Series: Warbreaker #1
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.
Warbreaker seems overlooked compared to Brandon Sanderson’s other books (in a very relative way, mind you; people are definitely reading it). The fact that people seem far more obsessed with the Mistborn books, The Stormlight Archives, The Reckoners series, etc. gave me a pause, however. I wondered if Warbreaker is secretly known to be less well-written than Sanderson’s other books, and I just wasn’t in the know. However, after reading it, I can say with sincerity that the novel fully lives up to typical Sanderson standards.
With characteristic detail, Sanderson builds a wildly imaginative world in Warbreaker. Here, color and Breath is the foundation of magic. It’s complicated, and the world hasn’t quite figured everything out, but Sanderson avoids bogging the story down with too much explanation. It’s actually a nice change from all the detailed magical fight scenes in the Mistborn series.
That leaves quite the right amount of focus on the characters and the plot, both of which are extraordinary. Sanderson has a talent for inventing cultures that push things to the extreme, and here he introduces readers to a city obsessed with attention and color that brings to mind parallels with the Hunger Games Capitol. Contrasted with the bright city, however, is a “rebel” town that values modesty, moderation, anything but standing out.
The real show is the characters, however, including the gods that the city puts on display. I admit I pretty much despise Lightsong and didn’t find him funny at all. He seems to think he’s witty, if annoying, but his jokes really aren’t that clever. I struggled with finding him a character to root for. Many of the other characters grated on me, as well, even as I appreciated the skills with which they are drawn. Siri and Vivenna, the two princesses, resonated with me better.
Warbreaker isn’t my favorite book, mainly because I didn’t like half the characters in it. However, it says a lot of interesting things about human nature, and I enjoyed watching various characters struggle with learning to respect the religions of others, and struggle with trying to follow their own. That, combined with a plot full of magic and intrigue, earns this four stars from me.