Saturday, January 9, 2010

"Warbreaker" by Brandon Sanderson

Format: Hardcover, 592 pages
Publisher: Tor Books
Review copy received through the courtesy of the publisher, Tor Books

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.

I’ve discovered Brandon Sanderson through his debut novel, “Elantris”, but since then he built quite a name for himself. Brandon Sanderson worked on two series, “Mistborn” and “Alcatraz” (a young adult series) and is working at the final novels in the Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” series, but also published another stand-alone fantasy novel, “Warbreaker”.

“Warbreaker” is told from the point of view of a few different characters found in a city and a nation in the brink of war. The story takes place in a single location, T’Telir, the capital of Hallandren, but through its characters it captures the interests and perspectives of the both nations found on the threshold of war since Siri and Vivenna are two princesses of Idris and who come into the city for their own reasons. The idea behind the war is quite simple, but there are wars in our real world fought for equal or lesser motivations. Still, later on Brandon Sanderson weaves more aspects that will veil the story in a mystery, which will be solved only in the final part of the novel. The novel doesn’t offer much in terms of action, but that doesn’t drag it down or makes it less good. It just offers to “Warbreaker” the time and space to develop into a beautiful story.

What made “Warbreaker” to work in the fullest for me, besides the mystery surrounding the story, is the way Brandon Sanderson uses his talent to build interesting characters, a very strong magic system and a wonderful and captivating with catchy political and theological aspects. The characters work in the favor of the story, offering through their personal interests the possibility to see the story from almost all of its angles. I liked that all of the characters have their uniqueness on their side, their behavior backing up their personality. Some of the characters get more time in the spotlight than the others, but that doesn’t falter the story. For instance, Vasher is not present on many of the pages of “Warbreaker”, but still he plays an important role in the story and he plays it right within the space given to his character. From all the characters I must say that I liked Lightsong the most, mainly because his humor and an apparently shallow behavior, but who offers an exploration within the actions and mind of a god. Besides the humor of Lightsong Brandon Sanderson uses hilarious dialogues and situations through a minor character, Denth, and a talking sword, Nightblood, and I found full delight in them.

The strongest element of the novel is by far the magic system. Brandon Sanderson creates a magic system that is unique, strong and logic. With each page turned the use of magic becomes clearer until I was perfectly familiar with almost every little detail of the magic system of “Warbreaker”. Through the use of Iridescent Tones and BioChromatic breath the magic wielders can turn colors and things in their favor and can feel life and other people in a more accurate way. I can say that for me the magic system not only that rises a bit above the other aspects of the novel, but also is one of the best I’ve met in my reading experience.

With an interesting story, very pleasant characters and a strong magic system an author can turn a novel in a success, but Brandon Sanderson makes one more firm step in that direction with the world-building of “Warbreaker”. The story is set in only one location, the city of T’Telir, the capital of Hallandren, but this thing doesn’t minimize the complexity of the world. The author works on details that will provide a strong background to the city, but also offers an insight into the political and theological aspects of T’Telir and kingdom that will inflict life in his world. There are also many elements behind the political and theological systems that lead me to a reflection upon the same systems of our real world. A plus is found within the theological aspects, because it is here where Brandon Sanderson offers an insight image and he raises a few questions as well. It is true that there is little in the case of history and past conflicts of the world and only the minimum necessary to support the present war motives, but there is nothing in this case that will make the novel falter in any way.

Brandon Sanderson crafts a wonderful novel using ingredients such as pleasant characters, beautiful world-building and captivating magic, political and theological system in the proper amount. The conclusion of the mysteries of “Warbreaker” will be delivered within its pages through catchy twists and turns making it one of stand-alone fantasy novels not to be missed.


Unknown said...

I loved Elantris and this is the latest in a line of several excellent reviews that I've read about Warbreaker. The premise of this one is even better than Elantris. I've really got to find the time to read this one. Thanks for writing a great, spoiler-free review.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. I enjoyed the book quite a bit. The magic system was strong, although I thought that there was potential to link the use of 'color' and 'breath' to the science of color - wavelengths and differeces in how various animals 'see'. All in all - awesome book.

ediFanoB said...

I loved the Mistborn series. Elantris is on my shelf. And based on your great and convincing review I ordered the paperback copy today which will be published in March 2010.

I think Brandon Sanderson has a knack for magic systems. The one used in the Mistborn series based on metal and was awesome.

Unknown said...

There is an interesting magic system based on light and symbols in Elantris that you would probably enjoy as well.

Memory said...

I loved this one too. It reminded me of just how good epic fantasy can be.

Mihai A. said...

John, I really liked "Elantris" too, but I find "Warbreaker" to be even better. And the magic system of both of them are very catchy :)

Anonymous, very well said, an awesome book :)

Michael, now I really have to catch up on the Mistborn series. It looks like Brandon Sanderson is a "magician" ;)

Memory, it is very true, it is an excellent example of great fantasy :)

Unknown said...

Looks like I have to put Warbreaker on the top of my list now.

Mihai A. said...

I hope you like it, John :)

Simcha said...

While I enjoyed Elentris and Mistborn, it was Warbreaker that propelled Sanderson to the top of my favorite authors list. I loved this book.

Mihai A. said...

Simcha, my feelings are the same. Although I didn't read the Mistborn series yet, but I included it on my reading list for 2010 :)

Unknown said...

Did you hear that they are turning Mistborn into a movie?

Mihai A. said...

I've seen that indeed. I hope they'll do a good job though, because I've seen quite a few lovely books turned into awful movies :)

KIKA said...

ahhh I loved Warbreaker. Sanderson is such an awesome author, throwing in a little bit of this and a little bit of that-- without being overwhelming to the reader. I love the characters he creates, good and bad. The fact is they're all intriguing, they pique your interest. I read and loved his mistborn series, It seems I should also read Elantris, Thanks for the Great review!

Mihai A. said...

Thank you very much, Kika :)
I enjoyed both "Elantris" and "Warbreaker" and I think that Brandon Sanderson is a strong writer and he has many things to delight us with in the future. I didn't read the Mistborn series yet and I think that it is the time to read these novels too :D