduct of there not being enough pages dedicated t Vasher was that I did not get to see enough interaction between himself and the sentient sword Nightblood that he lugs around. 

Now onto the things I loved!! 
The Magic System - Sanderson always lives up to my expectations when it comes to the  building of a magic system. Actually he exceeds my expectations every time. In this one it is to do with BioChromatic Breath and Colors. Each person is born with one Breath. The more you accumulate the more powerful you become. Some equate Breath to a persons soul - mostly Idrians. In Hallandren the Breaths are used as wealth - people sell their breath for money. And then there are the Returned. The Returned are those who have died and come back to life. They are not zombies exactly as they are living but when a person is Returned he comes back with enhanced physical prowess and a powerful BioChromatic Breath. And the Hallandren worship the Returned whereas the Idrians consider them an abomination and worship Austre.

The Religion - I have noticed that in almost every Brandon Sanderson book religion and Gods are a central part of the story and world. His portrayal of religion in Elantris was rudimentary in comparison to the one in Warbreaker. The 2 religions had their origin in the same basic tenet. It was based on the divinity of Breath. On one side the Idrians believed in Austre a God you could not see and on the other there were the Hallandrens who worshiped the Returned. Though both cultures valued Breath - The Hallandrens gave it a monetary value and also sacrificed their breath so that their Gods lived another week where as the Idrians thought it blasphemy to make a business out of it. 

As as we delve in to the history of these lands and cultures we see that the 2 religions have the same origin. But they branched off from one another. This brought out a lot of questions on morality. There was a part where one of the characters, a mercenary, says - everyone thinks they are in the right and that they are doing good. This is something that we migh take as common sense but something that a lot of us ignore.

The Characters - I absolutely loved the main characters. There's Siri, the carefree sister who has made peace with being the unimportant one, Vivenna - the sister who has been betrothed to the God King of Hallandren, a monster and an abomination in her and her people's eyes, Vasher - a mysterious man with an even more mysterious quest & last but not the least, Lightsong a Returned.

I was a little skeptical about Vivenna at first. She was too much of a prude - and seemed to preach and hold herself above others even though according to the religion she was devoted said not to put oneself above others. She claimed to have come to Hallandren to save Siri but it seemed like she had come to Hallandren just because she was upset her place was taken by her younger sister. It took away her purpose in life. She did love Siri, but she was more worried about what this did to her than her younger sister. Then I realized that Sanderson wrote her character that way and her character arc is till the end of the book was well plotted out. She changed over the course of the book, not suddenly. She still was a bit like her old self. But in her case she came to see herself for what she truly was and decided to change what she could and live with the rest.

The 2 people I absolutely loved were Siri and Lightsong (I liked Lightsong a lot more). Siri was the youngest sister of 4 children. The eldest was betrothed to the God King, the 2nd eldest went on to become a monk and the son, the youngest, is heir to the throne. So Siri has been more or less let to run free. Though her religion calls for being modest, humble, not be ostentatious, she has difficulty doing so. But the king of Idris decides to send Siri in place of Vivenna to the God King to stall a war which he deems inevitable. And her world turns upside down. In case of Vivenna we see that there is a complete change in character in Siri it somehow felt that she was always true to herself. But in doing so she became more in control. Her interactions with the God King made me squeal with joy once or twice.

Lightsong, a Returned, is the awesomest character in this whole book. It was mostly through Lighsong that a lot of the dilemmas to do with divinity were brought across. He was a God who did not believe in his own divinity. He constantly strove to undermine himself but the people thought of him as a better God for it. I always loved the parts where he was in the story because he was the most fun characters. His internal conflict was written very well. My most favorite parts of the book is anything where there is a dialogue going on between Lightsong and his High Priest Llarimar and between Lightsong and Blushweaver, a Returned Goddess.

I would recommend this book to any fantasy lover. But I would also recommend it to people who think fantasy is not for them because of the size and length of a series, and what better way to experience fantasy through a stand alone for the first time. You just have to read this book. This will be one of those books that I'll recommend to everybody regardless of their tastes because it is such a good book and I want everyone to love it as much as I do and enjoy the story.

This has become a saga instead of a review but who cares. I love this book and I rate it 5 out of 5 stars.


  1. I'm so happy to see you loved this one! Warbeaker has a special place in my heart because it's the first book by Brandon Sanderson that I read. Fast forward and I've read almost all of his books, all of them fantastic and well-done, and now am in the process of a read-along for his Way Of Kings which is the best I've read from him yet. In all of his fantasy books, he does such a great job in making unique magic systems and memorable characters. You are definitely not alone in your adoration of this book and the author. He's simply awesome!

    Faye at The Social Potato Reviews

    1. The 1st Sanderson book for me was The Final Empire of the Mistborn series. Since then I have read Elantris and Warbreaker, his stand alone fantasy. I am holding off on The Way of Kings because it is a long series and only 2 books are out. But my resolve is weakening. EVERYONE tells me to read it and sings its praises. Like I needed any more encouragement.
      And Sanderson's world building plus characters are just wonderful and I want more. I am currently re reading Final Empire so that I can complete the Mistborn series.