What I’m Reading: Warbreaker

I’m a huge Brandon Sanderson fan. So, you’d expect that I’d already read Warbreaker at some point, right? Actually, I hadn’t read it because I’m such a fan. He’s only written so many books, and I don’t want to fly through them all at once, so I pace myself and read lots of other titles in between. What’s it about and what do I think so far?

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.

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So, how is it? To date, I haven’t read a Sanderson book that I didn’t like, and so far this is no exception. I’m about 90% finished and having a great time. Even the one character I thought would be tedious (Vivenna) has become far more complex and interesting than I’d anticipated. That’s part of why I keep coming back to Sanderson’s books. When you spend long enough writing and reading, studying the craft from every angle, you can often see through the prose and pick out the nuts and bolts behind the scenes. One result of this is the ability to predict a large number of story events and character beats, and most of the time I enjoy being able to deconstruct a story in this way. But sometimes I just want to sit back and let the magic happen. With Sanderson, I never have to worry about that. He has a way of serving story conventions while also subverting them, and the subtle combination often results in twists and turns that I never see coming. Just last night I encountered a holy-cow-no-way revelation, and I live for those moments.

Warbreaker is more about intrigue and subtle character movements than big, bold actions and sprawling battles. In fact, if you’re looking for lots of action, I’d steer you more toward the Mistborn series and recommend that you read Warbreaker when you’re ready for something quieter. I also enjoyed the non-traditional fantasy setting. Hallandren is situated in a jungle region with a more tropical climate, and there are hints of the Middle Eastern in its culture and stylings. It’s refreshing to read epic fantasy set in something other than a facsimile of ancient Europe.

I don’t know how it’s all going to wrap up, but I’m enjoying the ride. If you’re looking for atypical epic fantasy, this could be a good one to try.

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